|Contra Costa County, CA||November 2, 1999 Election|
By Dale H. PaulsonCandidate for Council Member; City of Richmond
This information is provided by the candidate
In order to keep our neighborhoods safe, we must provide support to our police officers.Our `men in blue' is why most of us can sleep well at night. We know that our neighborhoods are safe and that our neighbors are aware and care enough to get involved should we need them. This is the ideal for a community. Sadly, in Richmond, it is not the case for many of its citizens. The police alone cannot do it for us, especially when we take for granted what they are up against in a day. The expectations of the police officers are no different from those of us in any other demanding job. They want to be adequately trained and equipped to do the job, they want to feel appreciated, and they want to be fairly compensated at parity with the pay of similar jobs in neighboring communities. When they are not, they lose interest and they leave for more equitable pay elsewhere.
Richmond is not an easy city to police. The risk factors are high and require extensive training for our officers. Training an officer is an expensive investment, and attrition is costly. So, why were they treated so casually as to have left them without a working contract for the past 16 months, and at wages well below the median wage in the Bay Area? This is not effective cost-cutting, because this has been costing the City dearly, down to the loss of excellent officers and a progressive police chief. To prevent this from happening again, the City must adopt a formula, in conjuntion with the police department, that will provide wage and benefit parity with comparable city police departments in the Bay Area. This tool will also benefit the City in planning future costs and budgets. We must also consider the intangible costs of our inaction here. A crime-ridden city is a very tough sell on ALL fronts: In attracting and keeping residents and businesses, and in recruiting and retaining law enforcement officers.
When crime rises in a given neighborhood civic pride declines. We have to remove barriers that keep the less fortunate from attaining and sharing in the mainstream. It is crucial to remove the blight and keep the streets clean and well lit, and, especially, to remove dilapidated buildings, and homes that are boarded up and beyond rehabilitation, in these target areas. These structures serve as havens for the undesirables and promote the trafficking, sales, and distribution of illicit drugs. They destroy morale and hope and provide the environment in which criminals can flourish and prey on the fear and despair of local residents. It is far more expensive to provide policing for these high crime areas than it is to stem crime at the source. In the past, neighborhood crime watch programs and community policing have had a positive impact on reducing the crime rate. However, I do not believe that these programs go far enough. Recently, the City of Oakland adopted a new community anti-crime program that goes much farther and shows promise. It requires the community to join forces and to pull together in large numbers to let the bad guys know that the citizens are Taking Back The Streets, and that there will be Zero Tolerance for crime on the streets. This is the civic spirit needed to win the war.
A worthwhile effort would be to promote pride of ownership in these neighborhoods. We should develop or expand existing programs that assist low-income renters in qualifying for the purchase of homes in their neighborhoods. I am not advocating a gift or a handout of financial aid, but, rather, a second mortgage program initially funded by the City Redevelopment Agency aimed at pre-designated neighborhoods; a `silent second' mortgage, so to speak. After selecting the property, a buyer, who will be restricted to being an owner-occupant only, will have to be pre-qualified. Then the City will provide enough money for the down payment and repairs for code compliance and aesthetics. The value of equity of the second mortgage will be held as an asset by Redevelopment until it is repaid or refinanced at the end of the term of the contract (say, five years). This will make it a renewable fund for others to use, and a solid investment in the future of our city.
Pride of ownership and the ability to build equity would promote responsible citizens who would be far more likely to report illegal activities. And, intangibly, the City is the big winner. The improved image and appearance of Richmond, the increased taxable value of these properties, the lowered expense and risk of crime, drugs, and undesirables that drain the resources of both the city and its crime force, are my aim for a better, safer, and more inclusive Richmond.
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