A couple of weeks ago a Clearlake city councilwoman publicly decried the use of a small budget surplus on salary raises for city employees and instead suggested the money be used to shore up the understaffed city police department, which might help a little but ignores the basic fact that the Clearlake Police Department is designed to fail.
The police department has several major problems hindering its success, but the biggest by far is the fact that there has never been a viable plan put forward by the city council to deal with the core issue (money), and instead they have tried to patch together a skeleton force when the city is in desperate need of a small army of officers.
They need so many more officers (realistically, about a dozen), that there is no possible way they could ever hope to be able to afford it using the city's money.
Making matters worse, there is no small town police force that can be effective when it has far more support and command staff than patrolmen, or when it pays its chief nearly $190,000 per year in salary and benefits – both are an obscene waste of money.
To ensure that none of this is able to change the city has burdened itself with a ridiculously generous retirement program for the police that is a ticking time bomb waiting to sink the city in red ink.
Add this to the epicenter of crime in Lake County and you have institutionalized failure with no relief in sight.
By outsourcing the policing to the Lake County Sheriff's Office the city would save nearly all the money it currently spends on five dispatchers, a secretary, the chief and command staff, plus it would save further on its suicidal retirement plan – forever.
The savings (at least $600,000-$700,000 per year excluding the retirement plan), would be substantial and the city should negotiate a deal with the county that will guarantee to put more patrolmen on the street while saving itself from its crippling obligation to fund its retirement plan.
Why should those of us who live outside the city care? Because bad PR for Clearlake affects all of us whose financial success is tied to the image of our county, whether it's from marketing our fruit, nuts and wine, or in the tourism, real estate or investment sectors.
The drugs and violence centered in Clearlake oftentimes spills out into adjoining communities and the city is too large to fail as nearly one-in-four of our citizens live there – they will drag us all down if they stay on their present course.
Their retirement plan also put pressure on Lakeport and the county to follow suit, with disastrous results in Lakeport that are still being dealt with.
We all need the city to be safe and prosperous and must commit ourselves to achieving that goal now, not in some distant future.
It will be hard to change any of this as those with a vested interest in the status quo will fight tooth and nail to hang on and we have seen the city council put pride ahead of common sense in the past, but to not change is to ensure continued failure.
Here is the challenge to the city council: show us the numbers, publicly PROVE to us the way you are spending money on policing is the most efficient means possible and nothing could be saved or improved by outsourcing, if you can't do that then start the process to fix the problem.
Philip Murphy lives in Lakeport, Calif.