Due to the economic slowdown, and the dismal failure at the ballot of Measure Pea last month, the Alameda City Council is facing the inevitability of budget cuts -- cuts that will result in a drastic reduction in Police and Fire services, which comprise almost three- fourths of Alameda's city budget.
Mayor Beverly Johnson warned of upcoming Police and Fire service reductions in a press conference yesterday, and issued a challenge for citizens of Alameda to do their part to help deal with the upcoming crisis. "Citizens of Alameda, we need you to help us through this budget crisis by pledging to cut back on your needs for Police and Fire services by fifty percent in 2009."
Just as we Alamedans were asked to voluntarily lower our water consumption last Summer by East Bay Muddy Water District, we are now being asked to lower our usage of the Police and Fire Departments so up to half of our brave men and women in uniform can be laid off.
A colorful mailing being sent to all Alameda households next week provides suggestions and strategies for reduction. One side of the card details approaches to police needs. "Don't call 911, not even in an emergency, unless it's a REALLY BIG emergency," reads the card. Examples of "really big" emergencies include bank robberies with hostage-taking, assault of more than five people at a time, and suspicious implosions of tall office buildings. Examples of emergencies that Alamedans are asked to handle without police assistance include squirrel sightings, bank robberies without hostage situations, and assaults of individuals or smaller groups of people.
Furthermore, Alamedans are asked to commit fewer crimes than usual.
The other side of the mailer is about reducing needs for the Fire Department. The card urges people not to leave food cooking on the stove when leaving for a vacation, and recommends that indoor fires take place only in approved fireplaces. [Editor's note: Readers may need to carefully consider recent "green" tips by Janet Marchant for house heating in a recent issue of Alameda Daily Noose, and be extra- careful when lighting fires in the middle of a room.] Electricians are urged to spend just a bit extra to install insulated wire in houses, even when not mandated by building codes.
Since medical emergencies usually result in the Alameda Fire Department being summoned, Alamedans are asked to specify whether or not they will need any fire trucks sent when calling for medical reasons. Unless the medical emergency is happening in the middle of a large house fire, or if a grave injury has taken place at the top of a very tall building, residents are requested to specify "Ambulance Only" service.
The Alameda Daily Noose and I don't plan on needing to call the Police or Fire Department in the future, since we've never had to in the past, but we can only hope that the upcoming cuts are temporary, so that Alamedans can resume their traditional levels of firefighter and police activity.