City Council

Budget Cuts Force Closure of San Jacinto Parks

Children were playing soccer in the street outside a fenced-off San Jacinto park Wednesday after budget cuts forced the city to close several parks and a community center.

Mayor Crystal Ruiz said the city is in a roughly $5 million deficit, mostly caused by the recession, and the only way to keep the city running is to make deep cuts, including to public safety. Ruiz said police officers and city staff have been laid off. The fire department has also been affected.

The mayor said ballot Measure CC would have helped solve the city's budget issues. The 10-year, 6 1/2 percent utilities tax was struck down by voters in November.

Former City Councilman Steve Di Memmo spearheaded the effort against Measure CC.

"It's a sliding tax," Di Memmo said. "If your water bill went up, so did your tax. If your gas bill went up, so did your tax."

He blames the budget crisis on the current City Council.

"When this council got on board in 2010, they didn't stop, they continued spending," Di Memmo said.

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"I can't really hang out with my friends anymore," said one boy walking along the fence at Sallee Park with a backpack on. "This is the only place you could play, and they're keeping it away from us."

Diane Thom lives across the street from the park. She voted in favor of Measure CC and now she's worried about the shuttered recreational areas will affect children in her neighborhood.

"Crime is going to go up," she said. "There's not going to be anything to do."

Ruiz said Measure CC would have cost each resident about $25 extra per month. Now she's hoping to find another solution.

"If there's no solution, it'll be bankruptcy," she said.

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