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    News in Depth

    City Mgt. Gives Public Preview Of Proposed Changes & Reductions Implementing Plan To Tame Budget Deficit (Spending Exceeding Revenue); We Post Details

    Budget preview July 12/03(July 12, 2003) -- In an event unprecedented in recent LB history (and inconceivable to some last year), LB's highest level city management -- alongside the Mayor, City Auditor and a majority of Councilmembers -- held a high visbility public meeting to detail sometimes painful reductions in LB services (details below).

    Budget preview July 12/03Nearly 200 people (we counted at least 180) attended the July 12 9 a.m.-noon event. This included most senior city management (Community Development Dir. Melanie Fallon and Parks & Rec. Dir. Phil Hester are visible in the photo, left).

    The public turnout was impressive for a Saturday morning, extending beyond familiar city activists. We saw attendees not previously evident at such events.

    City management's proposed reductions represent the first year of a three-year finanical strategic plan, devised by management with voted Council approval, to tame a deficit (spending exceeding revenue) so serious that one city-retained expert has warned it could threaten city solvency unless management's plan is followed.

    City management held the event at The Grand, an ELB banquet facility operated by Jim Choura. The facility did an impressive job of accommodating the public (several people mentioned this) including immaculate meeting rooms and ample parking. It also provided a good venue for videotaping the event for later cablecast (details below).

    City management's budget preview didn't mince words. Taxpayers were given information in black and white: a 31 page document (concise but with sufficient detail to be meaningful) indicating proposed FY 04 spending changes. The new fiscal year (starting Oct. 1) will be the first to apply the full brunt of the deficit reduction plan. has posted the document in pdf form at the end of this article. The items we chose below (with spending reduction amounts in parentheses) are ones that got our attention; there are other less attention-getting items in the full document. A number of departmental deficit reduction items involve consolidating staff and/or functions.

    Like all budget proposals, the items below will ultimately be decided by a Council majority in adopting the FY 04 budget in September.

  • Reduce patrol bureau overtime by reassigning (redeploying) police officers to patrol calls for service from the Community Relations Division, Court Affairs unit, Communication Center, DUI unit, Internal Affairs, Planning & Research and Youth Services ($1,908.610)
  • Reduce overtime by reassigning police officers working at Police Athletic League (PAL) facilities back to the Patrol Bureau and utilize Parks and Recreation employees to staff PAL at lower rates. ($399,390)


  • Terminate Signal Hill Fire Services contract ($360,000)

    Library Services

  • Implement rolling closures of branch libraries by cutting services from five to four days a week in 10 branches. One branch library will continue to be open 6 days a week ($407,129)
  • Close main library on Sundays ($186,808)
  • Eliminate Sunday library hours at Bay Shore branch ($12,154)
  • Reduce evening hours at Los Altos and El Dorado libraries ($17,212)

    Parks, Recreation & Marine

  • Eliminate environmental stewardship programs at El Dorado Nature Center ($256,000)
  • Reduce number of Municipal Band Concerts from 32 to 24 and a portion of the funding for the LB Museum of Art ($196,000)
  • Budget preview July 12/03The event was videotaped by cable channel 21 (HTTV) and portions will be shown after the replay of the LB City Council meeting on July 24, 26 and 27.

    We post below extended portions of remarks by Mayor Beverly O'Neill, 6th district Councilmember and Chair of the Council's Budget Oversight Committee Laura Richardson and City Auditor Gary Burroughs.

    Others Councilmembers and their staff attended the event. We spotted Vice Mayor Frank Colonna, Councilmembers Dan Baker, Dennis Carroll and Val Lerch, plus Council district aides Tim Patton (for Councilwoman Kell) and Ray Pok (for Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga). [It was indicated during the event that some Councilmembers were attending a meeting of the Independent League of Cities.]

