Terry Jensen
Common Sense / Opinion
A continuing series

Important Questions Not Asked, Answers Needed Re Uncollected Parking Ticket Revenue

(April 6, 2012) -- As previewed by this writer, on April 3 City Council Auditor Laura Doud presented the City Council with the results of her audit on the city’s Parking Citations Collection Process -- and what a show it was. [ extended video coverage with access to the audit report click here.]

A few of the Council members -- namely DeLong (Chair of the Council's Budget Oversight Committee), Garcia and O’Donnell -- appeared surprised to learn of the audit’s findings. They exhibited appropriate concern and sought quick action suitable for anyone running for office or reelection but asked few, if any, substantive questions.

Most Councilmembers lauded Auditor Doud for her work, complimented staff and urged staff to find a new system. Let me acknowledge early that the City surly needs improved technology but they also need to ensure the department is properly managed before they can properly implement new technology or consider outsourcing.

I could not help but ask where in the world have some on this Council been over the past few years? Most of them have had five years, or more, in office to ensure that our cities scarce resources were properly managed. Given the city’s present fiscal condition by any objective standard our overall fiscal condition has showed scant improvement.

Over the past few years any of them could have asked the City Manager for information on revenue or-- pardon me for suggesting this-- they COULD HAVE LOOKED AT THE BUDGETS just as I did. If they had performed a modicum of due diligence to ensure they could make an informed decision, here is what they would have found and could have asked city management and the Auditor at the Council meeting...which they didn’t do.

  • Mr. Gross, you suggest that purchasing new technology and using enhanced collection efforts you could possibly increase annual collections from $1 million to $3 million. This would potentially increase 2013 collections from $14.07 to a high of $16.07 million. Given that almost $16.0 million was collected in 2009 with old technology, why is spending more getting us less?

  • If technology was the root of your problem, as the Auditor claimed, what was the reason for the dramatic INCREASE in parking revenue between 2006 and 2009? Parking fine revenue increased 22.41% between 2006 and 2009 going from $12.85 million to $15.73 million

  • To what does the Auditor attribute the dramatic DECREASE in parking revenue between 2009 and 2011? Revenue DECREASED 18.31% between 2009 and 2011 going from $15.73 million down to a paltry $12.85 million. DESPITE the City ADDING staff in 2010 and 2011? Nobody asked.

  • Given the dramatic decrease in revenue over the last three years what gives you confidence that present management can do better with new technology? Nobody asked.

  • Why have the collection rates declined (using the same old technology) from a high of 82.7% in 2003 to only 70% projected in 2012? Nobody asked.

  • In the private sector one learns that paying attention to your aged receivables list is critically important because the longer you wait the less likely you are to collect. So, what have you been doing to improve review and enact measures to speed up the process that seemed to work better in 2009? Nobody asked.

Folks, the bottom line of all this is Long Beach City Hall has a problem that goes far beyond this issue of parking fine revenue.

Long Beach residents should be very concerned about the low level of oversight exhibited by most of our elected officials. The issue goes far beyond uncollected Parking Citation Revenue; it goes to the very heart of how this City is managed and what the Mayor and Council want to do to "fix" our problem

How many departments in the City exhibit the same problems exhibited by parking fine collections? Is this sixth largest revenue source and management debacle an isolated case or is it pervasive throughout the city? Sadly, Council member Schipske was the only one that asked probing questions and suggested that everyone needs to do a better job before looking for more.

We need to know the answer to this before we allow the Mayor and Council to outsource any departments or try to burden taxpayers with any new taxes.

Fix your house first before to ask for more.

Previously on Common Sense by Terry Jensen (continuing series):

  • No. 14: Using Bad Technology To Excuse Bad Management

  • No. 13: Ruling By Obfuscation, Enabled By Mayor & Council

  • No. 12: Mystery Holiday Moves Mayor To Propose Canceling Jan. 3 Council Meeting

  • No. 11: Public Officials Shrugging Public Costs Of Project Labor Agreements

  • No. 10: Outsourcing City Hall

  • No. 9: Lack of City Hall Credibility, Not Residents' Complaints, Deters Quality LB Developments; Restoring Trust Requires Accurate Information & Respectful Partnership b/w Residents & Officials

  • No. 8: Council Grants Permit With Conditions Requiring What City Hall Already Basically Requires & Residents Deserve

  • No. 7: Facing A De Facto Precedent Proposed at 2nd/PCH

  • No. 6: Put Redevelopment In Council's Hands, Make LB Elected Officials Accountable (For A Change)

  • No. 5: Suppose Our City Officials Had Applied These Efforts To Assure World Class Kroc Center Instead Of For This, This & This

  • No. 4: Council Majority Either Didn't Know, Or Knew But Didn't Disclose, Amount Of Taxpayer Dollars Potentially Up In Smoke On Med MJ Vote

  • No. 3: City Hall & Its Boosters Created Budget Mess (Quit Blaming Recession); Proposed Proportional Cuts Don't Prioritize; Council Needs To Define Core Items & Cut Others

  • No. 2: Costs vs. Benefits: Council's Costlier-Than-Necessary Seawall Fix = Decaying Belmont Pier & Other Shoreline Assets

  • No. 1: Santa, Call LB City Hall: Taxpayer Leased Vacant Bldg. (New Home To Daisy Lane Xmas Displays) Invites Annual Public Review of All City Owned/Leased Properties And Zero-Based Budget

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