Thursday, May 19, 2011

Half Moon Bay Illustrates Why Avoiding Spending Cuts is a Bad Idea

Last month, we wrote that the tiny coastal town of Half Moon Bay had voted to disband its police department and outsource all its law enforcement activities to the San Mateo County Sheriff. Well, that was not the whole story. According to the Capitol Weekly, that vote only came after the city spent immense amounts of taxpayer money lobbying Sacramento to bail them out. To avoid cuts that saved the city $500,000 per year, it spent over a million dollars on lobbying.

Even after wasting a million dollars on lobbyists, Half Moon Bay is still a pretty pleasant place.

Apparently the elimination of the police department was the result of Half Moon Bay gambling unsuccessfully on Sacramento's largesse. In 2007, it lost a court decision to a land developer that put it on the hook for over $40 million in damages and court fees. The city subsequently signed a settlement that eliminated that award, contingent on its ability to convince the Legislature to let the developer build there. Inexplicably, Half Moon Bay relinquished its right to appeal the ruling when it signed that settlement, so it threw its money behind AB 1991, a failed bill that would have granted the exemption. In 2009, South San Francisco Democrat Jerry Hill pushed a bill that would've loaned the town $10 million, but it died in committee.

All of which goes to show: when you're broke, throwing good money after bad is usually not the way to fix the problem.


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