Mayoral candidate David Newman has made numerous public comments outlining his platform for reducing taxes and his opinion regarding the relationship between University students and local law enforcement. Recent comments made by Mr. Newman concern members of the San Marcos Police Officers Association. We believe Mr. Newman is creating a divisive environment and dialogue between the University and the Police Department. Additionally, we strongly believe Mr. Newman’s plan for cutting the Police Department’s budget is fiscally irresponsible and undermines the work our current Mayor and Council have been diligently working on for the past two years.
Specifically, Mr. Newman has repeatedly stated that he will cut each City Department’s budget by 10%. Mr. Newman has recently amended his earlier statements indicating that he is now in favor of cutting the budgets by 10%, but not including salaries. In an interview with the University Star on September 25 regarding his budget cut proposal, Newman stated “nobody has challenged me on that in any way. There’s been no reaction. To me, silence is consent.”
The City Council recently approved the 2008-2009 budget which includes the San Marcos Police Department (available at www.ci.san-marcos.tx.us). Within the Police Department budget, 87.7% is personnel expenses which includes salaries. In order to meet Mr. Newman’s goal of cutting 10%, the Chief of Police would need to cut over $1,000,000 from the current budget. Under Mr. Newman’s plan, this could only be accomplished by laying off police officers and reducing the number of police officers on the street.
Under Mr. Newman’s amended proposal, the Chief of Police would need to cut over $130,000 from the operating budget. This would have to include cuts to the 911 Emergency Communications Center, fuel for patrol vehicles, vehicle repairs, contracted services such as medical exams for sexual assault victims, as well as training for police officers and emergency communications personnel.
After years of not hiring new police officers while the City and University continued to grow, the current Mayor and City Council have made great strides over the past two years making public safety a priority. New officers have been added as well as a full-time motorcycle traffic unit and an authorized mental health officer. There is still work to be done and it will take a continued commitment to public safety to bring Police Department staffing to where it needs to be.
During a presentation to the Associated Student Government (ASG) at Texas State University on Monday, October 6, Mr. Newman stated that the San Marcos Police Department was an “embarrassment” and that Police Officers treated students differently than other residents. These comments come from a candidate who has never attended a Citizen’s Police Academy (offered twice a year) and had, at that time, never been on a police ride-along.
Over the past twelve months, the Police Department has been working closer than ever with the University to address noise related complaints by numerous neighborhood groups, some of which are affiliated with the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA). While Mr. Newman complains to the students that the Police Department is treating them differently, some of his supporters, including leading members of CONA, are the same people who have been demanding that the Police Department take a very strong enforcement stance on noise, specifically students in the Sagewood area. This same group is also the strongest supporters of R-1 zoning enforcement.
In order to address the historical noise related issues in neighborhoods, The Police Department and the Vice President of Student Affairs at Texas State University, along with several other key groups, created the Achieving Community Together (ACT) campaign. This campaign has brought the Police Department and University together to address a longstanding conflict in our community. Positive things are happening almost daily with ACT and it will take a long term commitment from both the City and the University to truly make a lasting change.
Mr. Newman’s comments to the ASG on October 6 go against everything ACT stands for. His comments are divisive, not inclusive. He wants to move backwards to the “us versus them” days where residents complain about students and the work we have done together over the past year gets lost in the finger-pointing.
Mr. Newman came out and participated in one of the ACT neighborhood walks and stated that he “got the shirt.” He should be commended for participating. However, ACT and positive long term change is more than a “shirt”. It is about establishing personal relationships and working together for a common cause, not building walls and name calling.
Now is not the time for creating barriers between the University and the Police Department, nor is it the time to cut the budgets of emergency services. Mr. Newman’s plan for cutting the Police Department budget will move our City back in time. His plan will adversely affect public safety by reducing the number of police officers as well as the equipment and training available to them. The SMPOA is challenging Mr. Newman on his failed plan and his reckless, uniformed public comments. We are not consenting to this ill-conceived plan and will not support any candidate who advocates endangering the public by cutting police services.
Daniel E. Arredondo, president
San Marcos Police Officers Association