San Diego

Resolution to Raise Money for New Fire Stations Fails at City Hall

A resolution to raise money to build new fire stations failed to get enough votes at City Hall Tuesday. 

The bond would have included a $205 million tax increase that supporters say is needed to build new fire stations. The need for fire stations in San Diego has existed for years, but the City Council is at odds on how to fix the problem.

Councilwoman Marti Emerald was behind the resolution for a firehouse bond that would raise taxes to help build the stations.

"To make public safety a political football I think is unconscionable," Emerald said. "We have an ethical obligation as government, to provide for the safety and well being of the public."

Emerald says the City has known for too long about the need to cut down response times and build more fire stations, and she says now is the time to fix that.

But she isn't expecting the city council to all jump on board.

"I don't understand the opposition to it here on this council," Emerald said. "And I don't believe the council should be the one making the decision on whether or not we go forward with this plan. It's the public that's at risk and the public should be included in making this important decision."

The resolution came one vote short of the needed six votes. Only five councilmembers voted yes, meaning the measure will not go to the November ballot. Councilman Chris Cate was one of four nay votes, arguing the measure lacks details including firehouse locations and how they would pay for staffing.

"I can't go to these voters and tell them in detail what you're going to get for voting yes on this measure," said Councilmember Chris Cate. "And that's what concerns me."

In November, a fire station opened in Mission Valley. It was San Diego's first new fire station since 2008. In March, officials broke ground on Downtown San Diego's first new fire station in 40 years. 

People like Emerald argue Councilmembers and the Mayor have let politics get in the way of public safety and have turned the measure into a bargaining chip. 

"I believe the intentions are good, we want to make sure our citizens are safe, but in order for me to look a taxpayer in the eye and say I support something, I need to have all of the details behind it first before saying yes please, vote to increase your taxes," Cate said.

The Mayor's office says Emerald's accusations of turning the bond into a bargaining chip are not true.

The City will be breaking ground on two new fire stations in City Heights and Point Loma later this year.

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