Council candidate comments in response
Gerrie Schipske: Libraries are essential for the quality of our neighborhoods. I chose to buy a house directly across the street from El Dorado Library so my children could have access to it. But I think the Council is blackmailing the voters of this city to support their deficit spending habit by saying that unless there can be an additional assessment on property owners to pay for libraries they will continue to cut them.
I think the Council should be ashamed of itself to propose that the voters of Long Beach should be further assessed or taxed to pay for basic local government services such as libraries and police. This is a shear failure of policymakers to not only heed what the voters said in 1978 with the passage of Prop 13 and what they continued to say by voting to lower the utility users tax several years ago.
Let the City Council cut their own council budgets first. $4.3 million was budgeted this year for the Mayor and City Council. Why are we paying for termed out elected officials to travel out of state? Why are some council members spending $400,000 for their offices?
Did the polling done by the City include questions of whether or not to cut city and mayor spending? Did the polling include questions of whether or not the city should consolidate several city departments in order to reduce duplication of equipment and personnel? Did the polling include questions about changing the city charter to require that pensions be fully funded each budget year before they are promised?
I have developed a list of 9 Budget Efficiencies the City Council can put into place to reduce the deficit and get this city back to the basics of providing essential governmental services at the appropriate levels. We need to tighten city hall's belt before we look to ask property owners to spend more of their hard earned money.
Pat Steinhauser: I would only support the increase for police services. Libraries could be founded through private donations.
Ed Barwick: There was a time in our city that for tax increases to be legitimate; they had to be proposed by responsible officeholders who held the publicís trust. Unfortunately, many of the current council members have lost that trust by creating a situation where itís the residents who are burdened by the councilís financial mismanagement. If money can be transferred from the TOT to create a housing trust fund, and council office budgets can increase year after year, then we clearly havenít done enough to cut waste and keep libraries open or add sorely needed police officers. I am opposed to the proposed parcel tax at this time and its placement on the ballot, and I am running as a candidate for council mainly to protect and give a voice to our cityís taxpayers.
It doesnít surprise me that Jackie Kell is seemingly in support of higher taxes. Sadly, itís the same kind of mismanagement that led her to vote for ballooning pensions and outrageous spending that got us into this mess. Sheís just trying to cover up her tracks by supporting any tax increase that a consultant says has a chance to pass. She is not looking at what the real priorities are and how do we best meet these priorities.
Dave Radford: Public and personal safety is the primary responsibility of city government. With a solid program of 'priority spending' we would not find ourselves in a position to seek the easy fix of taxation. Long Beach is over studied, and over consulted. Budget wise we need to pay first things first, second things second and so on. [priority spending] When we get to services that we cannot pay for we need to ask the people. To be in a position that police have to come "hat in hand" hoping for funds does not speak well of our planning abilities. City government always works best when it keeps the main thing the main thing.
In regards to the Kell proposal, I believe that as or if the tax measures are put before the voter that they should be presented simultaneously so the voter can make a wider and wiser decision. Prior proper planing, budgetary discipline, and fewer studies could prevent new taxes. Libraries are important to a community, police protection is essential to a city. Raising taxes and spending is easy, budgetary discipline is not. Less consultants, less studies, less "travel" could have benefits when it come to the crunching decision of new taxes.
LBReport.com: So...if you were on the Council, would you vote to put a library parcel tax on the April 06 ballot, yes or no?
Mr. Radford:: No. Too quick to make a sound judgement. Both tax proposals should be presented together in order that a comprehensive decision can be made.
3d Council district
Norm Ryan: The survey for police reaffirms what I have said for a long time: the public wants public safety enhanced. Why is the Council ignoring this by failing to fund public safety properly and holding libraries hostage? Why is City Hall forcing taxpayers to pay extra for items that taxpayers in better run cities receive now?
Gary DeLong: It is unfortunate and disappointing that the City hired a political consultant to tell them they should raise taxes on Long Beach residents. As a member of the Long Beach Public Library Foundation Advisory Board, I understand the importance of restoring funding to our Library system. However, additional taxes are not the answer. Instead, the City should seek a balanced budget and alternative sources of revenue. Like the state of California, the city does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. The City needs to learn how to properly manage expenses instead of looking to increase taxes.
While on the campaign trail, I have heard story after story from business owners about how difficult it is to do business in the City of Long Beach. It is regrettable that the City has a growing reputation for being "business unfriendly". If we would improve our business climate and cut the red tape, more businesses would be attracted to Long Beach. This could be one possible solution to increasing tax revenues, without having to levy new taxes on our residents.
