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By Paul Gilman

There has been a lot of talk recently about the possibility of another tax initiative to be placed on the ballot.

This newest ballot measure will compete with California state initiatives and the local Petaluma Friends of Recreation initiative.

There has been talk that this newest ballot initiative would be a sales tax increase to a quarter cent or half cent. There has also been talk regarding whether the tax should be specific in nature (requiring a two-thirds majority) or as a general tax needing one vote more than 50 percent. This was brought forward at a recent Petaluma City Council meeting.

The Police Officers Association of Petaluma did donate money to Petaluma Friends of Recreation. We believed that safely maintained parks and play areas for families and children is a significant step in providing for a safe community. We believe that the PFOR measure, with its clearly defined goals and oversight committee, will make sure that the community gets exactly what it was promised.

The Police Officer's Association of Petaluma would love to have more police officers to combat gang and drug issues.

As citizens, police officers, and parents, we would desperately like to see officers returned to our schools. We want the streets to be fixed. We want the street lights in our neighborhood to work.

After looking at the recent poll, we were not surprised that the citizens of Petaluma feel the same way. We also feel that the citizens of Petaluma should get exactly what they pay for. The quick turn around isn't the appropriate approach to this sales tax increase.

The Police Officers Association of Petaluma did donate to the recent telephone poll about the tax increase. We wanted to know what the citizens of Petaluma wanted.

We are encouraged by the level of support shown for public safety in the recent opinion poll. However, we view that support with a sense of responsibility.

These are tough times and we cannot endorse asking the public for additional funding without a cohesive and well established plan to ensure that any new funding is used for what the public intended. We do not believe that we can give the public those assurances in the short amount of time the city would have to bring a funding measure to the ballot.

The City of Petaluma desperately needs to invest in public safety, but it also needs to address our infrastructure needs beginning with our city streets.

Before rushing to the ballot, we would like to see a united City Council establish priorities for any new funding and develop a funding measure to address those priorities. That funding measure must be written to guarantee that if our citizens vote to provide additional funds to infrastructure and/ or public safety, the money is spent as the voters intended.

We applaud the leadership from some members of the council to conduct research into the desires of the community but, we feel the citizens of Petaluma should say where and how their money is spent. If this process is rushed and it passes with no clear guidelines on how and where the money is spent, we have failed.

We are concerned that a well intended, but shortsighted effort to bring the initiative to the ballot will not guarantee that the funds are distributed exactly as the citizens deemed necessary.

If the city department heads were asked to submit a "wish list" we think it is appropriate that the citizens are afforded the same opportunity; after all this is their community.

(Paul Gilman is a detective in the Petaluma Police Department and President of the Police Officers Association of Petaluma.)

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