Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lynchburg City Councilman proposes cutting funding to schools to pay for public safety?

Across the Commonwealth of Virginia, localities are faced with making tough choices about which city services get what level of funding. Recently the Lynchburg City Council made a decision that does not include a cost of living increase for the Lynchburg City Police and to also cut the starting pay for rookie police officers. This vote by the City Council has garnered the Hill City the distinction as the only locality in the state that has cut funding for public safety employees. This has led many in the Lynchburg City Police Department to re-evaluate their careers in law enforcement with the City of Lynchburg.

It is understandable the tough choices localities have to make but the proposal by Lynchburg City Councilman, Jeff Helgeson, to cut funding for the Lynchburg Public Schools to restore full funding to the Police Department was strongly rejected by the rest of the members of City Council as well as other members of the Police Department. Councilmen Jeff Helgeson and T. Scott Garrett, M.D. are vying for the Republican nomination in June Primary to face Delegate Shannon Valentine (D-23) in November General Election.

The decision to cut funding to the Police Department by the City Council was a bad decision. The proposal by City Councilman and Republican House Candidate Jeff Helgeson, to cut funding from an already struggling school system in order to restore funding to a scrutinized and embattled Police Department is shocking. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, which happens more than it should, is not a solution to closing budget shortfalls or addressing systemic problems for both the Lynchburg City Police and Public Schools.

More education, not less, has proven to be the best way to prevent crime. A well paid, highly trained police department that adheres to sound community policing practices that profile for crimes and not the color of a person’s skin should never be underfunded. The only economic development tools that Republican House Candidates Jeff Helgeson and Dr. T. Scott Garrett can offer are cutting taxes?

The problem isn’t that the taxes of people who have teaching and law enforcement job are too high, the problem is many people that have jobs that pay these Working Class salaries are out of work. Maybe if Helgeson and Garrett spent less time at “Tea Parties” and more time working for real, sustainable solutions to fully funding vital services like Public Education and Law Enforcement, then the Lynchburg City Council wouldn’t have to choose between teachers and police officers.

Lynchburg City Police and other public safety employees will hold a rally at the bottom of Monument Terrace on May 26th from noon to 5:00 pm when City Council will vote on the final version of the new budget. Let’s hope the Lynchburg City Council will find a way to address this problem and that they can continue to hold back the Grover Norquist platform of Helgeson and Garrett, that of shrinking the size of government so they can drown it in a bathtub.

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