An immediate savings would be for the City to spend less money on political consultants. Especially, the firm that conducted the cityís poll, which brags on its website that it is responsible for 49 tax increases, and specializes in getting tax increases approved by voters. These political consultants were paid $80,000 of taxpayersí money to tell the city what it wanted to hear: raise taxes.
The City has a history of misspending taxpayer funds, after which they attempt to increase taxes. Now, they want to do it by creating a parcel tax and increasing the cityís sales tax from 8.25% to 8.75%. If these taxes are approved, Long Beach residents will be forced to pay an additional tens of millions of dollars a year in taxes.
Charles Legemann: At this time, I oppose increasing the sales tax for police staffing and increasing the property tax for the libraries.
I understand the need for funds for hiring 300 new police officers, rebuilding the fire stations and maintaining our libraries. However, raising taxes should not always be the primary solution for increased funding. Creative thinking needs to be used to find alternative ways to raise these necessary funds or find offsetting savings in the City Budget.
I would propose a Mello Roos bond on all new residential construction in the redevelopment districts to fund for police and fire expansion and maintenance. Traditionally Mello Roos bonds are used to build the infrastructure for new residential developments. The City of Long Beach already has the infrastructure in place for the new residential developments in the redevelopment areas. However, these new residential developments, when built out, could add as many as 20,000 new residents to the downtown area. These new residents will be putting a increased strain on our police and fire departments, so these developments should pay for the additional police and fire requirements.
As for libraries, there should be an IRS code 501C3, Charitable Foundation established for the libraries that would allow residents and companies to make tax deductible donations that would provide for the needs of the library. My concern about an additional property tax is that the whole amount will not be delivered to the libraries. Some money will be lost to administration and if the city finds itself in a financial bind again in the future, the City Council could raid the money intended for libraries. By having donations made to a charitable foundation, that money would be used only for the libraries and not put to other city financial needs.
I also have an additional thought on the police and fire budgets.
The Port of Long Beach pays for 90% of the police services that the City of Long Beach provides in the port. The airport pays for 100% of the police services the City of Long Beach provides for the airport. Why does the port get such a sweetheart deal? The Port should pay not only for the police services at the port, they should be contributing to the general fund for additional police and fire services. When port customers come to the city on business I am sure they expect to be protected by our police and if they have a medical emergency they would expect to be helped by our fire department or lifeguards. It would be appropriate for the port to pay a minimum of 150% of the actual cost of the services they need, to ensure that the city is reimbursed for the services provided for port customers.
Another concern is how quickly the City Council agreed to underwrite the Aquarium for the next three years through hotel bed tax revenues. The Aquarium needs to have a corporate sponsor. The City has a promotions department that should be out seeking such a sponsor. If there were a corporate sponsor, those hotel bed tax revenues could be used for police and fire services.
7th Council district
Alex Cherin: On the proposed parcel assessment to fund libraries:
Library services are an essential function of any vibrant city and an
irreplaceable community asset and I would not oppose, as a last resort, a
modest property tax assessment to fund library services. I am disheartened,
however, that the current council would ask the residents of Long Beach to
serve as a surrogate for their own financial mismanagement. I am equally
disheartened that in doing so the current council would seek a tax/fee
alternative first, before exploring other budget cutting options such as
eliminating the costly expense of consultants to perform jobs that our
qualified and dedicated city staff can do and seeking ways to increase
revenues from non-traditional sources such as the Port and oil revenues.
The inexcusable shortage of library services for our children and cut-hours
for the community at large is a result of the current council's fiscal
mismanagement and asking local taxpayers to cover their previous mistakes
should be a last resort. Until these other alternatives are explored and
exhausted, I would oppose hastening a ballot measure in order to achieve
what could be accomplished through other means.
On the Public Safety initiative:
I am certainly supportive of exploring any new and additional ways to
increase funding for our first responders in order for Long Beach to attract
and retain the best people - including a ballot measure to authorize a
modest increase in the sales tax directly tied to increased funding for much
needed police and fire personnell. Concurrently, however, we need to do our
due diligence and look at alternate funding sources and elimination of
wasteful spending to accomplish the same objectives.
I also suggest, and have consistenlty advocated, that we look at amending
the city charter to require the City to budget for police and fire first
before all other programs. In order to have the funds to attract and retain
the best police and fire personnel, we not only need to identify
non-traditional revenue sources (such as the Port and oil revenues) and
eliminate the high cost of consultants fees, but we also need to change the
mechanisms by which police and fire are funded - either by charter amendment
or ordinance that would mandate the budget process to begin with adequately
funding first responders first.
City Hall press release text (Dec. 20, 2005)