IF IT IS PREDICTABLE, IT IS PREVENTABLE – SPRINGFIELD’S APPROACH TO COUNTY BUDGET CUTS by Joe Pishioneri
Last week, the Lane County Budget Committee heard from a variety of citizens and public officials on the need to do something to avoid the dire budget cuts our public safety departments are facing. [http://www.registerguard.com/web/newslocalnews/28090467-41/county-cuts-jail-public-safety.html.csp] Our capable law enforcement personnel have done a fine job of protecting us from reality. Now Citizens are shocked by news stories like this one [http://kezi.com/news/local/246055] where it is plainly spelled out what fundamental county services may be lost, like a medical examiner and lots of jail space.
The Register-Guard article noted above mentioned Springfield’s approach to Lane County’s difficulties – Springfield built its own jail. During my tenure on the City Council we saw the looming budget crisis, and using the “if it’s predictable it’s preventable” approach, did the most we could to protect our citizens. Since the opening of the Springfield jail, property crimes have dropped well over 30% – possibly as much as 40%. When offenders are arrested by the Springfield police one common question is, “Am I going to the Springfield jail or the County jail?” They are very unhappy when they find out they’re going to Springfield’s jail.
Unfortunately for Springfield, our jail is only authorized to hold misdemeanants, not felons. By using our pragmatic approach, Springfield city council constantly looks for ways to mitigate the effects of the steep cuts emanating from the County by doing what we can.
This crisis is not unique to Lane County but is facing all timber counties across the State. My extensive background in the Criminal Justice system as well as my current city council experience is what is needed at the state level to help our community thrive in these tumultuous times.