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April 26, 2005 > Editorial: The Petula Chronicles

Editorial: The Petula Chronicles

Thursday, April 28 promises to be an interesting discussion at the Fremont City Council. A special work session at 4:15 p.m. in council chambers will concentrate on "Downtown" after an earlier projects tour. The tour will visit Santana Row, Park Place at Bay Meadows and Bay Street in Emeryville; then allow Sunhill Development, Blake Hunt Ventures and BCV Architects to explain Petula Clark's song to the council. Petula sings to Tony Hatch's lyrics:

When you're alone
And life is making you lonely
You can always go -

Through good times and bad, the council has kept the faith and paid consultants to explain that the answer to economic woes and creation of a great city lies within the confines of downtown. Here is the Holy Grail - the fund to be protected at all costs.

How can you lose?

The lights are much brighter there.....

Things'll be great when you're -
No finer place for sure -
Everything's waiting for you -

A lot of money is currently being set aside (and paid for consultants?) for downtown. While whining about cuts in staff and services then asking for a Utility Tax, the council steadfastly refuses to slow its spending for downtown. It may be that, in the long run, a downtown will be an economic bonanza and showpiece for the city. But pulling $1 million a year from the budget for this dream takes some healthy explaining when basic services are left to suffer extreme cuts.

Why not cut back on the $8 million downtown fund for a bit and help pay current and pressing needs? Can the council slow the expenditure of consultant fees and allow the General Fund to recover with the economy? How about using some of those funds for streets and services? Moving a portion of the $1 million per year could fund more police and/or fire services. Which is more important?

Mayor Wasserman often says with a long face and a bit of resignation that it is up to the citizens to decide what type of city they want. When Measure V, the Utility Tax was at stake, city personnel put on a full-court press to appeal for votes. They failed. After the defeat of the tax, strong statements were made that more dialogue was necessary between voters and government officials. Why instead has a consultant been hired to find the right slogan for a winning "Son of V" campaign? So far, the promise of more communications with the electorate has not been fulfilled.

Mayor Wasserman, Vice Mayor Dutra and councilmembers...Why not work with existing community organizations, attend their meetings and talk frankly about the budget in an informal atmosphere? Some citizens are intimidated by TV cameras and formal procedures. Others have schedule conflicts that make it difficult for a three minute appearance at council meetings. Why not give voters more opportunities to give input about funding priorities? What happened to the promise of more community meetings? Venturing into the community may offer surprises. Some critics may even offer ideas of how to win their support. A dialogue with your constituents is never a waste of time.

Councilmembers, do you need to wait for the "Son of V" to discuss the budget in the community again? I hope not.

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