Tacoma Weekly's Kathleen Merryman took to the streets this week asking people their thoughts on the city’s budget dilemmas. Tacoma’s leaders have been bringing the city’s budget crisis home in community meetings where they’ve asked residents to state and rate their priorities. While governments carve up their areas of responsibility, their share of our tax dollars, ordinary people see governments’ effects on their lives as a whole. Schools, parks, social services, transit, roads, law enforcement, fire protection all matter to them, and they don’t necessarily track which pile of money pays for them. You’ll see that, along with some innovative suggestions and touches of irritation in their comments on Merryman’s three questions: Where should the City of Tacoma cut its budget? What should it not cut? Do you see ways to cut dollars without cutting services?
Holly Appleton-Edwards of North Tacoma works for Catholic Community Services. “I think they should put a cap on salaries. If everything else is so bad, and no one else is getting raises, then no raises for city employees. No increases. No cost of living. Nothing. “I want more accountability with spending. Lunches, travel, ordering furniture, training… all that needs to be monitored. “I feel very strongly about crisis services for the mentally ill. No housing cuts. No cuts to back-to-work programs. “I don’t want to see drug and alcohol services cut. I would love to see them start drug testing for people getting benefits.”
Chris Caillier of North Tacoma works at the South Tacoma Grocery Outlet. “The city should not cut public safety, first responders and police. I would be against any new proposed taxes. “You know Pothole Pig?” (Reporter’s note: Yes, Chris, I do, but we are just good friends.) “No one knows exactly how big Pothole Pig is, but everyone knows how big a grande latte is. You should show him with a latte from a local coffee shop that would sponsor the photo for $50 toward the repair of the pothole. A pig with a latte. “I have a friend who wanted to sell jewelry on Ruston Way, but when she checked into it, she had to buy vendor and business licenses for about $180. Wow, that is prohibitive for very small businesses like hers. What if we made little stalls along the Tacoma waterfront that you could rent for $25 or $50 a day to sell locally made goods? It would be beachy and local. The artisan makes money. It enhances the image of the city, and it’s all local stuff.”
Christina Spencer, her husband, Felton, and their children, Victoria, 6, and Felton Jr., 5, live on the East Side. “We’re a very low-income family, and our priorities are medical. Medical care is a really big thing for us. “I think city buses are very important to a lot of people without cars.”
Bill Greaver of North Tacoma works for Franciscan Health Systems. “There are two ways to increase revenue: Get more business, or find taxes that are not being received. “We should be efficient about getting the money people should be giving us already. If you should be paying $10 in taxes but are only paying $5, or nothing, the city should collect that.”
Kim DePaul, 38, of East Tacoma is a full-time caregiver for a senior relative. “Cut City Council salaries. They’re public servants. They make too much money. They are supposed to be serving the public, not fleecing the public. That’s a good place to start, especially since a lot of them have other jobs. “We need to invest a little more in children. I see them wandering in packs, being obnoxious. “They would shut down emergency services near my home. They would respond with a pickup truck instead of a fire truck. That’s going to affect me, but I’m not sure it’s going to affect me negatively. “Anything that cuts emergency services, especially police, should be important to everybody. “I grew up in the county, and Tacoma streets are worse than in the county, but you have more of them. If you want to see potholes, go to Seattle. Most of the roads I use don’t have them, but, then, I know where they are and avoid them.”