Sanders Addresses Crime And The Budget
Councilman James Sanders, Jr. hosted a Town Hall meeting on crime and the budget crisis with the residents of his council district on Thursday, May 29 at Middle School 198.
Captain Walter Salowski and Lt. Price of the 101 Precinct discussed the precinct’s efforts to maintain and improve the low crime rate in Rockaway.
Participants of the Explorer Program, a youth program coordinated by the Youth Officer, were introduced and an anti-graffiti initiative was discussed.
Captain Talamo of the 100 precinct reported on the low crime rate and on the importance of community interaction with the police on quality of life issues.
Both Captains addressed the perception of the community and of Sanders that there is an upsurge in crime in Rockaway. They stated that crime statistically is not rising in Rockaway.
However Sanders urged both Captains to carefully consider the community’s and his concerns on this issue. Residents reported various locations where youth hanging out is a problem and on locations where there is a need for increased security lighting.
Residents asked for increased patrols in Arverne based on increased youth violence and requested improved police communication with community residents. Concerns were raised about the possibility that manpower cuts in Rockaway might be imminent during this budget crisis. Both precincts stated that they expect manpower to remain at current levels.
On the issue of the budget crisis, Sanders introduced Michael Rogovin, General Council for the Independent Budget Office. Mr. Rogovin reviewed the issue of the budget deficit, which he states is a structural deficit that is expected to continue to grow since city expenditures will continue to grow at a faster rate than revenue sources.
Rogovin stated that the city must cut expenditures or raise revenues or some combination of the two in order to meet the legal requirement for a balanced budget and to address the structural deficit. He provided an overview of those various areas of the budget, the percentage spent in those areas and discussed the fact that 88% of the budget is used for fixed costs or funds critical services.
Sanders noted that past administrations squandered the opportunity to set aside a "rainy day" reserve fund in recent high revenue years that would be there to help when times are not as flush. Sanders discussed the budget problems with the Mayor’s insistence on an increase in the sales tax and the loss to the city of the commuter tax revenue. Sanders stated that we couldn’t tax our way out of this crisis; we will have to grow our way out of it hopefully with new small business opportunities.
The participants raised several issues and concerns about the rise in the bus and subway fare, and argued over the need for one type of service over another. Sanders urged the participants to refuse to get into a debate over whether there is a greater need for parks or education or libraries as these are arguments designed to set us against each other at a time when we must focus on the task of making difficult decisions. "We need all of these services so we must prioritize our needs and maintain as many of the quality of life services as possible to keep our community viable."
The meeting ended with a commitment to work together and continue the dialogue.