What’s in your budget?

By Bobby Lopez

As Scott Herhold points out in yesterday’s Mercury News, I don’t have a problem speaking my mind. I’ll share my honest opinions, and if I make a mistake, I’ll admit it.

But I know that some people are afraid to say what they really mean. They won’t call out the mistakes of elected leaders or even reckless activists. They shy away from giving their honest opinion because they don’t want to ruffle anybody’s feathers.

But contrary to what Mr. Herhold says in his column yesterday, I did not intend to “pick on” the Mariachi Festival. I only used it as an example of spending that could — and should — be directed toward more vital services in times of crisis such as we face today.

I hate it when folks at City Hall cut checks left and right for non-essential services, then cry poor every time they sit down to negotiate new contracts with their employees or decide how many officers we can have to patrol our neighborhoods.

Yes, I could have mentioned the San Jose Jazz Festival, Christmas in the Park, the Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon, or the San Jose Rep — all events that the community enjoys which draw attention to our city. (Thanks for the tips, Scott!) But if our public safety budget were cut even more than it already is to pay for these events, what kind of city would we be drawing attention to?

This isn’t a debate about the merits of the Mariachi Festival or any other cultural event. It’s about choices. In difficult times, tough choices have to be made. That’s what we do with our budgets at home. During tough times, we all have to focus on the essentials and cut out luxuries like vacations (or festivals).

Pete Constant made that point well in his blog on this site yesterday morning. Is anyone willing to spend $50,000 to advertise the Mariachi Festival this year while eliminating $55,000 for community CPR classes? (Scott?) This is one choice that doesn’t reflect the priorities of our residents.

With that in mind, I’d like to open this debate to suggestions from you, our readers. What are some things you think the city spends money on that are wasteful or unnecessary?

We’ll check the comments for the best suggestions and include them in a future blog. Or, if you want anonymity, you can use our contact form on this site.

Have a great weekend, and stay safe out there.

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