Some firefighters turned in their helmets and police officers their badges Tuesday as part of deep municipal layoffs destined to further erode the quality of life in Camden, already one of the nation's most impoverished and crime-ridden cities.
About 335 workers, representing one-sixth of the local government work force, lost their jobs, according to Mayor Dana Redd. It was worst in the public safety departments, where nearly half the police force and close to one-third of the city's firefighters were laid off.
Laid-off firefighters walked eight blocks together from the police union hall to Fire Department headquarters, snaking past City Hall, then lined up their helmets in front of the building, picked them back up and started to turn them in along with their other gear.
"It's one of the worst days in the history of Camden," said Ken Chambers, president of the firefighters union.
Redd blamed the public safety employee cuts on their unions, saying they have not been willing to make job-saving concessions or accept the reality that the state government will no longer bail out the city as it has for the past two generations.
"Instead of protecting and serving the city, the residents of Camden, they're choosing to protect their high salaries," she said.
Post 9/11, firefighters and cops were rightly praised as heroes; now they're deadbeats for having the audacity to demand a living wage for putting their lives on the line. How dare they.
The budget proposes nearly $5 billion less for public education below the current base funding. It is also $9.8 billion less than what is needed to cover current funding formulas, which includes about 170,000 additional students entering the public school system during the next two-year budget cycle. Pre-kindergarten would be scaled back.
Higher education funding, including student financial aid, would be slashed.
The proposal wouldn't provide funding for all the people projected to be eligible for the Medicaid program and would slash Medicaid reimbursement rates for health care providers.
Community supervision programs would be cut and a Sugar Land prison unit would be closed. Funding would be eliminated for four community colleges including Brazosport near Lake Jackson.
Thousands of state jobs would be cut.
That's a great idea -- let's crimp our future competitiveness by making an already terribly underfunded school system that much worse. Twenty years from now when industry avoids Texas like the plague because the labor force is stupid we have these yahoos to thank.
And then in Washington we've learned that the SEC enforcement will be stalled, hindering efforts to -- you know -- prevent and/or catch the Madoff. Brilliant.
Here's a news flash for you: cities, counties and the country as a whole costs money to run. You can either pay for it now in the form of some higher taxes or you can pay for it later in the form of crumbling roads, an ill-educated work force or a city where crime runs rampant because of ineffective policing.
The choice is yours.