Which Councilmember(s) Will Agendize & Seek Revote On Unwise Public Safety Budget Cuts? And When?


(Sept. 24, 2012, 10:50 a.m.) -- Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske has publicly disclosed on her non-taxpayer-paid blog a list provided at her request by city management, detailing what the Council did and didn't do on September 4 when it rammed through a FY13 General Fund budget.

The Council-adopted budget was mainly as proposed by city management and the Mayor with some amendments unveiled hours earlier by the Council's Budget Oversight Committee, then amended via a substitute motion from O'Donnell to restore some -- but not all -- police budget items that had been threatened with cuts. The vote was 8-0 on the amendments, 6-2 on budget passage [Austin and Neal dissenting, Andrews absent for entire meeting].

Details on the taxpayer-impacting budget changes were kept below the radar until midafternoon Sept. 4 (when working people wouldn't hear them) by the Budget Oversight Committee (chair DeLong, vice chair O'Donnell, member Lowenthal). Committee meetings aren't routinely carried live by City Hall, so showed up and webcast the meeting live...and our readers/viewers weren't a bit happy with what they saw/heard.

Budget Oversight Committee chair DeLong read the proposed changes aloud in rapid fire fashion, without distributing them in writing (preventing pesky taxpayers, reporters and Councilmembers from having details at hand). The proposals didn't materialize in writing until about 6:30 p.m. at the main Council meeting, where a motion was made to adopt them...and with an amendment by O'Donnell, they were enacted.

Prior to the vote, a motion by Neal, seconded by Austin, to hold the item over for a week -- which could easily have been done -- was voted down machine style 3-5 (Yes: Schipske, Austin, Neal; No: Garcia, Lowenthal, DeLong, O'Donnell, Johnson; Andrews absent). In contrast, minutes earlier DeLong requested a week's delay in approving the Harbor Dept. because he said the Port "wasn't ready" and wanted extra time.

In our opinion, this was eerily similar to what the public detests in Sacramento and Washington, DC when taxpayer-impacting deals are done behind closed doors and then rammed through. This isn't a small matter when the Council's Budget Oversight Committee chair is a Congressional candidate who tells voters he's an alternative to a Sacramento politician.

The management memo released by Councilwoman Schipske shows what was done. In terms of police funding

For FY13 only, restoration of funding for the gang enforcement unit, overtime and/or PSS's to be decided by the Police Chief.

For FY13 only, the Police Dept. will restore the following:

  • Four Police Service Specialist positions to support Vice Investigations, Sex Crimes, Crime Lab and East Division -- $354,000

  • Ten Police Officers and one Sergeant assigned to Gang Enforcement -- $1,553,000

  • Increase overtime -- $449,000

Since the cut originally proposed by city management and the Mayor would have eliminated 28 FTEs (full time equivalents), that seems to indicate that even with O'Donnell's "restorations," roughly 17 sworn police positions will vanish.

That comes on top of budget cuts for the past three budget years (FY10, 11 and 12) that have left LB taxpayers with a thin blue line roughly equivalent per capita (officers available for routine citywide deployment) to cutting over 25% of LAPD's officers.

What the Council did can and should be revisited and undone next Tuesday or any Tuesday. All it takes is one Councilmember to agendize proposed budget changes to restore the officers cut in the FY13 budget. The deadline to do this for the next Council meeting (Oct. 2) is by noon today (Sept. 24). Three Councilmembers can join in agendizing the item as late as noon Friday. On Tuesday Oct. 2, a motion and a second can force a recorded vote on undoing the police cuts. Five Council incumbents can vote to approve or reject proposed budget changes; six votes can override a Mayoral veto if he uses it.

Vice Mayor Robert Garcia isn't alone but in our opinion bears a special share of responsibility for what has happened. Since fall 2010, he has been the Mayor's chosen chair of the Council's Public Safety Committee. This year, as in previous years, he effectively accommodated the Mayor politically by failing to hold hearings of his Public Safety Committee on the public safety aspects of the Mayor/Manager proposed budget.

This year, while publicly acknowledging the obvious (that the Mayor/Manager proposed budget didn't put enough funding aside for overtime), Garcia proposed no budget solutions of his own for the proposed police cuts and basically handed the issue to DeLong's Budget Oversight Committee. In our view, that was a dereliction of duty on an issue that not only disproportionately affects his district but impacts residents citywide. Vice Mayor Garcia now holds the distinction of being one of LB's five Council incumbents (Garcia, Lowenthal, DeLong, O'Donnell and Andrews) who voted to cut the largest number of budgeted police for taxpayers in the history of the City of Long Beach.

Councilman Dee Andrews, recently reelected without a ballot opponent, was absent for the Sept. 4 Council meeting (illness cited by his office) but in our view he has effectively been sadly absent as an advocate on public safety for the entire budget process. We are aware, although he may not be, that a number of south Wrigley and Central LB residents who've been quiet up till now are increasingly displeased with him on this issue.

Constituents in parts of Councilwoman Lowenthal's 2nd Council district and in the western half of Councilman O'Donnell's 4th Council district are also disproportionately impacted by crime. Lowenthal did nothing on police levels. O'Donnell offered the last minute substitute that restored some police items but left others to vanish.

In addition, the budget as enacted allocates sums to make Long Beach the first and only L.A. County city to date to try and reduce the number of responding paramedics on calls from two to one. Yes, this is allowed in most CA counties and yes, city management and LB's new Fire Chief say it's part of a system that will ensure a paramedic on every responding unit. No, we're not persuaded this will be an improvement because it's so clearly driven by budget issues, not service improvements. We don't think the Council should have budgeted any sums to implement this until its public safety impacts, pro and con, have been seriously discussed on the merits.

O'Donnell was publicly endorsed and backed by the LB Police Officers Association and the LB Firefighters Association political action committees. What did he tell them to get their endorsements and thousands of dollars in "independent expenditures" supporting his reelection? We've previously asked LBPOA President Lt. Steve James to release the recording of what Garcia told LBPOA in its endorsement process in 2009. Lt. James has politely told us he'll never release the recording (and we believe him). [Garcia told us in 2009 that he doesn't object to releasing the recording.] strongly encourages any LB police officers or firefighters who were present in the LBPOA or LBFFA 2009 endorsement meetings with Garcia or the 2012 endorsement sessions with O'Donnell to tell us, via email or phone, what they were asked and how they answered. We think taxpayers and voters ought to know this. Our email is Never communicate with us while you're on city work time or from any city owned computer, cellphone or other device, but there's still a First Amendment in this country and you can tell us what happened, so we can tell everybody, when you're not at work and not using any city communication device.

The Council also gave short shrift to Park Rangers, erasing them from all LB parks except El Dorado, where'll they'll only be present three days a week. And while LB has many parks, as Ann Cantrell has accurately pointed out: there's only one Nature Center. The Mayor and Management proposed to cut its program funding nearly entirely; it ended up losing a third of its funding, an action that deserves reexamination.

So...who will agendize these items...and and when will they agendize them?

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