Hemet: Council Votes 4-1 to Place on Ballot a Sales Tax Increase to Pay for More Police and Fire

city of hemetOn July 26, 2016 the City Council Meeting was held at the Hemet Public Library on 300 E. Latham Ave, Hemet. Key points of the meeting featured the discussion regarding a new 1 percent sales tax increase meant to pay for the hiring of more police and fire personnel.

The dramatic increase of violent crime in Hemet and the understaffing of the Hemet Fire Department make this minimal tax increase a necessary step towards funding our emergency services so that more officers, firefighters and other programs planned get the money they need to make the City of Hemet a safer and better place for our community.

Temecula and other surrounding cities are implementing a similar tax strategy and Hemet council members pointed out the irony of how some people in Hemet are against a tax increase to pay for more public safety, while they go and spend their money elsewhere, contributing to public safety in these other cities while returning to their own community, where they later complain about public safety issues while voting against a tax increase designed to help mitigate these issues.

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Hundreds attended the meeting. The outside parking lot and library room were filled.

Those who question the crime issue or issues related with fire are obviously only observing from the sidelines. Personally; I witness day by day the reality of the situation here in Hemet as I report on crime and fire incidents, hear the activity on police and fire radio and have been on ride alongs with the Hemet Police Department and Hemet Fire Department. There is no doubt that the City of Hemet has a problem and that police and fire are working extremely hard to safeguard the community with the small amount of resources they possess at the moment.


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Hemet Police Chief David Brown speaks about public safety concern

Just a few nights ago, I reported on perhaps one of the worst incidents I have seen occurring in Hemet since my arrival here in the Valley in 2014. A shooting occurred in downtown Hemet at approximately 12:10 am that left one person injured. When police and fire responded to provide aid to the victim and to control the situation; a small “riot” ensued between a large group of people against officers. While many individuals were claiming that police took too long to respond or didn’t do s**t, Hemet Police’s response time was excellent and if it too long for the shooting victim to receive aid, it was only because the unruly crowd made it unsafe for ambulance personnel to enter the scene. Once police gave the all clear, the victim was rapidly transported to the hospital. You can watch parts of the scene and a speech from Police Chief David Brown in the video below.

I know the lower thirds in this video says July 27, but this is what happens when a passionate issue keeps you working throughout the night and you still think it’s the same day at four am. The date has been corrected in the final council meeting video, found below on this page.



hemet fireFire Chief Scott Brown also spoke about issues within the Hemet Fire Department and how this small tax increase could greatly benefit the community in regards to medical and fire issues. Chief Brown spoke about the understaffing at the Fire Department and how many firefighters must work continuous shifts because of the lack of resources and personnel. Again, this is another point I have personally witnessed when I participated in a ride along with Hemet Fire Engine 1.

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Fire Chief Scott Brown speaks about issues regarding the Hemet Fire Department.

On my ride along, firefighters discussed with me how the equipment works, the responsibilities each one of them have at the fire house and while on calls, the types of calls they respond to, the amount of hours they work and how many times they must pull several day long shifts without sleeping or attempting to sleep between calls, the risks they are exposed to on the job everyday, and also the disrespect some people in the community show to them all while doing a job most people would never want to consider and while saving lives.

Ride alongs with fire usually last for twelve or twenty-four hours. I did my best to try to hang for the whole twenty-four, but I managed to pull sixteen; almost seventeen, at max. Honestly; I was exhausted, needed a shower and needed some rest. Regardless, I would recommend that people try out a ride along with the Fire Department at least once.

It was a great experience and I enjoyed it fully. I have great respect for these men and women and after experiencing first hand what they go through and hearing their stories, my feeling of respect for Fire increased dramatically. I left that night tired; but after having fun and enlightening experience and made a few new friends as well. There is no doubt in my mind after reading the amount of papers provided to me during the last Measure E campaign, my personal experiences, and witnessing them on the job day by day as a reporter; that Fire Chief Scott Brown is an honest and good man who cares about our community.

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A Hemet firefighter extinguishing an RV engulfed in flames.

The men and women who work for him go well beyond the call of duty to provide the citizens of Hemet with the best service regardless of being low on manpower and resources and regardless of certain people calling 911 for every ridiculous thing they can possibly think of; tying up and wasting city resources. Some Fire calls have been over a small trashcan on fire, a neighbor’s barbecue, minor medical issues, unfounded house fires, etc. The people calling in report these incidents as major emergencies without taking the time to stop and think if they should be calling 911 over the neighbor grilling a few steaks or whether they should see a doctor for the infection they’ve had for three days, or whether the smoke they are seeing coming from someone’s home might be someone burning their food while cooking and not the house bursting into flames. While some may say Fire wastes resources over these issues and therefore it’s a waste of city money; the Fire Department must provide assistance. I’m hoping that in there might be consideration in the future for a law citing people who make unfounded calls to police and fire.


Measure E failed to pass last June. It was similar to what is being presented in the November 2016 ballot in that it would’ve increased sales tax one percent with the money to be utilized for police and fire only, as specified in the legislation. The way the measure was written required a “yes” vote from two-thirds of the majority in order to pass. Regardless of the percentage needed, the people who voted for the measure exceeded the people who voted against it.

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Measure E was defeated last June, although the majority of voters were in favor.

One major opponent of measure E and of this newer measure is The Valley Chronicle, a local newspaper owned by Eric Buskirk. In the latest edition, right after the council meeting on the evening of the 26th of July, the paper published an article  about the meeting and what was discussed during the session.

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Following you will find video footage of key points of the City of Hemet Council meeting held on July 26, 2016. The meeting lasted over 3 hours or close to four. I left just before the public comments began. You can find the minutes and all the details of what was discussed throughout the meeting on the City of Hemet’s Website.



 

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