Riverbank and Patterson:
A number of years ago, prior to election to the Riverbank City Council of a family member of a locally owned grocery store chain, the city provided police services to its citizens. Riverbank had its own police department.
In the grocery business, an expanding population is good for business. Coincident to the grocer’s election, the City of Riverbank experienced a residential housing boom.
The housing boom was fed by infrastructure subsidies provided by Riverbank taxpayers. To enable greater subsidies and under the guise of “saving money,” the Riverbank City Council voted to contract out police services to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.
On the west side of Stanislaus County, after the City of Patterson’s decision to opt out of having its own police force, that community also experienced a residential building boom.
Now it’s Modesto’s Turn:
The City of Modesto has run out of money to pay its police. The financial bind is the result of years of subsidizing residential development infrastructure, declining tax revenue, and a desire to increase the amount of residential subsidies. The per capita staffing of the Modesto police department is presently at historic lows, with a corresponding spike in the crime rate.
To raise money to fund its objectives, the Modesto City Council has put a one percent sales tax increase initiative on the November 2013 ballot, known as Measure X.
If Measure X passes, the Modesto City Council will have a new source of money with which to fund services like public safety AND to provide subsidies to residential developers. The unknown factor is how much subsidies will be increased: the greed of special interests is limitless. The Modesto Chamber of Commerce recently signaled the Council that it would love to see thousands of acres of farm land on the west side of town turned into urban development. Money will be needed to subsidize infrastructure.
If Measure X fails, the Modesto City Council will not cut subsidies to the special interests. Therefore, the logical outcome will be to disband the Modesto police department and contract out police services with the County Sheriff’s Department in order to “save money.” A similar decision could be made about Modesto’s Fire Department.
Public safety presently takes up 75 percent of Modesto’s annual budget. If the services can be contracted out, the “savings” can be ploughed into subsidies for campaign contributors, friends, business associates and other well connected citizens. To heck with public service.
Given the manner in which local politics is presently conducted, one can predict with reasonable certainty that eventually every city in Stanislaus County will contract with the County for police and fire services. Even if Measure X passes, the Modesto City Council could decide to contract out police services at any time. When the new money runs out, the police department may be done for sure.
If people who genuinely care about their community run for office and are elected, this prediction might not come to pass. But it’s too late for Riverbank, Patterson, Newman, Waterford and Hughson, none of which presently has its own police force.