Petaluma Budget Woes

Petaluma Budget–More Hits Coming?

The short answer to the question—more than likely.


First–Consider the fact that local tax revenue from tourism is falling. For details, see the recent Press Democrat Story.

Second–County real estate assessed values declined for the first time in history, thus lowering revenue from real estate taxes (Press Democrat Story)

Finally–According to a database provided by the Sacramento Bee, the new California state budget will reduce or borrow the following from Petaluma’s City and redevelopment budgets:

• City of Petaluma $1,112,587
• Petaluma Community Development Commission $5,074,284

For additional information, check out the story and links on CaliforniaCityNews

These revenue shortfalls will play out in many aspects of our civic life–not the least of which is park maintenance. 

I recently commented on the state of affairs around the pond in Lucchesi Park and the Community Center.  Fortunately, the fountains have once again become operational. However, the pond still seems to be in need of attention. Finding the funds for this purpose will, I imagine, be extremely problematic.

…Lucchesi Pond…

Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 002Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 009Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 011Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 012Lucchesi Muck August 13 2009 017


5 thoughts on “Petaluma Budget Woes

  1. I just saw the pictures of Lucchesi Park. It’s disgusting. I used to walk my dog there but I no longer do. Not only is it an eye sore it also is a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria. If the city doesn’t come up with some way of of solving this problem and it’s a big one, I think the board of health should be called in to check the pond.. There’s not only duck, birds and goose Etc, there’s a lot of children playing in the playground close by. There are some things you can’t cut out of the budget and I feel taking care of the parks is one of them.

  2. Frank:

    Can a “foreigner” from the County of Sonoma make a comment? Well, not quite a foreigner. I live exactly on the North-West UGB line (my property is the point of separation) And, I am active in local volunteerism as a CERT. For those of you not familiar, CERT is the “Community Emergency Response Team” disaster preparedness program sponsored by the Petaluma Fire Dept. and established by FEMA (now under the Homeland Security Dept.)

    ‘Nuff about me. What I want to comment on is the subject of the budget impact on Petaluma and every other community in California. Thanks to probably the most dysfunctional State Government in the U.S. (New Yorkers have challenged us on this!) we, as Californian’s are the benefactors of rape and pillage on a yearly basis. Although most entities are required to make do with what funds they have and to live within their means, the State is immune to such pedestrian requirements as these. Whenever they need to balance their budget, all they do is reach out and tell local government that the money they paid to the State and expect back to fund local needs is “Theirs.” They made the law with, guess what, another exemption – they can “borrow” local funds whenever they run into fiscal trouble (every year into the foreseeable future?) We’re supposed to get these funds back within 3 years, with interest. If you believe this fairy tale, I have a slightly used (but never seemingly paid for bridge you may wish to buy – it’s even called “Golden” and crosses an important waterway).

    But, I digress. The point I wish to make is one that is best expressed by your motto – a motto that I have used myself since the 1950’s (yup, like you, I’m almost as old as dirt). Walt Kelly”s Pogo had great and profound expressions in his comic strip from time to time, but never better than when he said “I have seen the enemy, and he is us!” You took that statement one-step further and said, “So it is up to us!” I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Petaluma is known for a lot of things, most good, some goofy (ugly dog contest?) and some just fun (Arm wrestling championships?). But I like to think that volunteerism is very much alive and well here in the Petaluma area – I include those of us who live in the environs around Petaluma – a lot of chicken farmers helped make the city of Petaluma what it is today. And, although I live on an old chicken farm (damn those feed companies!) I still feel a part of Petaluma and one of its volunteers.

    So, what I am leading up to(finally) is why can’t those of us in the Petaluma area take on more of what can’t and won’t be done by some agency or entity. Do we think because we pay taxes that we can still flip a switch and we will have an army of city or county workers show up to solve all of the problems around us? Unfortunately, our State has answered that for us – in spades! If the money isn’t there, neither is the workforce to respond when we need them.

    Today, it’s the city workers in City Hall or the County departments. Tomorrow (maybe sooner, depending how we measure “tomorrow”) it will be our first line responders – Police and Fire Protectors. When we start seeing those dedicated protectors being laid off and their areas of coverage reduced and even stations closed (as in Santa Rosa) then we should start puckering up. That’s life saving service folks – they may not show up as soon as we need them – and in life saving events, time is a lifetime (I know, because I’m also a Support Volunteer with the Rancho Adobe Fire Dist.)

