Fend for Yourself, Kid

Stephens abstains from backing council resolution against state cuts to child care services
Hey kids, don’t ask San Leandro Councilman Bill Stephens for sympathy when the governor cuts funding for child care because you won’t get it from Mr. Conservative.

The city council voted 6-0 to back a resolution Monday night against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts to child care services. The governor hopes the cuts will begin to narrow an estimated $19 billion deficit. Stephens, though, chose to abstain after giving yet another loquacious statement hinting at his opposition to the symbolic demand.

This is a difficult item. Let me explain why. I think it’s a worthy item, but at the same time it’s almost a hallow item and the reason why is that we want the state of California not to impose cuts but we don’t say what we want them to cut. If we are going to be brave, we could basically say they should cut the redevelopment agency money and use it for this program. Or we should say they should cut education. When they don’t have enough money, we’re basically saying, “Oh, don’t cut this,” but we’re not brave enough to say what they should cut and, to me, that’s just kissing babies. I think I will just abstain on this.

Stephens uses the word “brave,” or lack thereof, twice in his statement, but why didn’t he go all the way and dare vote against the resolution? Afterwards, one councilmember commented on Stephens’ stance saying wryly, “He’s definitely not going with popular opinion.”

Before the vote, which, incidentally was placed on the consent calendar and pulled for discussion by Stephens, the executive director of the Davis Street Family Resource Center Rose Padilla Johnson told the council Schwarzenegger’s proposal “is not reasonable and not the right thing to do.” Johsnon says 221 children in the city will lose funding July 1 for their child care and will affect more than just families, but also child care providers. This did not sway Stephens, though, who once placed the needs of children equal to funding for cleaning the city’s gutters and pruning its trees during a finance meeting last year.

Councilman Jim Prola immediately followed Stephens and offered a few solutions to remedy the budget shortfall instead of affecting the needs of children ranging from closing corporate tax loopholes and raising fees.

If Stephens is the furthest right on the council, then Prola is the furthest left and few times did the gulf between ruthless fiscal responsibility and general compassion for people seem so far apart.

-STEVEN TAVARES
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