(August 15, 2006) -- On August 14, 2006, LB city management and LB's newly elected Mayor proffered a proposed FY 07 budget that, if not corrected by the City Council, will fail to deliver police levels that LB taxpayers -- businesses and residents -- deserved years ago and deserve now.
City Hall shortchanged taxpayers on police when times were bad. It does so now when times are good with a supposedly "structurally balanced" budget with a "surplus." This alone speaks volumes.
The management-mayor proposed FY 07 budget should be DOA on arrival in the City Council chamber. In our view, it is analogous to a family budget "balanced" by excluding insurance and the mortgage so the family can enjoy Disneyland.
It fails to deliver officers that City Hall recommended in 1994 for 1995-2000 when LB's population was less than today. It fails to deliver police officers that LB Chief of Police Anthony Batts said he needed in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
We invoke Chief Batts' name here because LB taxpayers owe him a debt of gratitude. He kept his word on taking office. He told the truth on police levels. "Pay attention," he repeatedly said. We have not forgotten his words. That said, our opinions below are our own; we don't presume to speak for him on this.
Our views on police levels have been consistent for over a decade. We have not changed our opinions to suit Mayors and Councilmembers as they come and go. What we write today is not a hit piece on incumbent officeholders although some of them may not like it.
Long Beach today confronts the wreckage of policies pursued during the O'Neill administration, applauded by its enablers and assisted by cowed Councils who thought it was smart to shortchange the city on police. Those policies need to be reversed and corrected, not excused and maintained.
Responsible businesses don't cut insurance and safety measures to pay for raises and perks when they simultaneously invite increased exposure. We don't want to see layoffs and cutbacks but the truth is, they happen in the real world. In contrast, City Manager Jerry Miller has publicly boasted that during a four-year deficit reduction plan, not one city employee was cut (positions were shifted)...and many went on to higher paid city positions.
We urge the Council to direct the City Manager to return with a plan to cut expenses by roughly $3-4 million annually by, among other things, reducing employee hours and/or layoffs of management and non-public safety city employees and contracting tasks out to the maximum extent possible.
This is fair because the $3-4 annual million sum is, we believe, roughly equivalent to the annual taxpayer cost for the reckless 2002 pension spike, backed by management and applauded by union reps for the non-public safety employees.
Management and city employees who thought this was smart have only themselves to blame for effectively pricing themselves out of the market. Cutbacks and/or exits will provide between 20-40 additional police officers (depending on how officer costs are reckoned) that taxpayers deserve.
Mayor Foster deserves credit for taking a calibrated, analytical approach to determine the root causes for the apparent loss of current experienced police officers...but this shouldn't be an excuse for failing to add officers that LB taxpayers need and deserve now.
We wonder how many LBPD officers are leaving because they see a City Council that visibly ignores what their Police Chief said publicly about the need for additional officers.
At the August 14 event, Mayor Foster indicated that LB is currently nearly 10% below budgeted police strength. That's quite an admission...and LBReport.com intends to make a Public Records Act request for the grant application by which City Hall sought and obtained 36 additional police officers paid for in large part by federal taxpayers.
We're interested in seeing what LB City Hall said when it wanted that federal money for more police...and what it says it delivered.