June 6, 2011 (San Diego) – San Diego City Council has voted 7-1 to approve a budget that will eliminate brown-outs at city fire stations starting July 1, also restoring funds for libraries and city parks.
After staff projected that reserve accounts will have more money than estimated earlier, several proposals were made to utilize the new-found surplus. Council adopted an amendment proposed by Councilmember Marti Emerald to restore eight fire engines that have been shut down for over a year. Brownouts have been blamed for at least one death, a toddler who choked to death waiting on a fire engine with paramedics to arrive from a distant location while a station a block away was closed.
“We simply cannot afford to balance San Diego’s budget on the back of public safety. I promised to restore those engines. With support from my Council colleagues I can say, promise made, promise kept,” said Emerald, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee and has tried repeatedly to restore fire engine funding. She added that taxpayers “deserve a fully functioning Fire Rescue Department.”
The approved budget for fiscal year 2012 will also restore library hours and assure no cuts in city parks and recreation.
Mayor Jerry Sanders had proposed using the surplus reserves instead to repair a broken communication system for sending out emergency calls to fire stations (a backup system is currently in use) and to also fund street repairs and facility upgrades under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Another proposal called for funds to be divided among eight Council offices to spend on community services, while keeping some money in reserve in case of future economic setbacks.
Councilmember Carl DeMaio cast the lone vote in opposition to the budget approved by the Council.