There are 13 candidates for three vacancies on the Santa Barbara City Council — perhaps an unlucky number.

As a candidate, I have attended every forum except the one sponsored by the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Santa Barbara Lodging & Restaurant Association, which excluded me along with other candidates who had not sufficiently solicited money from special interests.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am deeply grateful for every neighborhood association and organization that sponsors a forum for all of the candidates, but it’s hard to make a complete statement of purpose or pose both a problem and a solution in one minute, and that is what the 13-candidate field has created.

The most crucial question was probably the one asked at the first forum: “Is our city’s financial crisis due to revenue or spending?”

Although the moderator insisted on an either/or reply, the answer, of course, is “both.” We are in a financial crisis first because of a shortage of revenue, in company with cities, counties and states all across the country. It’s a problem caused by the collapse of the economy because of financial fraud. The economy of the past decade has been largely based on false assets, created and traded by real estate and financial interests. Not only will we never see the kind of tax revenue we have seen, we should hope that we never do.

The series of “bubbles” that marked the past eight years (dot.coms, stocks and housing) led to the collapse of a false economy based on false assets and unsustainable consumption and debt. Now we’re seeing the emergence of a real economy based on savings and more mindful consumption, which leads to reduced tax revenues. For lack of a better term, I will use “tax revenue bubble” for the way we were.

During the growth of the tax revenue bubble, the city agreed with its employees to compensation and pensions that are unsustainable in the new economy. It was done in good faith without the knowledge that there would be a tax revenue bubble.

Since the problem began with a revenue drop, the solution must begin with a revenue increase. We can’t try to balance the budget on the backs of the employees without first doing the hard work of revenue recovery, and tax revenue can be recovered even in the new economy. We can do that by recovering revenue spent on services already rendered to segments of our community that have not paid their fair share — and, yes, these segments do exist. I will explain.

Police sources tell me that more than half of our policing goes to alcohol-related behavior and incidents. Under the California Constitution Article 13, the city can use fees to recover the cost of actual services rendered. Ventura has done that, and it has not been challenged. We should use its model, which charges a fee according to how much alcohol a business is dispensing. The target should be to raise the portion of the $34 million police budget that constitutes exceptional services because of alcohol consumption, since normal policing traditionally hasn’t been subject to fees.

Another revenue recovery plan, which could be called recovery and prevention, is the high-risk fire plan. Taxpayers recently spent millions of dollars protecting homes that had been built in known high-risk areas. As a former firefighter, I could see that we couldn’t fight the fires effectively because of the number of firefighters who had to be assigned to home protection. That constitutes special services, and we should charge a fee to those who wish to build in the high-risk areas to cover the additional cost of protecting those homes. The fee could be suspended or waived based on an annual inspection by the fire department that certifies the homeowner has maintained a “defensible space and fire-resistant environment.”

Those two fees alone could raise enough revenue to balance our budget, but they also could be combined with good ideas already proposed, such as taxes on plastic bags or a fee for marijuana dispensaries. But new special taxes take years and a super-majority to put in place, whereas fees, though they can cover only the actual cost of services, can be assessed quickly.

That should be priority one for the new council.

Lane Anderson is a candidate for Santa Barbara City Council.