NIMBY Thinking Everywhere

It’s all about NIMBY – Not In My
Backyard – thinking in California. Cut the budget, except for
my sacred cow.

The Sacramento Bee reports that a community
group is pushing the City Council to rescind its 35 percent cut in the
budget of the Department of Parks and Recreation that would – among
other provisions – reduce lawn-mowing from once a week to once every
three weeks and close bathrooms except for special events.

None of the cuts seem like particularly
good ideas for the city, but neither does the $50 million deficit it
is facing. Yet the decision to cut maintenance costs at
the parks has resulted in the marshaling of the Land Park Community
Association’s parks committee to fight the plan.

So the Parks people would prefer that
the cuts be found in other areas. Let’s just say, for example,
police and fire. But then, the police and fire community associations
will explain why such cuts will be disastrous. On and on it goes,
until the only possible cuts are those without a constituency to protect
them.

On a statewide level, students and
faculty are protesting tuition increases at the UC and CSU systems despite
the fact that California’s state universities are among the best bargains
in the country. The San Francisco Medical Society board of directors
has voted to oppose propositions 1D and 1E, which would impact funding
for children’s services and mental health services, respectively.
Board president Charles Wibbelsman told me San Francisco Chronicle,
“It is sad that when financial constraints become severe the most
vulnerable are often the first to be targeted, and we oppose that —
especially when the programs in question have been working well,”

And a 10 percent proposed cut in Medi-Cal
is opposed by the California Association of Medical Product Suppliers,
whose “talking points” package ends with this directive to their
members: “LET THEM KNOW YOU ARE A SMALL BUSINESS CONSTITUENT THAT
DIDN’T CAUSE THE STATE’S FISCAL CRISIS.”

Every one of the individual concerns
by interest groups are logical and, to one degree or another, compelling.
But California is attempting to meet a real-world budget crisis, which
may cause us to default on our debts and create even more pain for the
state and its citizens. Someone has to prioritize the cuts despite
the NIMBY factor involved. The alternative is massive cuts to
the few programs that have no friends to protect them.

Prioritizing cost reductions and revenue
increases is a necessity in the current economy, and while citizen protests
are a cherished tradition, we all need to take some of our NIMBY thinking
off the table.