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City Mgm't Signals Excuses Du Jour On Budget & Cops

(February 22, 2012) -- LB city management (which in our view has become basically subordinate to a Mayor without a vote) gave LB taxpayers a disturbing preview on Feb. 21 of its forthcoming (March 6) mid-year budget report. As previously reported on LBReport.com, the Mayor's Council majority has previously cited the upcoming March 6 report as its latest excuse for failing to fund a replenishment police academy class (after cutting roughly 150 police officers over the past three years as part of the Mayor's reckless "proportional" reductions).

Financial Management Director John Gross said on Feb. 21 that he foresees ongoing "structural" deficits (recurring costs that will continue into the future). "I think a key thing to keep in mind is this revenue shortfall appears to be structural, so it looks like it will be continuing into the next years and that will, as the Manager said, form the basis of what you'll be hearing on March 6," he told the Council.

City Hall's excuses du jour include Sacramento's cut-off of Redevelopment money (which we consider an overdue action that has therapeutically exposed the extent of Long Beach City Hall's looting of blight fighting money for items like graffiti removal, code enforcement and capital projects that should have been General Fund-funded all along.

Other cities, from large ones like Los Angeles to small ones like Signal Hill, some manage -- despite the same bad economy -- to provide their taxpayers with healthier police levels and other basic services, while Long Beach City Hall behaves like some former East European regime.

Amid previous failed plans and broken promises, a new round of apparatchiks proposes new "multi-year plans"...while residents continue to endure decay and decline with healthier conditions just across the city's borders.

On January 31, 2012, LBPD Administration Bureau Chief Braden Phillips informed the Council's Public Safety Committee (Garcia, Schipske, Johnson):

As we approach the onset of the 2013 budget process, there are a number of issues facing the [Police] Department. First on the list will be the discussion of how and when to fund the next recruit academy. Fortunately, the salaries of the new recruits are included in the base budget, so the critical factor will be whether or not we can be sure that the new recruits won't be subject to layoff due to budget cuts.

Exactly, spot on. For the past three years, LB city management has included funding for police academy recruits in the proposed budget it's sent to Mayor Foster by July 1 and he's sent to the Council by August 1. We fully expect city management will do so again this year, likely amid headlines telling the public -- going into April City Council elections -- that the money for an Academy will be in the FY13 budget.

Watch closely for the W.C. Fields fast shuffle that may come AFTER the Council elections are over.

For the past three years, what has happened each September is that the Council has re-allocated the money proposed by management for new police recruits to pay instead for CURRENT officers salaries by not running an Academy class. That's what's let LBPD levels shrink, propeled by Mayor-advocated, Council enacted "proportional budget cuts" to all city departments (public safety and non-public safety).

In our opinion, LB's current Council should have directed City Management to fund an overdue replenishment police academy months, if not years ago. If there are six Councilmembers now who support funding a replenishment police academy now with start up in early FY13 (begins Oct. 1), they should vote to direct city management to do so now and not kick the can down the road further. Even that isn't set in stone, because by September 2012, the Council will include at least one, and as many as three, new Councilmembers and what's budgeted in March can be unbudgeted on the budget adoption vote in September (or thereafter).

At some point, a "tale of two cities" will percolate into the Los Angeles and statewide media. A Long Beach City Council majority, following the advice of the incumbent Mayor, has "balanced" their City Hall's budgets by leaving their residents and businesses with a budgeted police level that's roughly the per capita equivalent of cutting over 25% of LAPD's officers.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck have done exactly the opposite. They oppose cutting police levels to balance their city's budget. L.A. continues to deliver roughly 2.4-2.5 budgeted officers per thousand residents. In tiny Signal Hill, their City Hall provides its businesses and taxpayers with over 3.0 officers per thousand residents.

Under Mayor Foster and his Council majority, LB's budgeted police level has fallen from (at its max) barely 2.0 officers per thousand residents (our figure is for citywide deployment, not fattened by Port, Airport, LB Transit, LBCC, LBUSD contracted officers who aren't available for neighborhood/citywide calls and aren't funded by the Council-budgeted General Fund) of about 1.7-1.8 officers per thousand residents.

That's about where it was when Beverly O'Neill took office in mid-1994.

And when candidate Bob Foster sought election in 2006, he told voters he'd increase police on the street by roughly 100 officers by 2010.

As W.C. Fields used to say, "Never give a sucker an even break." Where's that next "Five Year Plan," comrades? . .

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