Every Dollar Counts

By Bobby Lopez

With all the brouhaha over the city budget in the past couple weeks, you might have missed this interesting nugget: the San Jose Police Officers’ Association and the City agreed on a way to save over $200,000 a year.

Like everybody else these days, we’ve been looking for ways to cut down on expenses without sacrificing the safety of our streets and neighborhoods. I’ve always said we’re willing to talk with the City about ideas for helping with their budget problems.

One of these ideas was to provide the option of using specially-trained traffic flaggers at construction sites. In the past, the City as well as private developers and utilities used off-duty cops to direct road traffic around construction sites in San Jose. While experienced officers are necessary for directing traffic through busy roads and intersections, there are also sites on quiet neighborhood streets where certified flaggers would be cheaper.

Last month, we got together with the City Manager’s office to amend the traffic flagger ordinance to include the option of using certified flaggers where appropriate. This amendment was approved by the City Council on Tuesday, the same day the 2009-10 budget went final.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s great news, Bobby. But what the heck does a measly $200K mean when the City’s staring at a $73 million budget deficit?”

Well, if you’ve been following this blog, you’ve learned how seemingly small expenses can start to add up real fast. A $50,000 cut here or $100,000 trim there could be the difference between one of your family members or friends and the unemployment line. In other words: every dollar counts.

I should note that the POA put aside what we saw as a meet-and-confer requirement on this issue because our conversations with City administration were open and productive. They agree with what I’ve said before: in bad economic times, we all need to tighten our belts and think outside the box — as long as we don’t jeopardize the safety of our streets and neighborhoods.

You can learn more about the traffic flagger program in this addendum to the City Manager’s budget plan.

Have a great weekend, and stay safe.

Bobby Lopez is President of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association.