Editor, Ceres Courier,
Does a Citizen Oversight Committee which reviews government activities, improves transparency and demands accountability at all levels of government, actually work? An effective citizen oversight committee is structured to take on the following responsibilities: create processes for risk governance, monitoring, reporting and create clear defined duties to improve effectiveness.
During the November 2007 election, the city of Ceres Measure H established a half-cent sales tax for the improvement of Public Safety Services for police, fire and 9-1-1 emergency response; as well as an Citizen Oversight Committee to monitor the expenditures of revenue collected and report to the people and the City Council.
"Public Safety Services" means obtaining, furnishing, operating, and/or maintaining police or Fire protection equipment or apparatus, paying the salaries and benefits of police or fire protection personnel, and such other police or fire protection service expenses as deemed necessary by the City Council and the benefit of the residents of the City.
However, Measure "H" Citizen Oversight Committee overlooked or lost sight of the fact, over the past seven years. Ceres City Council members did not allocate any expenditures for fire protection safety equipment during the years 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14, and 2014-15. In fact, the City Council expenditures were $9,917 for fire equipment and $617,024 for police autos, tactical and computer equipment. Expenditures for training, equipment maintenance, investigations and phones appropriated $763,577 more for police then fire, with a grand total of $2,605,726 more than fire expenditures of Measure "H" revenues.
Voters, insofar as "Citizen Oversight," caveat emptor ("Let the buyer beware!"). The principle that the seller of a product cannot be held responsible for its quality unless it is guaranteed in a warranty.
(Editor's note: We gave City Manager Toby Wells a chance to address the content of this letter and he replied as follows:
"The biggest missing piece to his argument is written into the Ordinance 3.10.150 near the bottom of that section, ‘It is the intent of the people that revenues collected hereunder shall supplement, rather than supplant, existing city expenditures for Public Safety.' The General Fund continues to fund the vast majority of expenditures for Public Safety and the Measure H expenditures are only a supplement. Just because Measure H didn't pay for it, doesn't mean there weren't funds expended for that purpose.
"One key expenditure that comes to mind was the purchase of the self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA) a few years back that was over $300,00 funded from the General Fund and obviously ongoing costs every year.
"The other piece is the operations of the two departments are very different. Over the course of the full measure, the expenditures between the two will change over time to fit the different needs of the two departments.")