|Mayor Garcia's State of the City event can be viewed in its entirety here.
(Jan. 16, 2019, 9:15 a.m) -- In his fifth State of the City address (the first since his re-election to a second term in 2018), Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia didn't propose restoring any of the 186 citywide deployable police officers for taxpayers that the City previously provided to taxpayers. He didn't propose restoring LB's downtown fire engine previously maintained to address density/high rise fire risks although in recent years he and developer-friendly City Council votes have approved higher downtown density and the highest high rises in the City's history.
Instead, in his Jan. 15 Terrace Theater-delivered message, Mayor Garcia said the City has a "fiscally responsible government"...while not indicating that the City hasn't restored core levels of public safety services that the City previously provided to taxpayers (and erased while he was on the City Council and hasn't restored since he's been Mayor, despite the Measure A sales tax increase.)
While saying on other occasions that he's "data driven," Mayor Garcia misstated recently-released crime data, claiming total crime had decreased by 8.4% which isn't supported by LBPD's data. Garcia's-cited figure excluded multiple categories of neighborhood-impacting "Part 2" crimes, including the types of homeless/vagrant-related "quality of life" crimes that residents repeatedly see and experience. LBPD says reported levels of Part 2 crimes have decreased 4.7% citywide, meaning the Mayor claimed a decrease in LB's total reported crimes over 20% more than what LBPD says it is (6.4% for total crimes.)
In addition, the violent crime decrease cited by Mayor Garcia is a "citywide" figure that includes affluent eastside LB neighborhoods. As a result, it conceals disproportionately high levels of homicides and shootings experienced by LB's mainly working class LB neighborhoods. As previously reported by LBREPORT,com, LB's 1st (Gonzalez) and 6th (Andrews) Council districts combined have a homicide rate approaching that of the City of Compton. [LBREPORT.com has called this disparate impact a "tale of two cities" and LB's worst inequity.]
To date, despite over $50 million paid each year by LB consumers under the June 2016 Measure A sales tax increase, the Council has restored 22 citywide deployable officers out of 208 such officers erased in budgets approved by then-Councilman Garcia and incumbent Councilman Dee Andrews. The Mayor/Council have allocated most of Measure A's funds to long-deferred infrastructure items. Among officers not restored to date is LBPD's 22-member field anti-gang unit.
Elsewhere in his address, Mayor Garcia indicated that Vice Mayor Andrews would bring an item at the next Council meeting to launch a process to produce a 2030 "Strategic Plan for the future of Long Beach.
[Scroll down for further.]
Two years ago in his 2017 State of the City message, Mayor Garcia said a Metro-contract (which pays LBPD to patrol the LB section of the Blue Line) could result in adding up to 30 new officers paid by Metro...but officers deployed to service the Metro contract aren't available during their Metro-paid shifts to respond to calls for service or to display a deterrent presence in neighborhoods citywide, and LBPD currently provides them to Metro using overtime worked by officers.
As he has in the past, Mayor Garcia cited LB's low unemployment rate although the figure isn't calculated based solely on LB jobs but by the number of LB residents working in cities anywhere (whether in LB or in surrounding cities.) State data show the unemployment rate has also declined by similar amounts in a number of L.A. and OC cities (indicating the unemployment reduction reflects an improving regional economy, not just LB.)
Mayor Garcia said Long Beach has a "fiscally responsible government" based on its current debt-bond rating for investors and said he would work with Councilwoman Stacy Mungo (his chosen chair for the Council's "Budget Oversight Committee") to find ways to increase City Hall's reserves from roughly $53-56 million in recent years to $75 million (over "a few years.") The Mayor offered no details on how he'd favor accomplishing this (whether he'd favor doing so using increased taxes/fees.)
Mayor Garcia urged Council support for a Tenant Assistance Policy "that will provide important relief and protections for renters" but didn't tell the public what it would or wouldn't propose; he said it will come to the City Council in February.
The Mayor said the Council should enact an "inclusionary zoning" ordinance requiring developers to include certain numbers of subsidized low income housing units in new developments or to pay sums into a fund to enable such units elsewhere. He also set a goal of 8,000 new housing units in Long Beach by 2024 (although the City doesn't build housing units; developers do, which City Hall can facilitate.)
Mayor Garcia revealed that city staff had reached an agreement to purchase a site for 125 bed year round homeless shelter, but didn't disclose its location, saying this would be announced in February.
He also said Community Hospital will reopen in 2019 (no date indicated for a smaller version proposed by a private for-profit entity for the seismically challenged site) and gave no indication of whether LB taxpayer funds would be proposed to enable the deal.
Mayor Garcia urged continued support for what Sacramento officials and LB planners call "complete streets" for "multi-modal" bicycle lanes and measures that encourage [or require] people to walk instead of drive. Unmentioned by the Mayor, these measures include lane-shrinking "road diets" and obstructive bollards that deliberately slow traffic (citing safety reasons) that others say are policy-hostile to taxpaying vehicle drivers and create traffic congestion.
LB's City Charter requires the Mayor on or before Jan. 15th to "communicate by message to the City Council a statement of the conditions and affairs of the City, and make recommendations on such matters as the Mayor may deem expedient and proper." Although the President and Governor deliver such addresses by simply speaking before Congress or the state legislature, Mayor Garcia stages an event at the Convention Center with food trucks and a festive reception for those wishing to attend.
The presentation opened with musical performances, after which Mayor Garcia came on stage and opened his State of the City message by noting his return from a January honeymoon with his spouse, Matt Garcia, and the two chatted briefly and shared two on-stage kisses.
Mayor Garcia (who under LB's City Charter has no vote or policy setting authority) repeatedly referred to LB's Council members (who have votes and are supposed to set policy) as part of a "team." It's the type of reference no President or Governor would presume to make in a similar speech. Lawmakers at a federal and state level, and arguably at a city level, aren't a "team" answering to a President, Governor or Mayor, but are supposed to exercise independent policy-setting authority and check and balance power over what an elected executive proposes.
Further to follow on LBREPORT.com.
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