Key Decision on Turf at Highlands.
If things go as everyone expects at the meeting this Monday night, the City Council will vote to award a $1.7M contract to convert Highlands Park to an all-weather turf surface. The discussion item is already on their agenda, and there is a widespread belief that it will be approved. If this contract is indeed awarded and the green light is given to begin construction, it will join the infamous decision to sell San Carlos High School as one of the worst moves ever made in the history of the City of San Carlos. That’s how serious this issue is.
I’m not against all-weather turf. I referee soccer games up at Highlands and Stadium, so I know how bad these fields have gotten – they’re downright dangerous in places. And with the likely closure of Arguello and Crestview Parks, the fields at Highlands Park will degrade even more quickly with overflow usage from the closed parks. So I don’t think anyone can disagree that all of our fields are in need of extensive repair….
But I do think that it’s absolutely ludicrous that we are even considering spending this kind of money on a park right now — at a time when we are also talking about cutting our police force (again) and closing a fire station.
There’s a Public Safety Crisis in San Carlos.
The potential closure of a few our of our parks, and a reduction in use of the San Carlos Youth Center has grabbed much of the media spotlight — it even made the local TV news broadcast. But lest we forget, the very same 10%/20% budget reduction exercise that recommended these closures is also calling for additional cuts in our police and fire staffing, including the possible closure Fire Station 16 on the Alameda — the engine company that is the first to respond to your homes in White Oaks, Howard Park, Alder Manor, and parts of Beverly Terrace if you have a fire or medical emergency. Is this hitting home yet? It should.
Years of continuous budget cuts have put the public safety of San Carlos on the brink. Consider the following:
- Crime in San Carlos: up by 25%. Police Chief Greg Rothaus released some alarming statistics in this report that shows that crime is on the increase in San Carlos. But you already know this, because many of you have had your cars broken into this past year, right? While the proliferation of bars and restaurants downtown has probably helped the city’s coffers, it also places additional stress on our already lean police force as they’re now dealing with an increase in bar fights and DUI’s…instead of patrolling our neighborhoods. There’s no magical formula here — you can’t stem a rise in crime with fewer police officers.
- Minimum Fire Coverage. As it stands today, our fire coverage in San Carlos has been cut to the bare bones. Our stations are manned by 3-man crews, instead of 4-man crews like most fire districts (more on why this crucial in an upcoming post.) And get this…Station 13 — our main downtown station — is now only staffed to support the tiller rig, which by definition is NOT equipped with the amount of pumps and hoses required to fight a major structure fire. I will be writing an extensive article in a few weeks about how the budget cuts have decimated our fire department.
- Insurance Premiums. Whether you know it or not, your home fire insurance premiums take into account the proximity of your home to a fire station — the closer you are to a fire station, the cheaper your premium is. If Station 16 is indeed closed, or even reduced to a “Paramedic-Only” station, fire premiums will rise for many San Carlos residents — significantly.
What Are Our Priorities?
Say what you want about what makes San Carlos a great place to live, and what keeps our home values so high…the schools, parks, weather, etc… But nothing has a greater impact on the general welfare of a community than PUBLIC SAFETY — which, sadly, is most often taken for granted. Let us not forget that one of the biggest reasons that people choose to live in San Carlos is that “It’s a safe place to live and raise a family.” Great schools, location, weather, and our downtown won’t be worth a hill of beans if we can’t maintain a top-notch level of public safety.
Which brings us back to the original premise of this post — should we be spending $1.7M on our parks when our public safety is in crisis?? I fully understand that there are issues that restrict how Measure G funds are to be spent, but ALL options should be fully investigated before this decision is made.
Make Your Opinion Heard.
The Council may make a decision on Highlands Park in Monday night’s meeting. If you have an opinion either way on this topic, I highly encourage you to attend the Council Meeting and let the members of our Council know how you feel. Also, register your opinion in the following poll:
Because once the money is gone, it’s gone….
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