Councilman Carroll, Public Words, Public Votes and Public Safety
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(January 5, 2004) -- LBReport.com urges the removal of 4th district City Councilman Dennis Carroll as chair of the Council's Public Safety Committee, something the Council could do but won't, leaving 4th district constituents to do it themselves when they vote Carroll out of office in April 2004.
Councilman Carroll is not responsible for the wave of killings sweeping central LB and starting to encroach on his district. The killers are. But he is responsible -- 100% responsible -- for his own Council conduct. In our opinion, Carroll has failed in his Council duty as chair of the Public Safety Committee on a matter inextricably linked to protecting LB residents in parts of our city that have now drawn national attention as LB's killing fields.
The issue of how many police to provide for LB taxpayers and how to pay for them is within the subject matter of the Council's three-member Public Safety Committee. As LBReport.com has previously reported, records of the City Clerk's office indicate that Councilman Carroll's Public Safety Committee has to date failed to hold a single meeting during his tenure as chair since July 2002 to deal with a City Auditor report concerning the number of police officers provided to LB taxpayers.
The report on LB's police levels was referred to the Public Safety Committee for an in-depth review by the Council in March 2002. Councilman Carroll ought to recall this...since he not only voted for it, he spoke in favor of it (see below).
On March 19, 2002, on motion by (now Vice Mayor) Councilman Frank Colonna (seconded by Councilwoman Lowenthal), the Council referred the City Auditor's analysis of a Police Department Staffing Report to the Public Safety Committee for an in-depth review on topics including the reserve program, how resources are deployed, definition of terms, and overtime use.
That action followed wrangling in the run-up to the April 2002 Mayoral primary election when wanna-be-Mayor and then-Councilman Ray Grabinski moved to lay the police staffing analysis over for two weeks (our translation: when it could blow up again before the April 2002 election). As a substitute motion, Colonna moved that the communication from the City Auditor transmitting an analysis of the Police Department Staffing Report be received and referred to the Public Safety Committee for an in-depth review on topics including the reserve program, how resources are deployed, definition of terms, and overtime use.
In so doing, Councilman Colonna said in part
...I think we need to get a good background from you, Gary [Auditor Burroughs]...we have pending budget hearings in May ...So I'm going to make a substitute motion to refer this to a committee, and ask Jerry [Shultz's Public Safety Committee] to prioritize this...I'm concerned about the atmosphere as to why we're rushing as quickly as we are when the Chief has yet to come before this City Council to say to this Council we need more police officers...
Councilman Carroll piped up to applaud Colonna's move. Carroll said, "I have heard from the people that are supposed to know, and that's the Chief and the City Manager and the City Auditor that the big picture is going to require some in depth analysis and recommendations, and I think Councilman Colonna's suggestion is a good one..."
Colonna's substitute motion carried 7-2 (Yes: Lowenthal, Baker, Colonna, Carroll, Kell, Richardson, Shultz; No: Grabinski, Webb).
A few months later in July 2002, Mayor Beverly O'Neill named Councilman Carroll to chair the Public Safety Committee. That plum position means Carroll could have delivered what he said he wanted and publicly voted for. He didn't.
The City Clerk's records indicate that Carroll's Public Safety Committee has to date met only twice during his tenure as chair...and never to address the March 2002 report on police staffing referred to it. It held two joint meetings on other subjects with another committee. On December 16, Carroll announced plans to stage a so-called "graffiti summit" using his committee and another committee...and suggested he'd like to have it televised. (Recall, this comes just weeks before the April 2004 Council election).
(We're delighted to hear Councilman Carroll opposes graffiti...but we don't recall his saying anything publicly about last year's City Hall sponsored "Girls of Graf" art exhibit run through the Dept. of Parks and Rec. or City Hall's misguided policy of permitting graffiti-styled designs to cover the walls of city facilities in MacArthur Park in the 6th district.)
For the record, the police staffing report isn't "bottled up" in Carroll's committee; the Council could deal with it itself anytime it wished. And the Public Safety Committee doesn't set police levels; only the full City Council can do that.
