In First Discussion Of Police/Fire Budgets After Sales Tax Hike, Some Councilmembers Indicate They'd Like To Restore Some Fire / Police Levels Beyond What Mgm't/Mayor Propose...But None Offer Any Plans Or Commit To Doing So

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    (August 10, 2016, 8:25 a.m.) -- On Aug. 9, LB City Council members discussed LBPD and LBFD FY17 budgets that will determine how many police officers and firefighting resources Long Beach will have in the coming year. Some Councilmembers indicated they'd like to restore some police officers and fire engines/rescue units for taxpayers beyond what city management and Mayor Garcia have proposed, which a Council majority can do (subject to a possible Mayoral veto that six Councilmembers can override) when it votes on a new budget in the first half of September. However, at least for now, no Councilmembers offered any plans, or committed to support restoring any specific number of police or firefighter resources for taxpayers beyond what the Mayor/management have proposed.

    The upcoming budget is the first time Councilmembers will decide how to spend tens of millions of dollars in additional sales tax revenue from the Measure A sales tax increase that they can spend on any general fund items they wish but told voters they would prioritize for police, fire services and infrastructure. Measure A is expected to cost LB consumers roughly $48 million annually with about $35 million arriving in FY17 when the tax increase begins on Jan. 2017.

    [Scroll down for further.]

    City manager Pat West and Mayor Robert Garcia have proposed to restore Engine 8 in Belmont Shore and 8 officers out of roughly 200 that Councils have eliminated since Sept. 2009. Councilmembers responded as follows...with Council votes coming in the first half of September:

    • 8th dist. Councilman Al Austin asked how much restoring Paramedic/Rescue 12 in NLB (Artesia Blvd.) and Engine 17 in ELB (Stearns Park area) would cost. LBFD Chief DuRee's answer: $1.1 million annually for Paramedic/Rescue 12 and $2.2 million annually for Engine 17...and LBFD Chief DuRee reiterated his previously stated restoration priorities to bring back Rescue 12 before Engine 17.

    • Councilman Austin said his constituents had continued to raise the issue of restoring LBPD's field anti-gang unit [20 officers + 2 sergeants that then-Mayor Foster and management proposed eliminating in FY13 and Mayor Garcia and subsequent Councils haven't restored.] Austin noted that in FY13, the Council countered the management/Mayor proposed budget by providing funding [using one-time revenue] enabling LBPD's Chief to provide up to half of the field anti-gang unit [10 officers + one sergeant] for a year [funds that weren't renewed a year later, causing the field anti-gang unit to vanish.] Austin indicated that he'd like to see funding [of some type] to do so.

    • 9th dist. Councilman Rex Richardson, who on previous occasions has explicitly indicated he wants to see Paramedic/Rescue 12 restored [at 9th dist Fire Stn. 12], didn't explicitly press the matter in his Council comments, saying instead that he wants to "continue" the discussion on restorations...and also indicated that he favors budgeting "tech based" items.

    • 3rd dist. Councilwoman Suzie Price blasted Prop. 47 [statewide voter-approved measure reduced some felonies to misdemeanors] and in lawyer-style questioning asked how many police officers the Manager/Mayor proposed budget would restore. Police Chief Luna said 8 officers. Price asked Luna if he believes there is a greater need for police now after Prop 47. Chief Luna said yes. Price noted that the management/Mayor proposed budget would leave 192 officers unrestored.

    • Newly elected 2nd district Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce noted that prior Councils had voted to increase downtown density, and asked about former Fire Engine 101 in downtown station 1 (on Magnolia b/w Ocean/Broadway.) Fire Chief DuRee acknowledged that Station 1 previously had two Engines to deal with downtown density [and high rises] but the Chief noted that Station 1 still has a Fire Engine wand restoring Engines in East Long Beach was a greater need.

    • 4th dist. Councilman Daryl Supernaw itemized how Station 17 (Argonne Ave. between Stearns and Willow Sts.) -- which now lacks Engine 17 -- effectively serves areas in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Council districts, noting the latter has Engine 10, which is the busiest in the City.. He asked Fire Chief DuRee if funding were budgeted for Engine 17 how long it would take to restore it. Chief DuRee replied that he could do so as soon as the money appeared. Supernaw noted that unlike some budget items with long lead times, restoring Engine 17 would produce a lot of "bang for the buck." He asked Chief DuRee to what extent restoring Engine 17 would improve response times. Chief DuRee, who earlier acknowledged that LBFD now meets the "national standard" for response on average only roughly 44% of the time (first arriving unit on average about 5 mins/48 seconds) said restoring Engine 17 would improve responses by about 1 minute/30 seconds to 1 minute/40. [Rough rule of thumb is that a fire doubles in size every minute.]

    • 6th district Councilman Dee Andrews commented that restoring Engine 17 would be a benefit to his district and beyond.

    • 1st district Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez made a reference downtown developments and to Engine 101.

    • 5th dist. Councilwoman Stacy Mungo made no references to restoring any fire equipment or police officers, instead commending city management on its accomplishments.



