LBReport.com makes freedom of information requests for related documents
(October 7, 2004) -- LBReport.com has learned that City Manager Jerry Miller advised City Councilmembers in writing during the summer that the LB Convention and Visitors Bureau -- a privately-run group which receives half of LB's hotel "bed tax" annually -- is expected to incur a loss of roughly $1 million in connection with this summer's downtown swim meets, Olympic swimming trials and related aquatic events.
LBReport.com has also learned that the City Manager's memo was not supportive of providing additional taxpayer support to cover CVB's losses. The CVB receives already roughly 3/4 of its annual operating revenue from LB's hotel bed tax.
Following an October 7 report in the Press-Telegram, LB City Auditor Gary Burroughs separately confirmed to LBReport.com that he considers it appropriate for LB taxpayers to assist the CVB in connection with losses on the aquatics events now estimated at $1.5 million or higher.
"I believe the losses are the responsibility of the CVB but this was an important event for Long Beach and the citizens of this community and it's appropriate for the City [City Hall] to entertain or review the possibility of financially helping the CVB," said Auditor Burroughs. He added, "I think the City Council should evaluate whether to help them out financially to take care of this issue. And I'll go further and say it would be appropriate to come to a conclusion that if the Council supports it we'd offer the CVB financial support."
Ultimately, the City Council -- which last month voted to cut library hours, raise fees on various city services and still isn't budgeting as many police officers as the city's Police Chief says he needs -- will make the decision. It could come in less than two weeks when the CVB's annual contract is currently anticipated to come to the Council for renewal. That's presently expected at the October 19 Council meeting.
City Auditor Burroughs told LBReport.com that City Manager Miller asked him to look into the CVB-Aquatic circumstances over the summer. Auditor Burroughs said he has not yet reported to the Council or the public but gave the City Manager a "preliminary" verbal report about a week ago [early October]. Auditor Burroughs said he doesn't expect to have a written report ready in time for the October 12 City Council meeting.
On October 19, Councilmembers may be asked to approve renewal of the CVB's annual contract, currently budgeted at roughly $3.7 million. The money is taken from LB's hotel room tax.
LB's hotel room tax ("transient occupancy tax") generates a total of roughly $12-14 million annually, but LB's General Fund (which pays for police, fire, libraries and parks) currently only receives half of it. Under a Council directive enacted some years ago, half of LB's hotel room tax is allocated to a matrix of the CVB, "Special Advertising and Promotion" items such as a Rose Parade float and the Redevelopment Agency (from downtown redevelopment area hotels).
Earlier today, LBReport.com made requests under the CA Public Records Act (state freedom of information law) to LB's City Auditor, City Manager, Mayor and LB's nine Councilmembers for 2004 documents related to the recent downtown aquatic event and contemplated city taxpayer support, if any, for CVB's losses. Our requests are currently pending.
LB City Hall has thus far not required the LB CVB to respond to Public Records Act requests. LB activist Bry Myown has previously argued, based on existing judicial decisions, that the LB CVB should comply with the Public Records Act and the Brown (open meetings) Act, although LB's City Attorney's office has not so held.
Since 2003, the CVB has permitted the public to attend meetings of the CVB's governing board.
On September 21, 2004 Ms. Myown told the City Council (as she has for the past four years) that she believes LB CVB governing Boardmembers are legally required to file Conflict of Interest financial disclosure statements (as LB elected officials do). LB's City Attorney's office disagreed that this was required...but did say (as it has said in the past) that the Council could require the filing of such financial disclosure statements when it renews the CVB's annual contract (expected to come up on October 19).
On September 29, the LB CVB announced that its Executive Committee had voted to voluntarily adopt Conflict of Interest disclosure regulations as part of their contract with City Hall.
"We donít want the Form 700 issue to divert our attention from our primary goal of marketing and selling Long Beach as a destination for conventions and meetings," said CVB chair Jane Netherton.
CVB President Steve Goodling added, "To ensure a healthy working relationship with the City Council and the City Staff, our Board of Directors chose to include form 700 as part of our contract with the city."