But even viewed in that generous light, from our perspective Councilman Carroll's conduct is still awful.
In March 2002, then-Councilman (now Vice Mayor) Colonna accurately said that LB's then (now former) police chief hadn't come to the Council and said LB needed more police officers. But in September 2003, LB's current Police Chief did say exactly that.
In a gutsy, forthright and intellectually honest presentation, LB Police Chief Anthony Batts told the Council in Sept. 2003 that he needed 130 more cops. (City Manager Jerry Miller deserves much credit for letting the Chief make his case publicly.)
Chief Batts added that as a member of the "city team" he realizes that the Council faces budget challenges and needs to strike a balance on allocating resources. "[W]e are fully aware we as a city are not in the position to expand the Department at the needed rate," Chief Batts said, later adding, "We have staffing shortages, and when the resources are available, we need more police officers."
Even when faced with the facts from the Chief of Police, Public Safety Committee chair Carroll still didn't act on the police staffing report.
And yes, we believe incumbent Carroll deserves a good deal of responsibility for City Hall's budget woes too. Among other things, Carroll joined in the terrible 9-0 Council votes that saddled taxpayers with fattened city employee pensions. (Carroll won't qualify for a City Hall pensions unless he's reelected; if it's calculated using his part-time Council salary, it won't amount to much.)
The public safety bottom line: LB City Hall currently budgets barely two sworn officers per thousand residents, a level that's actually thinner when one subtracts roughly two dozen officer positions now tasked exclusively to Port and Airport security duties, not neighborhood policing.
On October 19, 2003 in the 1200 block of East 7th St. -- roughly a mile and a half from where Chief Batts delivered his prescient budget presentation to a deaf Council -- 22 year old Sok Khak Ung, a U.S. Marine on active duty who survived combat in Iraq, was shot in the head and twice in the torso and died in a LB hospital. Ung was stationed at Camp Pendleton and was visiting his family members in LB.
Since then there have been more shootings and more headlines...and with an election looming, Carroll (unwisely assisted by Vice Mayor Colonna) has responded to murders by asking the City Manager at the January 6, 2004 Council meeting for a report. We quote from the Carroll-Colonna agendizing memorandum below:
AGENDA ITEM: Request Report the City Manager on Police Department Action Plan Regarding Gang Related Violence in Long Beach
The City Manager is to be commended for prioritizing efforts to reduce crime in Long Beach and our City Council has made a commitment to eliminate the terror of gangs and violence from every neighborhood in our city. Unfortunately, we have witnessed four homicides in the past 90 days, including a high school student and a resident U.S. Marine of Cambodian descent.
We must respond to this renewed, senseless cycle of gang related violence with
an intense and sustained effort led by our Police Department. The recent "Operation Clean Streets" task force and the "Mile of Men" marches have demonstrated our community’s widespread commitment to maintaining peace in our neighborhoods. Law abiding citizens have had enough. We must stop the violence.
Action requested: We respectfully request a report from the City Manager regarding the Police Chief’s current violent crime suppression strategy action plan to address the current episode of gang related violence in our city.
This isn't the way a well run city operates. This isn't the way responsible Councilmembers respond to murders. In our view, it's clumsy political damage control for an understandably nervous incumbent.
We urge Councilmembers to support a substitute motion directing Public Safety Committee chair Carroll to bring the Council within 30 days the overdue analysis of police staffing for which Carroll, Lowenthal, Baker, Colonna, Kell and Richardson voted nearly two years ago.
We say it's good for democracy, and good for the city, for the public to expect their elected representatives to produce information they publicly request. We believe incumbents who fail to do this should not be reelected.
As we've previously noted, in May 2002 Councilmembers Carroll, Colonna, Webb and Kell agendized and voted to seek a report from management on health and homeowner impacts of operations at LB Airport. That report remains undelivered and not seriously pursued by Councilmembers who voted for it.
LB police levels and LB Airport both affect public safety, health and property values. We believe Councilman Carroll's conduct invites the same question on police levels as on the Airport:
Councilman (and Public Safety Committee chair) Carroll, where is that report?
Contact us: mail@LBReport.com