    Mayor Robert Garcia responded that his proposed budget is the first time since 2008 that the City would be adding fire or police resources...phraseology that omits mention that despite the sales tax increase to 10% that he sought, Garcia now proposes to restore only 4% of police officers that he (and previous Councils) voted to erase since 2009 and would leave LB without three fire engines and a paramedic unit that taxpayers previously had.

    Regarding restoring LBFD resources, Mayor Garcia stressed that he believes it's important for the Council to stick with Fire Chief DuRee's order of restoration for LBFD resources, which would restore NLB Paramedic/Rescue 12 before restoring ELB Engine 17. His comments were followed by podium testimony from the President of the LB Firefighters Association, Rex Pritchard, who likewise urged the Council to adhere to the Chief's recommended order of restorations, a position that effectively requires the Council to come up with $3.3 million if it wishes to restore Engine 17 (annual cost: $2.2 mil) since Rescue 12 would have to be restored first (annual cost: $1.l mil.)



    In his Council podium testimony, LBFFA President Pritchard didn't urge restoration of any additional LBFD resources beyond what city management the Mayor had proposed. Earlier in the day, the LBFFA issued its August newsletter in which Pritchard wrote:

    What a difference a few months can make!

    Local residents, elected officials, and Long Beach Firefighters knew all too well that the Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD) was devastated with the recent budget cuts that included losing ambulances, fire engines, fire trucks, and critical staff positions. This decrease in resources led to higher response times and a fire department that was stretched way too thin.

    Now, with elected officials who have made a recommitment to rebuild the LBFD and the overwhelming support of the good people of Long Beach who passed Measure A to increase revenue to fund public safety - and our fire department in particular - things continue to get better for our Firefighters and, most importantly, for the people of Long Beach who we are honored to serve.

    Recently, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia announced his proposed 2017 Long Beach city budget at LBFD Fire Station 8 in Belmont Shore. The location for Mayor Garcia's announcement was no accident - as the Mayor's proposed budget calls for the restoration of Engine 8, which was eliminated during the budget cuts a few years ago.

    The Mayor's proposed budget also provides additional funding to hire 8 new Long Beach police officers and 12 new LBFD Firefighters to fill staffing shortages. In addition, the budget proposes investing in water quality initiatives, repaving our local roads, fixing our dilapidated sidewalks, and much more.

    The voters of Long Beach trusted our city leaders to protect the new revenue that was provided with the passage of Measure A and make sure that our city's highest priorities - including the Long Beach Fire Department - would be funded with this new revenue. So far, our elected leaders have kept faith with their promises to the voters.

    The Long Beach Firefighters want to publicly commend Mayor Garcia and the members of the City Council who continue to turn their promises into action and are working hard to ensure that our city departments have the resources that they need to provide the type of first class service to the people of Long Beach that they have come to expect and deserve.

    But the budget process is not done yet. Over the next few weeks, there will be a series of budget meetings where all residents will have the chance to make their voices heard and ask that the City provides full funding for essential city services - starting with the Long Beach Fire Department.

    For more information on upcoming budget meetings during the month of August, please visit

    There is still lots of work to be done - and our elected officials NEED to hear from Long Beach neighbors who want to make the continuing efforts to rebuild our fire department a very top priority over the coming months.

    With dramatic structure and wildland fires happening throughout the State of California, Long Beach Firefighters continue to be called up to provide "Mutual Aid" to our fellow Firefighters in communities throughout the State.

    So thank you Mr. Mayor for taking the time to make your announcement at LBFD Station 8 and for your commitment to restore Engine 8 for the residents in the Belmont Shore community. We are happy to continue to partner with you as we work to protect public safety in Long Beach.

    As always, it continues to be my honor to work with the most dedicated Firefighters and Paramedics in America - our Long Beach Firefighters.



    No representative(s) of LB's Police Officers Association testified at the Aug. 9 budget proceeding on LBPD's budget. The LBPOA's PAC spent over $225,000 in support of the Measure A sales tax increase. Both the police and firefighters associations, as well as other city employee unions, are now in the process of negotiating new contracts with City Hall.

    In voting to put the Measure A sales tax increase on the ballot, Councilman Supernaw joined Councilwoman Mungo [and a unanimous Council] in declining to use the Prop 13/Prop 218 state constitutional process that would have provided taxpayers with legal guarantees on how Measure A's sales tax money would be spent and would have required 2/3 voter approval to impose the tax. Instead, Supernaw and Mungo proposed [and got swift Council approval] to create a "Citizen Advisory Committee" [five individuals chosen by the Mayor] to oversee but not control spending of Measure A's revenue, under the "blank check" measure that required only 50%+1 voter approval and allowed Council majorities to decide how its revenue is used.

    After a $600,000+ campaign funded in large part by LB's police and firefighter union PACs, Measure A received roughly 60% of the vote citywide but failed passage in Mungo's 5th district and in the eastern/Los Altos areas of Supernaw's 4th district.

    Non-elected city management will now hold public "budget meetings" meetings in various Council districts to present the management/Mayor proposed which public questions and input are allowed but no votes or budget actions take place. Historically, some Councilmembers only attend briefly or sometimes not at all.

    Budget sessions with Councilmembers present -- where they can make motions and vote -- are scheduled for each Tuesday's regularly scheduled Council meetings in the coming weeks, with voted enactment of a FY17 budget by September 13.

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