|(Sept 2, 2012) -- With the City Council poised to vote on either September 4 or September 11 on City Hall's FY13 budget, a grassroots online petition drive has been launched, telling LB's Mayor and City Council, "We want a larger police force -- NOT a shrinking one."
To our knowledge, it is the first collective action by taxpayers since several years of budget votes by the Long Beach City Council (unanimous in September 2009 and 2010 but with dissent in 2011 from Councilmembers Schipske, Neal and Gabelich) cut LBPD's budgets, resulting in a lower citywide deployable police level for the public than when Mayor Ernie Kell exited and Mayor Beverly O'Neill took office in mid-1994.
The petition, authored by Jennifer Gomez, is accessible at this link -- and as of today (Sunday Sept. 2) had garnered 75 signatures. It tells Mayor Foster and Councilmembers:
There are only two weeks left in the FY2013 budget debate. That means now, more than ever, is the time to stand up to protect our neighborhoods from the "new normal."
On August 1, 2012 Mayor Bob Foster and City Manager Pat West recommended for that the City Council -- for a fourth year -- continue what the Mayor/Manager call "proportional reductions" that would cut LBPD's budget with the results below. Text within quotations marks is from the City of Long Beach's official budget narrative unless otherwise indicated.
Under Mayor Foster, elected in 2006 on a pledge to put 100 more police officers on the street in four years, LBPD reached its highest level of officers available for routine citywide deployment in 2008 with 961 budgeted officers (included six month funding for police academy recruits). However the combined impacts of the fall 2008 economic downturn (which ushered in "The Great Recession") plus pay raises/benefits given to City Hall's three major city employee unions in 2007/2008 contracts without pension reform led City Hall to implement budget cuts that have now shrunk LBPD's budgeted police level for routine citywide deployment to below 800 officers. (LB's police and firefighter unions have agreed to mid-contract pension changes sought by the Mayor/Management; rank and file members of LB's non-public safety union (whose contract runs to 2013) recently declined to agree to similar pension changes.)
LBPD's total officer level, routinely cited by city management, includes roughly 60 officers that LBReport.com acknowledges but doesn't include in our figures above because they aren't available for routine citywide calls for service/deployment and aren't funded by the City Council. These roughly 60 officers are contracted to and paid by the Port, Airport, LB Transit, LBUSD, LBCC, L.A. County/Carmelitos to handle tasks at those sites. None of these officers have been cut...and in FY13 Port proposes to add seven more officers.
The Mayor/Manager proposed FY13 budget includes a roughly 33-member replenishment police academy class (17 recruits budgeted for six months) that would likely graduate after additional attrition expected in the coming months.
Long Beach (L.A. County's second largest city) curently provides its taxpayers with a budgeted per capita police level roughly equivalent to what L.A. would have if its Mayor/City Council cut L.A.P.D.'s officer level by over 25%.
At the August 28 City Council meeting, city management offered the Council a number of budget shifts that would let the Council avert proposed cuts to parks, recreation and library services (responding to public opposition to those cuts). However management didn't include any options for averting the police cuts above...or deal with police overtime that several Councilmembers had previously indicated they believe is understated (low-ball budgeted) in the Mayor/Management proposed FY13 budget.
Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske has formally proposed a package of budget alternatives that would use what the Mayor/Manager call "one time" revenues (combination of oil, parking ticket and Sacramento enabled funds) to avert the proposed cuts to police, fire, parks and libraries, details click here.
Councilmembers Steve Neal and Al Austin have signaled that they believe the Mayor/Management proposed budget underestimates the likely price of oil in FY13 at $65/barrel. If the assumed price were budgeted at $70 barrel, that would avert some police cuts with the caveat that the price of oil has been volatile in previous years and if it falls below $70 a barrel, midyear cuts would be required).
The issues are scheduled to come to the Council's Budget Oversight Committee (DeLong, Lowenthal, O'Donnell) on September 4 at 3:30 p.m. The Committee can make recommendations to the full Council but has no independent power on the matter. Budget decisions are made by a Council majority (five vote minimum) subject to a Mayoral veto which can be overriden by six Council votes.
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Contact us: mail@LBReport.com