In 2008, Columbus Council decided to ask voters to consider a Local Option Sales Tax, or LOST. The central promise of the campaign was that 70 percent of the money collected would be used to fund public safety needs, to include hiring 100 new police officers.
Some members of the public safety community were initially skeptical about the promise. They were concerned that councilors would use the LOST money to replace existing public safety funding instead of increase it. So they lobbied for and received a promise from city leaders that no public safety positions that were funded with money from the general fund in 2008 would be moved around in the future so that they could be funded with LOST money instead.
At last week's council meeting, that's exactly what happened. And the public safety community applauded the move.
No one wants to see fewer police officers on the street or fewer firefighters on the truck. So when Jeff Meyer told the council that the proposed cuts to the city's general fund would require him to eliminate 14 firefighters, and when Ricky Boren said that the proposed cuts would require him to eliminate 20 officers, their ears perked up. After some discussion, the councilors voted to move the endangered positions around so they could be funded with LOST money.
The exact move some had feared the council would make, the move that some said could jeopardize the growth of public safety funding in the future, was the move that saved dozens of public safety positions.
What's the point?
The point is that a community's needs and circumstances change over time. As a result, a group of councilors who are seated today should be slow to make commitments that limit the flexibility of councilors who will be seated in the future to make prudent funding decisions.
We must trust that those who will govern in the future will not unnecessarily undo the work of those who govern now. Further, we have to trust that those who will govern in the future will be guided by a sense of noble obligation and community pride that seeks to make our city better, not worse.
Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.