As predicted in Sunday’s post, suddenly DEKALB’S FIRST RESPONDERS ARE #1 PRIORITY AND OMG WE MUST BUILD THE POLICE STATION RIGHT NOW, according to our city council.

It offends me deeply, because the The NUMBER ONE PRIORITY statement is a BIG LIE. The people who really have made public safety the priority are the folks who have protested new SUVs, serial land acquisitions, and ReNew DeKalb’s insatiable appetite for baubles ever since the first of the budget troubles appeared three-plus years ago.

If first responders were really the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, Council would have insisted one or two of them be hired instead of a central purchasing person and an economic development person/company.

If public safety were really the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, Council would have found a way to squeeze a couple more cops out of the $400,000 freed up from the debt restructuring.

They should knock it off already. The real story is probably some combination of a) the City being shamed by recent events, and b) the banker overlords requiring a new infusion of tax dollars now that the downtown project is winding down.

So what should we do about our woefully substandard city facilities?

Short term — if we are to agree that this needs to be done yesterday — there is probably no alternative to raising taxes and fees once more. And then praying that it doesn’t drive more folks out of town. And then demanding resignations of the Council members who let this happen, and driving them out of town.

BUT: We should not agree to anything until the budget picture for FY 2012 becomes clear.

For our longer term financial health, the first thing we must do is stop acting like things are going to get better next week. This administration has refused to adapt to the realities, instead has more or less simply waited for the storm to pass and for revenues to rebound. The result: a big financial hole despite a massive reduction in force. We do not know when it’s going to improve. Therefore, we need no-frills survival budgets until it does.

More:

– Stop treating management like it’s a collective bargaining unit. We do not have to negotiate with management like we do. Management “agreed to” a pay freeze last year? Come on! Start crunching to see what this or that percentage in compensation cuts and health care premium increases will do for the budget picture. Also: make no more management hires, and combine functions where possible.

– Negotiate contracts that reflect our circumstances. If revenues remain flat, we cannot afford raises. As contracts come up — they’re working on AFSCME now, right? — eliminate raises and bonuses as well as benefits that instead could be taken as work-related tax deductions, such as uniform allowances and professional dues. Keep the terms of the contracts short for flexibility.

– Hire a new city manager. We are in a rut and need some fresh ideas for operations, perhaps generated by somebody who actually has been trained as a city manager. We also need someone who has different ideas about nepotism and other ethical considerations, and whose contract has an expiration date and allows for negotiating in good faith.