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Citizen-led efforts key to solving our budget woes

Our View
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As city, county, state and federal budget deficits grow, so do citizen concerns. In reaction to furloughs, reduced services and reports of extravagant management salaries, some citizens are rightfully taking action and demanding answers from their elected leaders and government officials. Small groups once considered fringe elements are now presenting ideas that have growing appeal to the increasingly government-skeptical masses. Last week the Lincoln Tea Party Patriots called for a cap on city employee salaries. The group, which grew from about 20 citizens to a little more than 50 within a month, asked the city of Lincoln to reduce yearly employee earnings to $100,000 or less. The group’s leader, Newcastle financial consultant Jim Macauley, estimates the salary cap could save the city of Lincoln about $250,000 a year. With Lincoln’s projected $1.7 million budget deficit for the 2010-11 fiscal year, Macauley and fellow patriots offered an idea that has some merit. On top of the savings, managers taking a cut in pay would send a strong message that those at the top are willing to make the same sacrifices they might be asking other employees to make later this year. It’s a message county officials should also take to heart. With some of the county’s top executives collecting yearly salaries and benefits well over $200,000, those figures don’t make sense to furloughed employees or the average citizen working to make ends meet in these tough financial times. The mistrust in government leaders’ decision-making led Wally Reemelin, president of the League of Placer County Taxpayers, to spearhead a petition drive to let voters decide how to control future middle fork water project monies. “This will prevent spending for traffic congestion or salary increases,” Reemelin told Journal reporter Gus Thomson. “It can only be used for capital expenditures, not for salaries.” Citizens taking charge and sending a strong message to our elected officials about what they want to see happen is a positive outcome of our current financial mess. Our leaders need to prove they are here to listen to our concerns and the more residents who chime in, the better. It’s going to take creativity on behalf of local government officials and politicians to continue tackling bleak budgets and making decisions that keep our cities, counties and state afloat while showing taxpayers that those choices are fair. And citizen input is going to and should play an increasingly important role in the decision-making process to solve this multi-faceted economic crisis.