Wahl: the faux fiscal conservative

Chico City Councilman Larry Wahl practices the same disingenuous politics as his conservative brethren in Sacramento, spending money on pet projects to keep certain constituents and potential voters happy while refusing to raise fees (taxes) to help pay for these projects, leaving that unpleasant task to others. At the state level this politically distasteful responsibility is shifted to local jurisdictions; at the local level, it apparently shifts to councilmembers who either live in the real world or are not running for re-election.

In his four years on the council—not counting his outspoken support for all things military and wrapped in red, white and blue—the former Navy pilot has latched onto two feel-good issues, extended library hours ($120,000 annual cost) and increased funding for the animal shelter ($260,000 annually). And he’s pushed for the approval of these items at well-attended council meetings with damn-the-cost, full-speed-ahead insistence.

This week he repeatedly voted not to increase developer impact fees, which are tacked onto the cost of new houses under the theory that new homes mean more residents who demand more services, like fire and police protection and parks and improved streets and intersections. He also voted against using impact fees to purchase three street sweepers for $375,000. Those sweepers, while not as sexy as library hours and orphaned pets, are intended for use in future neighborhoods. Apparently there’s no political gain in pushing services for voters not yet here.

We applaud Wahl for his support of the library and the care of our stray pets but must remind him these projects cost money. If you don’t want to raise revenue, you can’t push for programs you hope will win you votes. Don’t make promises you’re unwilling to pay for.