Council's Public Safety Committee (Price, Austin, Supernaw) Schedules Meeting @ LBFD Training HQ, 2249 Argonne
|(UPDATED July 7 from initial July 6, 2017, 9:45 a.m. and 4:25 p.m.) -- Councilwoman Suzie Price has scheduled a meeting of the City Council's Public Safety Committee she chairs (the other Committee members Daryl Supernaw and Al Austin) at LBFD's Training Center at 2249 Argonne Ave., Classroom #2 on Thursday July 13 at 6:00 p.m. [FURTHER UPDATE: The meeting's start time is now confirmed at 6:00 p.m. A previous City Clerk agenda notice puts the start time at 7:00 p.m.; it's now been revised to indicate 6:00 p.m. [end UDPATE]
In a release, Councilwoman Price says the Committee will be holding its meetings at different locations and different times in an effort to be more accessible to Long Beach residents.
Two of the Committee's June 13 agenda items deal with matters that Councilwoman Price and city officialdom call "quality of life" issues but a number of residents more bluntly call homeless/transient/vagrant related crimes -- including thefts, robberies, burglaries -- for which nearly 1,400 petition signers to date have urged less talk and stronger LBPD and City Hall actions to enforce existing laws.
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The Public Safety Committee's July 13 meeting agenda includes items to "receive a report from the Police Department on data related to the efforts of the Quality of Life Officers" and "receive a report on data collection strategies used by the Police Department to track misdemeanor arrests for Quality of Life offenses." As of dawn July 6, no materials on these items were available online for public review prior to the meeting, but their titles may signal management's response to a May 23 Council voted action that sought information on related matters (details below.)
The May 23 Council item surfaced after a number of 3rd district residents launched a petition on April 15 -- which has grown to 1,374 signers as of dawn July 6 -- stating that "they can't go to the parks, joggers take pepper spray with them, businesses are robbed, our garages are ransacked, our belongings are stolen, our cars are broken into. We are on high alert and are unable to enjoy our own neighborhood because we feel it has been taken over...We feel that the Mayor and Chief of Police, along with our elected officials, don't care or don't know what to do. We are sick of having community forums on the topic. We are sick of meetings that produce a lot of wishy washy rhetoric. Please help us get tougher. It feels like we are being invaded and when we complain, we are told we're insensitive as if we're supposed to cower in fear, clutching our possessions, scared to leave the house rather than say we're sick of it. Mayor, Chief, we're SICK of it. Please help us" (full petition here.) The group also launched a Facebook page titled "ENUF -- Eastside Neighborhoods United Fully" at this link.
A policy rift became visible at the May 23 Council meeting between the position of the petition signers and that of Councilwoman Price and her Council colleagues. The May 23 Council item -- agendized by Councilwoman Price joined by Councilmembers Austin and Andrews -- , advocated what it called a more "holistic" approach to the issue, calling it a "perception" of many residents that the issue is one of enforcement but asserting that "the reality is that enforcement of existing laws is only one aspect of the issue."
The Price-Austin-Andrews May 23 memo continued "[O]thers would argue this is a Health Department issue, which is also insufficient, as the topic includes issues well beyond only Health Department programs and services. As is also the case with it being related to housing, economics, mental health, and other areas. The truth is they are all right as this is a complex multidimensional issue spanning national trends, societal shifts, cultural ideology, state law, education, and countless other topics." It concluded: "[F]ocused and creative solutions for those experiencing homelessness or threatened with homelessness must be addressed in addition to the quality of life issues that residents experience every day should be included in the strategy and analysis. Thus, the spirit of this item is to engage in a holistic approach to the issue of homelessness and residential quality of life."
During the May 23 Council item, no Councilmember(s) or the Mayor used the word "crime."
The Price-Austin-Andrews Council item didn't disclose a memo -- quietly sent to all Councilmembers and the Mayor by city management on March 9, 2017 -- that LBREPORT.com subsequently obtained and published at this link. The March 9 city management memo stated in pertinent part:
[Text March 8 2017 memo to Mayor/Council on "State of Homelessness in Long Beach," pp. 5-6]
The May 23 Council item resulted in a Council voted action seeking a city management with:
(a) Data on the effectiveness of the current Quality of Life officers including; the number of current officers in this position} their duties} the number of contacts they make on a typical workday and information regarding placement of homeless individual in city sponsored services or programs.
In early 2016, a unanimous Council put a City Hall-written ("blank check") General Fund sales tax increase (Measure A) on the June 2016 ballot, supported by Mayor Garcia who raised funds for a $600,000+ campaign to pass the measure. Measure A, which had no similarly funded opposition, carried a Council-approved ballot title and text that stated [actual text, all caps in original] "CITY OF LONG BEACH PUBLIC SAFETY, INFRASTRUCTURE REPAIR AND NEIGHBORHOOD SERVICES MEASURE. To maintain 911 emergency response services; increase police, firefighter/paramedic staffing; repair potholes/streets; improve water supplies; and maintain general services..."
The measure passed with roughly 60% of the citywide vote...and LB voters now pay the highest sales tax rate in CA [10.25%, tied with only a few other cities). In FY17, the Council restored budgeted funding for 17 police officers out of 208 erased since FY10, restored funding for Fire Engine 8 and Rescue 12 and began a 3-4 year schedule of infrastructure repairs. City officials have used other General Fund sums to approve raises in new contracts with City Hall's major city employee unions including a city management union.
LB's citywide deployable police level is now roughly equivalent per capita to what Los Angeles would have if L.A.'s Mayor/Council erased roughly 30% of LAPD's officers.
The Public Safety Committee's July 13 meeting location is adjacent to Fire Station 17, which no longer has a Fire Engine (the only apparatus capable of spraying water to put out fires) as a result of budgets recommended under former Mayor Foster and approved by Councils that included now-Mayor Robert Garcia. In January 2014, a fire destroyed a multi-unit residence across the street from Station 17 -- which was helpless to quickly douse the blaze because it didn't have a Fire Engine. Instead, Engine 19 responded from Clark Ave/Conant St. [firefighters' rule of thumb: a fire doubles in size every minute.] [LBREPORT.com 2014 coverage, click here.]
Since joining the Council in May 2015, 4th district Councilman Daryl Supernaw has urged the Council, thus far without success, to restore funding for Engine 17 in his district, noting it also serves areas within adjacent Council districts 5 and 6.
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