|(July 8, 2017, 3:45 p.m.) -- On social networks, Long Beach residents described a "war zone" of residence-rattling explosives and aerial bombs in Wrigley, adjacent to downtown, on and near the shoreline and in parts of NLB. LBREPORT.com reported this as part of our coverage here.
What took place was a fiasco for Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and City Council members who pretended that chanting slogans ("all fireworks are illegal") could substitute for the Mayor/Council's continuing failure to provide Long Beach taxpayers with sufficient police.
To be clear: scofflaws are responsible for scoffing the law, but LB's Mayor and City Council are responsible for leaving Long Beach unable to enforce the law.
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By the numbers: when Robert Garcia was first elected to the City Council in 2009, the City of Long Beach provided its taxpayers with 208 more budgeted citywide deployable police officers than today. Today, Long Beach taxpayers have 191 fewer police officers after the Council restored 17 officers in FY17 out of 208 officers previously erased
No, police can't prevent all crimes and can't be everywhere, but just imagine what a difference a dozen might have made on July 4th if deployed in Wrigley, and a dozen more in NLB, and a dozen more adjacent to downtown and a dozen more where needed. Those are officers that LB taxpayers previously had and no longer have. And no, it's not the result of the "Great Recession" because other cities weathered the economic downturn and didn't erase 20% of their police force.
As of July 8 at 3:00 p.m., Mayor Garcia, who Tweets more than President Trump, hasn't said anything we can see on his Mayoral Twitter page about a citywide action that disrupted multiple neighborhoods, terrified pets, frightened children, shook PTSD vets and angered countless residents. And unlike nearly every other City Hall press release, the one disclosing the thin number of LBPD/LBFD fireworks-related arrests/citations (only 46 from July 1 through July 4, averaging less than a dozen each day) doesn't include a quote by the Mayor.
LB's Council-selected Vice Mayor, Rex Richardson, has taken a stance that in our opinion is little different than blaming residents for what happened. When one of his constituents commented on Facebook that there were "more fireworks in the 9th district than the Queen Mary show," Richardson replied: "Welcome to the neighborhood. I got my entire block to chill out just by talking with them and posting my lawn sign. Try it next year."
A few hours later, when a second 9th district constituent stated "that's good, what about the rest of the 9th?" Richardson doubled-down on his stance, telling the second constituent: "sorry. There is no simple fix. I can't change the behavior of everyone on every block, especially when all our surrounding cities sound louder than we do. No matter how much education and enforcement we do, it won't be enough unless the neighbors hold one another accountable, one block at a time."
A few hours later, when LBREPORT.com asked another NLB resident on Facebook what she thought of Richardson's reply to the first constituent, Richardson swooped in before she could answer, tried to brush us back ("Cut it out, Bill") and claimed we'd taken his words out of context. "I said welcome to the neighborhood because the commentor is my friend who just moved to the neighborhood. I literally did Leadership Long Beach with her and she was a guest at my wedding...If you're going to quote me, use the full context. I don't know what part of town you live in, but as the only city Councilmember who actually lives in North Long Beach, with a 10 week old infant and a dog, I deal with it every year and don't appreciate your tactics and attempt to politicize this issue at me and my neighbors expense."
We then asked Richardson to deny that his record, and that of his Council colleagues, had left LB consumers paying the highest sales tax rate statewide (tied with a handful of other cities) but with a police level deployable citywide now roughly equivalent per capita to what L.A. would have if L.A.'s Mayor/Council cut roughly 30% of LAPD's officers...while giving raises to multiple city employee unions (including city management.) Richardson gave a non-responsive Trump-style response: "Stop politicizing the problems of NLB unless you're working with us to help fix them. Otherwise, it's just fake news and tabloids."
What a hoot. While claiming to support "equity" in other contexts, LB's 9th district incumbent has just attacked LBREPORT.com although we are the only LB news outlet that has consistently urged the City Council to restore police at meaningful levels that we believe could help bring his Council district, and others with areas disproportionately impacted by violent crime, public safety equity.
What's Rex Richardson's solution for shootings and gangs? Lawn signs announcing that shootings are illegal in Long Beach?
And no, we didn't take Richardson's words "out of context"; we quoted his reply to his constituent's comment accurately. Earlier in the day, Richardson displayed a photo of his infant child on his Facebook page and stated: "Take it easy on the babies this year. Remember: Fireworks are illegal in the city of Long Beach! Happy 4th of July!." That night, one of his constituents (who happens to be a Mayor-chosen, Council-approved member of LB's Transit Board) commented on Facebook: "Apparently no one saw this post. There's more fireworks in the 9th District than the Queen Mary show." That brought Richardson's reply that we accurately reported. He followed with a second Facebook statement to another constiuent (after we reported his first statement) basically consistent with the substance of his first statement that we reported.
Across town, another Council incumbent seeking re-election, 3rd dist. Councilwoman Suzie Price (chosen by Mayor Garcia to chair the Council's Public Safety Committee) has scheduled a July 13 meeting of her Committee (details here.) Thus far, Committee chair Price hasn't included an agenda item to address the fireworks fiasco that would let her Committee adopt voted recommendations on the matter to the Council. By our unofficial reckoning, Price has until 4:30 p.m. (City Clerk closing time) on Monday July 10 do this. The usual tactic of asking LBPD to "report" on what took place is clearly insufficient for what's needed now.
In our view, the City Council should budget the restoration of 35 additional citywide deployable police officers for FY18. This is a modest measure. With the 17 officers restored in FY17, the 35 would get Long Beach about 25% of the way back to what LB taxpayers previously received.
If the City of Long Beach is minimally well-run now, it should be able to provide its taxpayers with at least 25% of the police officers it previously provided.
If Vice Mayor Richardson wants to recommend lawn signs for his district instead, he can make a substitute motion for this.
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