I have been approached by both sides of the proposition to ban gambling to take a stand on this issue. After much soul searching, I have decided to weigh in. I am truly opposed to gambling in our City. However, I will not vote for the proposition to ban it.
I developed and managed the police budget in the City of Lakewood for 10 years. It comprises nearly 50% of the total city budget. I know for a fact it is impossible to cut $2.8M from the City budget and not cut police. Moreover, cuts will be even deeper in many of the less visible services that have helped produce the remarkable changes in our great City these past 11 years. Cuts will be severe in services like parks, youth recreation, and code enforcement.
While all Lakewood citizens should be truly proud that we have energized such a powerful grass-roots political movement, I become very concerned when a single issue heavily dominates all other considerations. I am convinced that Lakewood cannot have good city service, very low taxes and no gambling.
I fear that many of our citizens approach the prohibition of gambling with honest emotion underscored by some reckless naivet?© ‚Äì discounting the impact of the lost City revenues.
Perhaps some of our citizens do realize fully the tension between the quality of city service, continued low taxes, and gambling revenues. Perhaps they hope that prohibiting gambling will ultimately force us to take a more responsible approach to developing a tax base sufficient to run a medium sized city with significant pockets of poverty. Poverty is a devastating influence on so many, many levels. It is the true source of most struggling schools and crime ‚Äì chronic Lakewood challenges. However, even if this strategy proves out – the impetus for a more responsible level of taxing will not happen until City services begin failing. And by supporting this measure to prohibit gambling I fear we will strip away the few tools the City does have to address poverty and its compelling impacts.
Personally, I would much prefer to pay higher taxes and get rid of gambling. But I am not prepared to support eliminating gambling at the expense of police programs I spent 10 years helping to put in place ‚Äì programs that I think were instrumental in transforming Lakewood into a City we can take great pride in. While I don’t minimize the negative impacts of gambling, I believe that the crime and social disarray we will experience after a $2.8M cut in our budget will be much more direct and harsh.
So absent an off-setting program to restore revenues to the City budget, I cannot support the proposition to eliminate gambling.
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