|(August 25, 2019, 11:45 a.m.) -- What we describe below happened a few days ago on 2nd St. in Belmont Shore but it could have happened anywhere in Long Beach. A seemingly mentally ill vagrant told a restaurant worker he wanted to "kill the manager," ripped up a menu and said he was going to do the same thing to "the manager," then walked off. The restaurant worker told the manager/owner, who said video footage indicated the man appeared mentally unwell but not dangerous, and the manager knew from experience that calling LBPD on a non-emergencies might only produce an officer a couple of hours later.
The business owner's City Council office told her that LBPD's division Commander asked her to report what happened out of concern that the individual might threaten someone else, so the business owner did so. About 10 minutes later, the man who threatened to kill her returned, then left again about 15 minutes later well before an officer arrived.
Still later that day, the individual returned a third time (someone took a picture of him lying on the ground behind the restaurant) although it's not clear if anyone called the police again.
The next day, he returned a fourth time, ripped up another menu (that he'd likened the day before to what he'd do to the manager) and the business owner again called the police. They spotted the man and detained him for a 72 hour mental evaluation hold (CA Welfare & Institutions Code 5150.) We don't know what will happen to this troubled man next; we hope he gets the intervention and treatment he needs. If that doesn't happen, it's anyone's guess what might happen in the coming days or weeks to the business owner or to someone else.
LB politicians have responded to these conditions by noting -- accurately -- that there's no one single answer to homelessness. But in our view that's a politically self-serving non-responsive response to what the taxpaying LB business owner deserved AND the unwell individual needed: someone to take the unwell threatening individual off the street and start a process that might help him.
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The LB business owner knew that if she phoned LBPD, officers likely wouldn't show up promptly in response to what happened to her. And she was right. We cite the record below showing why that's attributable to the actions of LB Mayors and Councilmembers.
Long Beach taxpayers don't have 186 citywide deployable police officers that their city had when Robert Garcia was elected a Councilman (2009) because he along with fellow Councilman (now Vice Mayor) Dee Andrews voted to erase over a period of years 208 of citywide deployable officers. That eliminated roughly 20% of LB's former police strength, something other cities didn't do to their taxpayers to weather "the great recession." Their Council votes contributed to producing the largest reduction in police officers for Long Beach taxpayers in the more than 100 year history of this city.
To date, while Mayor Garcia points to building cranes to argue LB's economy is booming, LB's Council incumbents have restored budgeted funding for barely 22 of those 208 erased officers. That's despite City Hall now collecting roughly $60 million more each year from LB consumers under the 2016 Measure A General Fund ("blank check") sales tax increase that LB's Mayor/Council now want LB voters to continue virtually forever.
Just weeks ago, Mayor Garcia recommended at FY20 budget that would restore no further officers for LB taxpayers. At the same time, city management acknowledged that six bike response officers that Garcia recommended restoring in FY19 never materialized and will only appear in FYs 20 and 21 if the Council spends "one time" Measure A resources. In the first half of September, the City Council will decide how many officers to restore, or not restore, for taxpayers in City Hall's FY20 budget. Restoring 30 officers would cost roughly $6 million, a tenth of what Measure A delivers to City Hall annually.
Of course police can't fix things alone, but neither will simply building developer-desired taxpayer-subsidized housing units. More is needed. In our opinion, part of the solution involves changing laws that have enabled and fueled behaviors that should be deterred. Sac'to lawmakers could change some previously enacted state laws, including AB 109. CA voters can modify measures including parts of Props 47 and 57. Reviewing courts can and should reconsider some misguided opinions that have produced major unintended consequences.
LB's Mayor and Councilmembers could advocate any or all of those. Councilwoman Suzie Price has personally cited issues created by Props 47 and 57 and Police Chief Robert Luna has cited issues related to AB 109 (LBREPORT.com coverage here.) But LB's Mayor and Council haven't collectively responded by challenging current Sacramento orthodoxy on these matters.
In our opinion, as long as LB's current Mayor and Council -- and candidates seeking to succeed them -- persist in focusing only on housing units without also addressing these issues that have fueled homeless related consequences, they are part of the problem and not the solution.
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