Several readers have noted recent media reports carrying Big Media banners and focusing on our little town, dropping scary words like bankruptcy and painting a bleak picture of the town’s future as sink holes and swaying bridges drain our coffers.
Moraga prides itself on its “pass the hat” approach to its fiscal needs and the community has rallied more than once to fund a needy program or play structure.
But the Fiscal Double Whammy presented by the emergence of Chuck the Sink Hole last year and, more recently but just as alarmingly the shifting piers beneath Canyon Bridge, has presented an enormous, multi-million dollar challenge for a small town that still passes the licorice tub to help fund its Fourth of July Fireworks Show.
Along with those of you who saw the town mentioned in recent MSM stories was former Moraga Police Chief and current Town Manager Robert “Bob” Priebe, who seemed yanked off enough by the press attention to fire off a little clarifying missive of his own.
Priebe wrote: “The need for additional revenue to provide basic services and address asset replacement and maintenance and repair of critical infrastructure in our community is nothing new. In 2009 a comprehensive study was undertaken by a stellar group of
Moraga citizens. It basically concluded the same thing: Moraga doesn’t have a spending problem, it has a revenue problem.”
That may be hard to swallow in the land of Porsches and home theaters, but like most places in America these days it also has a demonstrated aversion to what Priebe describes as: “…future revenue measures to maintain the community’s top priorities.”
Now, there are only a few ways beyond the aforementioned licorice tub to raise revenues and we’ve seen some taxpayer pushback to those measures in the past, but it is clear the town and its leaders feel something needs to be done. And so does Priebe, who said he intends to take his message to the citizenry.
“In the coming weeks, a number of public engagement opportunities will be scheduled, including a community meeting, open to all, to discuss the fiscal emergency and the current Town budget, including recently approved employment agreements for Town employees, current and future Town needs, and the real consequences of continuing on the same path. I have dedicated almost 38 years of service to this Town and have recommended these actions to ensure the viability of Moraga today and for years to come. I hope we are able to provide the information necessary for all of us to establish common goals and come together as a community to proactively define the future of the Town.”
That’s certainly an admirable approach, but as long-time residents and Moraga Observers we can remember some down-and-dirty community dogfights over, well, our dog park, speed bumps, our fire district pension plan and other issues which may have seemed resolvable at the outset but took on the fissionable quality of weapons-grade plutonium over time.
As well as announcing his plans for a community outreach, Priebe also took media big and small and mainstream and digital to task for their reporting on his town’s current fiscal woes:
“In addition to reporting by some media outlets, local social media sites are conveying misinformation and claims that need to be addressed,” he wrote. “… which I intend to do.”
Whoa. Remembering that Priebe was a police officer in town and knows a come-along hold or two that last bit had us searching our archives for any stories we may have posted lambasting his work. But we came up empty. So far.
Anyway, the Town Manager, the town, and its residents appear to have their work cut out for them as we battle infrastructure needs, traffic, the departure of local businesses, and other issues other towns are addressing along with us.
We’ll just have to wait and see how we do.