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Councilwoman Gonzalez Tries To Block Our Camera Lens, Refuses To Speak With Us, When We Ask Her Position On Adding More Police Than Mayor/Mgm't Propose...After Not Responding Minutes Earlier To Similar Questions From LB Resident During Community Budget Meeting is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(Aug. 26, 2016, 6:45 p.m.) -- Long Beach Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez tried to block our camera lens -- first with her hand, then with a green folder and refused to speak with us -- when asked for her position on budgeting more than 8 police officers (out of roughly 200 eliminated by Council budget votes since Sept. 2009) proposed by the Mayor/City Manager in the FY17 budget. A few minutes earlier, she didn't respond on the same issue when raised in a slightly different form by a LB resident at Thursday night's (Aug. 25) community budget meeting.

[Scroll down for further.]

During Q & A at an August 25 community meeting presented by city management to discuss its proposed FY17 budget, veteran LB community activist Dan Pressburg (current President of NLB's DeForest Park Neighborhood Association, speaking in his individual capacity) said the Mayor/management proposed budget applied a "4% solution" on police staffing by only proposing -- even after the "Measure A" sales tax increase sought by the Mayor and Councilmembers -- to restore 4% of the roughly 200 officers LB taxpayers recently had but no longer have.

With Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez looking on, Mr. Pressburg asked "if we could have the Councilwoman adjust the budget to take in [add] 30 officers...So my question is, number one, can we get 30 [additional budgeted] officers and number two, when will we restore the [field] anti-gang unit with those officers?"

City management's representative handling the budget portion of the meeting replied that Councilwoman Gonzalez "had heard" Mr. Pressburg's "comment" [he asked two questions] and acknowledged that the City Council "does have an opportunity to look at that"...but Councilwoman Gonzalez didn't come to the podium. Instead, she walked over to LBPD Deputy Chief Richard Conant...

...whispered something to him, and Deputy Chief Conant, not Councilwoman Gonzalez, responded to Mr. Pressburg's questions.

This was problematic because neither Deputy Chief Conant (nor the Police Chief nor the City Manager) have the power to budget additional officers; only Councilmembers can budget additional officers for taxpayers. As a result, Deputy Chief Conant's response was necessarily limited to explaining what LBPD does with what the Council has currently budgeted for it. He noted [our paraphrase follows] that while LBPD doesn't have its former field anti-gang unit [20 officers + 2 sergeants deployed in gang areas where they could observe conditions, interact with businesses and residents, gain intelligence and pass information to LBPD's internal gang unit], LBPD continues to have an internal gang intel unit that responds to gang issues, supplemented by "Direct Enforcement Teams" (one for each LBPD division) which each Division Commander can apply to developing crime trends, gang and otherwise, as needed based on the Commander's assessment of what each division needs.

Although this explained what LBPD does with what the Council currently gives it, Mr. Pressburg had effectively asked if Councilwoman Gonzalez would support adding 30 officers [instead of 8 officers proposed by the Mayor/Mgr.] in FY17...and she didn't say.



With Council budget votes coming up on Sept. 6 and 13, the issue is timely and newsworthy and, since the Councilmember was right in front of us, we decided to ask her so we could report her views here. [To our knowledge, was the only LB news outlet visible at the Aug. 25 community budget meeting.]

When the meeting concluded, and after letting Councilwoman Gonzalez circulate to meet and greet her constituents, asked Councilwoman Gonzalez for her position on what Mr. Pressburg had inquired about: adding more than the 8 officers currently proposed by the Mayor/Manager to provide taxpayers with a total of 30 restored officers in FY17 [the 8 now proposed plus 22 officers previously budgeted for LBPD's field anti-gang unit.]

"I'm not going to talk to you," Councilwoman Gonzalez replied, saying "every time you come to my district, you're negative," and put her hand in front our camera lens, then used a green manila folder to try and block our shot.

Councilwoman Gonzalez walked away and left the building shortly thereafter.

[Ed. note: extends an open invitation to the Councilmember to phone us and speak with us at a mutually agreeable time on the record so we can record our question plus follow-up, and her answer plus follow-up, exactly as it takes place.]

Roughly thirty members of the public attended the community budget meeting (one of several conducted by city management at locations throughout the city prior to Council budget actions scheduled in the first half of September). The August 25 meeting took place at the Pacific Island Ethnic Museum (7th St./Alamitos Ave.) at the eastern end of the 1st Council district, roughly three blocks south of its border with the 6th Council district.

As has previously reported, during a thirty-day period in mid-September 2015 to mid-October 2015, LB's 1st and 6th Council districts combined had more "hit" shootings per capita than the city of Chicago. [ coverage coverage here.] Less than three weeks ago on Aug. 6, 2016, a mother and her four year old daughter were shot to death in the 1st district's "North Pine Ave." neighborhood of 9th St./Locust Ave., less than a mile from the Aug. 25 budget meeting. [ coverage here, here, here and here.]



Councilwoman Gonzalez was elected in mid-July 2014, prior to which she was a field rep for Councilman/Vice Mayor (now-Mayor) Garcia who was the 1st district's Councilman from May 2009 to mid-July 2014.

LB Councilmembers have co-equal votes on budget decisions, including police levels, as well as other LB citywide policy matters.

The next community budget sessions (management presentation and public questions but no Council voted actions) are:

  • Aug. 29, 6:00 p.m., Houghton Park Community Center, 6301 Myrtle Ave. (9th district)
  • Aug. 30, 5:00 p.m., MLK Jr. Park, 1950 Lemon Ave. (6th dist.)
  • Aug. 30, 6:30 p.m., Los Altos Library, 5614 E. Britton Dr., (4th dist.)

Budget sessions at City Hall are where Council budget actions can and do take place:

  • September 6: 4:00 p.m., Budget Oversight Committee (Mungo, Price, Austin)
  • Sept. 6: 5:00 p.m. Budget Hearing, presentations by Water Dept., Harbor, Civil Service...AND potential Budget Adoption
  • Sept. 13: 4:00 p.m., Budget Oversight Committee (if needed)
  • Sept. 13: 5:00 p.m., Budget Hearing, Budget Adoption



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