The City of Sacramento made a choice Tuesday night to move ahead with cuts to public safety. The city council’s decision drew out an overflow crowd to city hall, as fire fighters and police officers gathered to learn of their fate.

Facing a $39 million budget deficit and having only $14.3 million in reserve, a split city council approved the layoffs of 167 people from the police department on Tuesday night. That includes 98 sworn officers. To accommodate the layoffs, the city will cut its units that investigate gangs, drugs, and traffic accidents.

This is the third consecutive years of cuts for the police department, but is the first time sworn officers have been affected. The already understaffed department has lost 362 positions since 2008.

The fire department faced cuts as well, as four fire engines were placed on rolling brownouts.

And keep in mind the cuts aren’t done yet, warned Interim City Manager Bill Edgar. The city must still address a structural deficit over the next two years, a total of about $23 million.

These cuts to public safety come weeks after Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced the results of an arena feasibility study, which said building a new arena for the flighty Sacramento Kings would cost the city $387 million.

So the question is: How can a city ask residents to invest in sports and entertainment, while at the same time it fails to maintain its vital, basic services?

The answer that Mayor Johnson has proposed comes from a 60-member, regional commission. Asking communities in the greater Sacramento area to approve taxes on their residents could secure regional, public funding for a new sports and entertainment complex in downtown Sacramento.

But think of the sales pitch.

In January 2011, Sacramento proposed and passed a “crash tax.” The targeted fee would charge non-Sacramento residents for the cost of emergency services in any traffic accident they were determined to be at-fault for. The same standard wouldn’t be applied to residents from Sacramento.

The measure was derided publicly and privately as being unfair, and setting a dangerous precedent for regional harmony. Eventually (and thankfully), the tax was overturned.

But the memory of that bad ordinance still lives on in the memories of Sacramento area local governments. Now, Mayor Johnson proposed to ask them to willingly tax their residents for money to go to Sacramento’s pet project.

It’s the municipal version of watching a neighbor’s dog poop on your lawn and then being asked to lend them a cup of sugar later that night.

Let me hear what you think:
What do you think about these cuts and a new arena for Sacramento’s Downtown?