Politicians are proficient at putting off pain. They're generally not real good at solving a problem but if an issue can in anyway be delayed, passed on or blithely ignored, they're at the top of the class.
Such was the case, we fear, when the Brainerd City Council reinstated the full-time fire equipment operators Monday night. The same, dire state funding projections that the council was aware of when it laid the equipment operators in mid-March still exist. The council's will to stick with a tough decision, however has wavered. Since mid-March the council pushed back the implementation of the layoffs from May 1 to July 1 and most recently reinstated the full-time firefighters.
So, we're back to where we started with the likelihood of going through this entire, painful process again next year when the state makes more cuts. (Minnesota's Legislature and governor are also masters at putting off hard decisions. They did nothing to bring about a fix to the state's deficit problems.)
Had the council stuck with its decision the city would have a head start in preparing for what most experts say will be an almost certain reduction in state aid.
In voting against Monday's decision to reinstate the equipment operators, council member Mary Koep correctly stated that the council's actions were good politics but not good policy.
We believe Bob Olson, the council member who made the original motion and then changed his mind, was correct in his original assessment. In mid-March when he called for the spending cuts he referred to the budget deficit situation and said, "Now is the time to fish or cut bait. It isn't going to change."
The need to make substantial cuts in city government is not going to go away. Revisiting the issue later will be no less painful for council members or for the full-time firefighters and their families.
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