(July 26, 2006 -- posting delayed due to SCE power outage) -- For months, cynical Councilmembers have sent good and decent LB police and fire department officials to regurgitate consultant-crafted political propaganda (mislabeled "public outreach"), peddling a tax-increase ballot measure whose text City Hall (which claims to be transparent) has thus far concealed from taxpayers.
Councilmembers are hiding behind consultants and LBPD and LBFD uniforms because money that should provide police, fire and library services is instead being shoveled into a Council-approved pension increase for non-public safety employees (2002, 9-0), Council-approved raises for multiple city employees (including management on July 11, 2006, Gabelich dissenting re management), a Council approved de facto golden handshake for exiting Mayor O'Neill (Council action May 23, 2006, 8-0) and (on the last day of an outgoing Council) a Council-approved retirement benefit that Councilmembers gave themselves (July 11, 2006, O'Donnell, Gabelich & Lerch dissenting).
All this...while the Council continues to hold core city responsibilities -- police, fire and library services -- hostage to higher taxes.
On July 20, one of City Hall's propaganda brigades (we've learned four were operating on that date alone) was scheduled to address the monthly meeting of the South Wrigley Neighborhood Advisory Group. The neighborhood group's chair tells us that about four hours before the meeting, City Hall cancelled their speakers' appearance, claiming a "scheduling conflict." This came shortly after the neighborhood group released its meeting agenda which listed an opposing point of view from municipal finance expert and elected Water Replenishment District boardmember Norm Ryan. This was like offering daylight to Dracula.
In the 1990s, Mr. Ryan helped collapse a city management scheme to raise taxes for the Emergency Communications and Operations Center (alternative funding found). In 2000, he and others likeminded pressed a ballot measure that gave voters an opportunity to cut LB's oppressive 10% utility tax in half in five years (passed by roughly 70% citywide).
Mr. Ryan's smiling face (and other knowledgeable taxpayers) are the last thing City Hall wants as management tries to count five Council votes on August 1 or 8 to put the tax hike on the ballot. [LB's new 5th district Councilwoman has already said, "Read my lips. No new parcel tax."] (We didn't attend the South Wrigley meeting but we're told Mr. Ryan demolished City Hall's position on the tax increase.)
We say this photo (right) speaks volumes. It's from the July 8, 2006 community "budget summit," showing 6th district Councilwoman Laura Richardson [nearly 55th district Assemblywoman-elect], City Manager Jerry Miller [focused on getting those five Council votes] and then-exiting Mayor Beverly O'Neill [leaving taxpayers holding the bag] boasting of a forthcoming FY 07 proposed budget that's "structurally balanced" by shredding the cover of the FY 03 budget.
We watched this in amazement because, with all due respect, we think it's nuts.
No one would claim their home budget was balanced...except for their inability to pay for the mortgage, health insurance and food.
Seeking a tax increase for police, fire and libraries demonstrates LB City Hall's misplaced priorities, putting fattened pensions, pay raises and perks ahead of core city services.
If City Hall has made its operations unsustainable, it has made the consequences unavoidable. In our opinion, those consequences should now include consideration of reducing LB City Hall to four day a week operation every other week [other cities do this] or every week if necessary in LB.
Then, cuts to management [six-figure-club members, first to go], followed by cuts to non-public safety city employees [whose union reps thought the profligate pension spike was so smart].
Those savings should fund police, fire and libraries for taxpayers first...as they should have long ago.