The fire department, meantime, has cut staff to the level of 1955, when Fresno had one-fifth the population. That prompted the department, which also runs a medical-response service, to concentrate on major emergencies and instruct residents to get to the hospital by other means for less-serious medical needs.These days, an impromptu cast of volunteers fills gaps: City Council members repair streetlights. Mothers patrol neighborhoods with police radios. Church members maintain parks and patch volleyball courts. Neighbors monitor gang activity and track building-code violations.
So while the officials who presided over the city’s economic meltdown are waiting for a bailout or for bankruptcy court to solve their problems, ordinary citizens are stepping up to keep their neighborhoods safe and functioning. It’s quite a display of civic commitment, though one they wouldn’t have had to make had their city been in better hands. Let’s hope residents of California’s likewise beleaguered cities of Stockton, San Bernardino and Vallejo are as resourceful in the face of similar cuts to government services.[Fresno flag image courtesy of Wikimedia]