I bet that got your attention… But as far-fetched as the idea might sound, it has been in the back of my mind ever since the wheels were set in motion to outsource our police, fire, and park services. After all, what would happen if the cost savings we hope to achieve, and so desperately need, aren’t sufficient over the long haul? Where else could our city leaders look to cut costs if they were faced with a prolonged stagnant or declining economy?
The answer is a bit of an eye opener.
Purge, or Merge?
I enjoy reading Bruce Balshone’s Peninsula Examiner blog. He has a pretty sharp perspective on political topics that involve our communities — his take is usually very interesting, and he certainly seems to do his homework on the topics he covers. In his latest post titled “Peninsula Cities Need to Merge“, he outlines the fiscal challenges that San Carlos and other Peninsula communities face, and the difficult decisions that some have already had to make just to stay afloat.
When the San Carlos City Council first tabled the controversial idea of outsourcing, their mantra was that “San Carlos would not be the only one to go down this path – just the first.” As it turns out, they were right. As Balshone succinctly outlines in his post, communities up and down the Peninsula are now seriously discussing merging or outsourcing critical public safety organizations as they struggle to close gaping budgets, or in some cases, simply stay solvent.
But Balshone takes this concept one step further: Should some Peninsula cities merge entirely?
What Will San Carlos Be In 10 Years?
The inner workings of San Carlos public safety will look very different at this time next year when the Belmont-San Carlos Fire JPA officially dissolves. In fact, I think in about 10 years the entire area will be served by a unified, county-wide fire department (think: “San Mateo County Fire“) Heck, we’re not too far from that now. Another possible path is that Cal-Fire will be managing a much more significant percentage of Peninsula cities. But I digress…
Looking at a much bigger picture, Balshone postulates that some cities may be better off if they merge entirely with another community – not just police or fire. Some cities may not have a choice. But what about San Carlos? What would happen if the boundary between us and Belmont or Redwood City were to disappear? Would we be better off? Would the economies of scale outweigh the loss of identity? What would the end result look like?
Feel free to answer those far-fetched and hypothetical questions in the comment section below. But in the mean-time, it sounds like it’s time for another poll:
What are your thoughts?
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