Lindsay voters overwhelmingly passed Measure O, a 1 percent increase on all retail sales within the city limits beginning in October, with more than two-thirds of voters casting votes in the affirmative. The Sun-Gazette endorsed Measure O just weeks ago and is now excited at the opportunity for one of the Valley’s poorest cities to turn the financial corner after a decades-long decline.
Measure O will make it possible for Lindsay to stop bleeding red ink without sacrificing public safety. In their argument for Measure O, Lindsay City Councilmembers advertised the vote as a fix for the future. City leaders say the money will be used to hire, equip and train new officers, replace aging, second-hand public safety vehicles and equipment. Better protect and serve residents of and visitors to the City, and to repair damaged or aging infrastructure. There is no doubt Measure O was needed to accomplish these public safety goals.
Just last summer, Lindsay public safety officers were faced with one of their biggest challenges in battling a three-alarm fire at Suntreat packing house, a 250,000 square foot complex which encompasses several blocks along Oxnard Avenue. The issue of inadequate equipment forced firefighters to hook up a water tender to a fire truck to maintain water pressure until reinforcements arrived from Tulare County Fire Department, Cal Fire, as well as municipal fire departments from Porterville, Woodlake, Tulare, Farmersville and Visalia.
As for those same firefighters who double as officers, they have done an exceptional job of keeping crime in check. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that crime rates in nearly every category have been in steady decline since 2009, and in some cases since 2003, despite delaying vehicle replacements, pulling double duty as firefighters and staving off higher salaries in nearby communities and counties.
But just a Measure O revenue will protect Lindsay residents from crime and catastrophe, it is the Sun-Gazette’s hope that City Hall will protect Measure O revenue from misappropriation. Vague statements in its argument in favor of Measure O include expenditures to “Maintain other essential public services.” Without a spending plan in place, nearly every aspect of the City of Lindsay could be considered a public service and there is no qualifying statement on which services are essential and which are not. The ambiguous statement, without the backing of accountability measures, leaves the use of the additional revenue up to interpretation, which leaves Lindsay open to a possible repeat of misspending in the past.
The Tulare County Elections Office has 30 days to certify the election and verify without a doubt that Measure O has passed. As City Hall awaits that date, it would be appropriate to spend that time removing any doubt that Measure O will be spent responsibly. The Sun-Gazette urges the City Council to approve a spending plan that outlines expenditures for every dollar, approve the 2015-16 audit and approving a budget that addresses the overspending of the past while Measure O addresses the revenue of the future.