City floats idea of public safety tax
Facing a police staffing crisis which could last for years, some Houston officials have raised the possibility of a "public safety tax" to boost the city's shrinking police force.
City Council's Public Safety Committee Chairman Adrian Garcia says he'll support such an idea, though Police Chief Harold Hurtt didn't voice an opinion. Hurtt did say he spent hours in front of Garcia's committee today detailing HPD money woes.
"It's not up to me to determine how to do it, but in some cities they have put in a special public safety tax for police and fire," Hurtt added.
Houston has about 700 fewer police officers than it did just two years ago.
The department also needs some $200 million for various future projects, including buying a new radio system.
First, the city should commit all red light camera revenue to hiring more police officers.
Second, stop all unnecessary spending: day labor sites, downtown parks, museums, grants, expensive desks, etc. What fat is lurking in Houston city government? What about city-provided and paid-for cell phones, in non-critical areas? What about bottled water? Do any departments have contracts for bottled water? Are there conventions or other city paid-for trips city employees are attending? Are they absolutely critical? What about city departments reducing their budgets by a set percentage? Did that happen? Funnel that money into HPD's pressing needs. There is NOTHING more important for city officials to focus on than public safety and Houston needs to cut out the fluff and focus its resources in that direction.
Government is notorious for being wasteful and inefficient. A new tax to fund what should already be the city's number one priority is not the way to go, and any city official thinking along those lines had better think again. Make sure city government is operating at maximum efficiency and a whole lot of money would be freed up, I'll bet.
UPDATE: KHOU-11 has a story posted now with this at the end:
But the mayor apparently doesn't like that idea. In a written statement, his office told us, "We have a plan to significantly increase the size of HPD without raising the property tax rate or the sales tax rate."
UPDATE (02-14-2006): KTRK-13 covers the story, and says a public vote would take place before the enactment of such a tax.