    Nope, we can’t volunteer in Petaluma to be firefighters and police officers – just the training needed alone would drive most folks away. But we can volunteer to help with those non-emergency needs, maybe something like, oh say clean up a park with lots of wild ducks and geese who have been allowed to contribute to a under maintained lake to the point it is becoming a health hazard? Sure, it should be Parks & Recreation Department folks who should be out there doing it – but they ain’t coming, are they Frank? And your cogent article tells us why – there ain’t no dough to pay for anyone to come! So, can we approach say, Park & Rec. and ask them how we can help? Can we get a rowboat or two and drag all the – – – – out of the lake at Luchessi? Or maybe round up the wild fowl and get them new homes where they can be cared for until we again have a “real” lake for them? Now, magnify this by three, four or more (I heard that ditty somewhere!) needs and Voila–we’ve got some progress into helping “OUR” community get back on its feet.

    We’ve listened to your plea Frank, “it is up to us.” We’re the cavalry; no one else is coming and certainly no time soon. What do you say, let’s give it a go. I know you are just frustrated and tired of trying to get folks to keep graffiti in check and shopping carts in their rightful place but, can you give just a little more to help motivate people to volunteer to help out?

    I know how tough it is. I try every year to motivate people to get trained in disaster preparedness and have only managed to reach just 104 of them to date (we have a new class s starting Sept. 17th – come join us Frank). I know that we’re going to have a 7.0 or greater earthquake in less than 25 years (maybe this afternoon?) But no one seems to think it’s important to be prepared – out of sight, out of mind. Neither did the folks in Louisiana when Katrina came visiting.

    No one, at first, will think it’s important to volunteer to help clean up Luchessi and the lake – but it’s only going to get worse as time goes on. Some one mentioned “disease?” and if we don’t do something to try to motivate folks, aren’t we throwing in the towel? I for one am not ready for that yet. Come on Frank, “it’s up to us!”

    • That is one heck of a comment. Note, however, that I tend to view Lucchesi more as a metaphor for what is happening as a consequence of declining revenues as opposed to treating it as a specific issue.

      I do disagree on one point–I am not older than dirt. I’m merely older than mulch 😉

  3. Pingback: City Budget Blues–Part I (Lucchesi As Metaphor) - Petaluma Spectator - Petaluma 360 - Petaluma, CA - Archive


    As a point of clarification, Bill’s reference to my “elaboration” of the Pogo quote is taken from the signature line I used for years in my PINS-SIN e-mails…

    I have met the enemy and he is us.


    Therefore it is up to us.

    Frank Simpson



    In preparing this response, I realized just how "empty" or "futile" my elaboration of the Pogo quote has become for me on so many levels.

    To be sure, volunteer service has been a valuable, if not essential, resource in our community. Without the work of dedicated volunteers, Petaluma would be in much worse shape than it presently is. Nevertheless, volunteers can only take you so far.

    In my opinion, volunteers are an adjunct or auxiliary to many government functions, particularly emergency services, police and fire. However, as support for governmental functions and services declines due to statewide revenue shortfalls, citizen volunteer efforts will not be an adequate solution or substitute. In fact, I view the increased emphasis on volunteers as evidence of, and acceptance of, a general permanent decline in our public commons–if not a justification for it.

    For example:

    • Lucchesi–My recent comments about the pond were intended more as a metaphor than a specific complaint. To be sure there are problems with the pond, but community volunteers will not be able to provide a professional solution or the required maintenance services on an ongoing basis.
    • Emergency Services– Bill has been a tireless champion encouraging people to be prepared for disaster emergencies. However, at the end of the day, if there are not sufficient professional emergency and police services due to budget problems, I don't really see volunteers taking effective charge in a disaster situation.


    Best Case Scenario

    I think we still have further to go before we hit bottom. When we do, the economic recovery, at best, will stabilize our dysfunctional governments and factional bickering that Paxton and others have noted.

    Until then, government at all levels will continue to disintegrate and devolve; maintenance of public properties and provision of public services will be further impaired.

    In the end, we will be left with less public service protection at all levels–state, county and local. In the ordinary course of events, this will mean longer service times for police, fire and ambulance calls. People will die as a consequence.

    • Meanwhile, some will continue arguing over our deteriorating streets, sewers, and declining parks.

    • Others will continue the arguments as to whether or not revenue from new retail development could have paid or would pay for our essential city services and maintenance.

    • Still others will start acquiring firearms for home and personal protection.

    Fortunately, under this scenario, a few will still volunteer to help patch some of the holes in our crumbling civic plaster.

    Worst Case Scenario

    The "recovery" does not improve governmental revenues. The decline continues to now unimaginable levels. Then add to this possibility the reality of a natural disaster.

    Given our weakened public structures and systems, we will be dealing with a potential breakdown in civil society–and no one answering the 911 line.

    Are you ready for cul de sac wars over water and food?

    Volunteers at this point will be neighborhood militias.


    I have my doubts…

    I gave up on advocacy long ago…

    I have dropped the Pogo line from my signature line…

    As the name of the blog suggests, I am merely a SPECTATOR…

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