The city of Galveston needs $608,000 in additional payroll costs like a ship needs a torpedo in its side.
That’s why the new Galveston City Council should greet the request from the police department for 12 new positions with some questions.
The argument is that the Galveston Police Department is understaffed.
Well, is it? How about some supporting data?
How many police officers does the average city have per 1,000 residents? What’s the range? And where does Galveston fit in?
If Galveston is going to be soundly managed, someone is going to have to start asking those questions at public meetings. And this council could do a lot for good governance by establishing that the answer to funding requests is “no” without the supporting data.
Two years ago, a new City Council got off to an awful start by adding employees to the police department. The increased expenditures were never justified beyond the platitudes that you can never have too many police officers.
Actually, you can. And some cities that are working their way through bankruptcy would acknowledge that mistaken beliefs on that point have consequences.
There’s no doubt the world would be a better place if we had more police officers. The world also would be a better place with more firefighters, more teachers, more public health physicians. The question is how many you can afford.
Just looking at the data in the public realm, the city’s payroll is bloated.
If that’s not true, the managers at City Hall should have no trouble producing the data to dispel that myth.
It’s the council’s job to ask.
For more than a decade, there has been a running argument between people who want to devote more of the city’s money to infrastructure — especially to street repairs — and people who want to devote every available dime of new tax money to operations — especially to salaries and benefits in the police and fire departments.
Most of the people on the new council promised voters that the city’s pitiful infrastructure would be a priority.
If this council starts by adding to the city’s payroll costs, instead of focusing resources on infrastructure, it’s going to send a bad message.
• Heber Taylor