100+ Attend Bixby Knolls Community Meeting Re Mold-Cited Closure Of Fire Stn 9 And Area Shootings/Robberies:
|(August 29, 2019, 1:15 a.m.) -- Roughly 130 people attended an August 27 public meeting at the Bixby Knolls EXPO center organized by Councilmembers Al Austin and Roberto Uranga (with Councilmembers Rex Richardson, Suzie Price and Daryl Supernaw present in the audience) to hear LBFD Chief Xavier Espino, LBPD Chief Robert Luna, their assistant chiefs and Assistant City Manager Modica discuss and respond to questions/comments regarding the recently announced mold-cited closure of Fire Station 9 (3917 Long Beach Blvd.) and recent area shootings/robberies.
LBREPORT.com provides initial VIDEO coverage below of the LBFD presentation and City Mgm't/LBPD presentation The ambient audio is audible but less than optimal; we summarize salient points including audience Q & A in text below.
City Mgm't/LBPD Presentation:
[Scroll down for further.]
LBFD Chief Espino reiterated management's stance outlined in an August 20 memo to the Mayor/Council. Assistant City Manager Tom Modica said city staff is developing repair/replacement options/costs to bring to the Council. Councilman Austin said he has been transparent and timely in addressing the issue as it arose and pledged to prioritize a remedy.
LBFD's Chief and Assistant Chief both acknowledged that relocating Engine 9 to the Airport and siting Paramedic/Rescue 9 across the L.A. River in WLB (south of Willow St. on Adriatic Ave. near Santa Fe) will lengthen response times. They said they plan to try to minimize this by having both Engine 9 and Rescue 9 patrol the area of their former station (not simply remain at their new temporary based locations.)
No representatives identifying themselves as speaking for organized neighborhood or civic groups spoke, but a number of individual residents did. LaVonne Miller voiced displeasure and dismay that the City had allowed the mold issue to reach its now-described magnitude. Juan Ovalle (an 8th dist. Council candidate challenging Councilman incumbent Austin) said in essence that taxpayers hadn't been well served in the way the matter was handled; he noted that many homes are older than the 1938 Fire Station yet kept in good repair. Chief Espino responded that Fire Stations are more heavily used and have different workplace demands.
Long-time Los Cerritos neighborhood resident John Deats said Station 9 has historic designation status and can't legally be torn down and said the issue had come up years ago; management responded that it would look into it. Mr. Deats also asked why the building's historical designation plaque had suddenly disappeared from the building; LBFD said it was recently stolen.
Former 8th dist. Councilman Jeff Kellogg indicated he was surprised by what had happened and the way it happened and pressed Councilman Austin to specify exactly what budget actions he proposes to deal with the issue in the Council's upcoming FY20 budget votes. Councilman Austin replied that he's been timely and transparent in responding to the issue as it came up and plans to prioritize a remedy now, and will stress this to his Council colleagues.
Following the meeting, LBREPORT.com asked Chief Espino whether management plans to link building a new Station 9 to voter approval of the March 2020 ballot measure to extend the Measure A General Fund ("blank check") sales tax permanently. Chief Espino said he knew of no such plan and hadn't heard management mention any such plan.
Police Chief Luna said overall crime is down citywide by 6.7%, said this is especially impressive when coupled with reductions in previous years, and added that violent crime citywide is down 12%. At the same time, Chief Luna acknowledged that LBPD continues to have challenges, and cited an example of the type of situation he said he finds especially problematic and frustrating. Chief Luna revealed that the individual recently found shot in vehicle in the area of 45th/Atlantic [Aug. 9 information initially provided by LBPD] was actually shot somewhere north of that location but the individual won't tell LBPD the location and won't cooperate with LBPD.
Chief Luna said that although he's a victim advocate, this victim was on parole for use of a firearm and had been arrested three different times and didn't stay in jail. "What do you think this guy is going to do when he gets out of the hospital when he doesn't want to cooperate with us in law enforcement?" Chief Luna asked rhetorically.
Chief Luna said that in response to situations like this, he has asked his Commander of the Violent Crime Division, Bob Smith, "to sit down with the District Attorney's office, and the local judge in charge of the local office, and give them examples -- and I have at least a dozen right now -- of individuals who should not be in our community because they keep on reoffending."
Chief Luna added: "I understand criminal justice and social reform is very important. I think it did some good things, but it also did some bad things. And I want to make those corrections. And I want to point out to them, and then I want to bring it out publicly...I want to show you examples of individuals who should not be on our streets, so that you -- with this energy that we have together -- can go to our judges and our District Attorney, and say, 'hey, stop doing this; this needs to change,' That's what we need to do together...And I'm hoping the day I have that meeting, I have double the people in here, because I'm telling you, this is a community challenge that we need to face together, absolutely face it together.."
Assistant Chief Wally Hebeish revealed that in response to recent shootings, a new unit has been created within LBPD by reassigning four Detectives in Investigations that have been repurposed as a dedicated team to go after individuals who are prohibited from possessing firearms or in possession of illegal firearms.
Following the meeting, LBREPORT.com asked Chief Luna whether (like southbay and other area cities) LBPD plans to switch to encrypted police radio channels (that could prevent current public and press access to LBPD police radio traffic; LBREPORT.com detailed coverage of the issue here.) Chief Luna indicated that LBPD is "headed that way" possibly by the end of the year or early next year (details to follow.)
Despite the presence of five Councilmembers at the meeting, no members of the public raised the issue of the Council restoring additional police officers for taxpayers. (The Council will effectively decide this when it votes on a FY20 City Hall budget shortly after Labor Day.) City management has proposed, and Mayor Garcia has recommended, a FY20 budget that would restore no additional police officers for taxpayers in FY20...a matter a Council majority can change and ultimately decides.
To date, despite now receiving roughly $60 million a year in additional revenue each year after LB voters approved the June 2016 Measure A General Fund ("blank check") sales tax increase, the City Council has restored only 22 citywide deployable budgeted officers out of 208 erased since 2009. City management has told LBREPORT.com that for rough budget estimate purposes, restoring 10 additional officers (fully turned out with necessary equipment) would cost roughly $2 million (i.e. restoring 30 additional officers would take about one-tenth of Measure A's annual revenue increase; for context, LBPD's former field anti-gang unit was comprised of 22 sworn positions [20 officers + 2 sergeants] and remains unrestored for taxpayers.)
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