One by one, the head of each department took the hot seat as a full house looked on: Sheriff, District Attorney, Probation, Parks, Animal Control and more. Their task: persuade the five supervisors to, at best, restore some of their funding – and at worst, not take any more away. Impatient community members had to sit through those presentations before getting their turn. Around lunchtime, Elizabeth Gray headed out the door.
Gray: “We weren’t aware that we would have to wait through all of the speakers on the agenda this morning before we spoke, and we can’t stay any longer.”
Gray’s from a neighborhood called Old Foothill Farms, northeast of Sacramento. She came to support the sheriff’s department, which faces nearly $40 million in cuts. The sheriff says that would all-but-eliminate patrol and investigative services, and Gray’s worried about what that would mean for her community.
Gray: “Our neighborhood is going to dissolve. Every gain that we’ve made over the last four years in attempting to eliminate the small quality of life issues will have been lost completely. And the larger crime prevention and public safety issues will just exacerbate.”
A few blocks away at Cesar Chavez Park, Warren Truitt was just packing up after leading a rally for the Regional Parks department. He’s with the Save the American River Association, and says the county’s proposed cuts threaten the safety and cleanliness of the parks.
Truitt: “Taking anything from parks now, you’re just basically picking bones off the skeleton and just pulling it apart. And it really is not gonna be a place where the community’s gonna really be able to feel safe going out there. So it’s a very loved place – it gets eight million visitors a year. We feel that it’s really wrong, cause you’re gonna create a bigger problem by not protecting it.”
And then, there are the hundreds of county employees getting laid off. Just outside the county’s administrative offices was animal control officer Mechelle Crites. She had to come in on her vacation time to pick up her pink slip. Unless it’s reversed, she’ll lose her job early next month. Crites doesn’t know how she’ll support her husband with medical needs and her two kids. She also doesn’t know how the county will cover her workload if she’s gone.
Crites: “We don’t have enough people right now as it is without the layoffs currently to care for the animals in the shelter, to patrol the streets, to answer the emergency calls, even. And reducing it more is – it’s gonna be bad. It’s gonna be a bad thing.”
Budget hearings resume Tuesday afternoon, when supervisors hear about cuts to health and social services. The board could vote as soon as Wednesday.