    [Readers should note that the remarks below are transcribed from extemporaneous delivery. On July 16, we updated a few words in Councilwoman Richardson's transcript on replaying portions of the tape]

    Mayor Beverly O'Neill

    Budget preview July 12/03...One of the things that we have to pay a great deal of attention to right now is the state budget. And I think you read about it every day in the newspaper. I have to tell you, it's a mess. It's still a mess...

    The state in the last few years has taken money from the cities. It started in about 1993...And at the same time, the state has been pushing mandates on us. And I'm not whining about the state, I'm just telling you the facts...So this year, the state is faced with a $38 billion deficit, and the state is kind of at us again, and we are uppermost in where they're going to be able to find their funds in order to get the balanced budget that they need.

    And taking the billions of dollars from local government, they could take up to $30 million from the city of Long Beach, and we're struggling, as every city in this state of California is suffering. The uncertainty of what's happening in Sacramento affects every city that we have in our state...threatening our ability to support public safety, libraries, street repairs and they're contemplating taking more tax dollars which would hurt our ability to do even more.

    We are however working with our plan. Now we have a three year plan. And last Monday, CNN wanted to talk with me and come down with a camera to talk about the state budget and the city budget. I talked with this gentleman, he was asking me questions for about twenty minutes. Tuesday it was on the Lou Dobbs show.

    And I had my family waiting, you know to look, we're going to be on CNN...and towards the end of the show, and they were talking about something else, they came to the problems in California, and they took once sentence, and the sentence was "We have three year plan in the city of Long Beach and the state doesn't have a plan." And that was all they took. [Laughter, applause]

    [CNN actually used two sentences. For transcript, click here.]

    ...That was the one thing, after talking about the city budget, that was brought out that we do have a plan. And we are working on our plan. And I'm very proud that the plan was developed to address the structural deficit that we have, over a three year period. It will be difficult to do and it's a working document and probably won't be totally completed even though we say it's completed because there are going to be so many extraneous things that are going to happen, facing us.

    So the challenges are going to ebb and flow and we're going to be watching hourly to see what's going to happen with the state of California so we can bring our basic assumptions into the plan that we must face...

    6th Dist. Councilwoman & Budget Oversight Committee chair Laura Richardson

    [Invited other Councilmembers to join her on stage; in picture, Vice Mayor Colonna and Councilmember Lerch]

    Budget preview July 12/03...The Budget Oversight Committee was formed because the City Council really had a chance to look at over this last budget cycle what were the challenges facing us. And we all agreed unanimously that the Council needed to be more involved, needed to provide more oversight and needed to better understand how our policy decisions could protect our city. This Oversight Committee was formed, we will be having our first meeting this Tuesday July 15 at 1 p.m. in the City Council chambers.

    I would like to let you know that even though this first meeting will be during the day, we're going to look to have more meetings in the evenings so that the public will have an opportunity to be present.

    Specifically, we will be reviewing the city's latest monthly financial reports and update on the three year financial strategic plan and the report from our own financial advisor, independent advisor, Len Wood who helped us with the financial condition of our city.

    What was interesting about Len Wood's comments, and how I think he helped us as a Council, was that he brought forth information of studying many cities across not only the state but the United States, and was able to advise us on sound policies that could protect our city, and that really is the purpose of this Committee.

    The purpose is to look at relevant, comprehensive and achievable goals, for us to adopt set fiscal policies that can protect our city, and that we need to solve our structural deficit, and again, develop policies to ensure that that never happens again...

    ...As the Mayor alluded to, this is not something we alone in the city of Long Beach are facing. For the first time, I've gone to a conference and every single session has to do with fiscal issues. And so I think that speaks to the fact we all know that in the state of California...that this is a serious issue. One conference: state of the County. Second one: How to maximize taxpayer dollars in providing city services. Third: Theory of Government. Fourth: State and federal budget crisis: can cities survive?

    This is something that we're all facing, and as was mentioned in my introduction, I have the pleasure of working for the Lt. Gov. [Cruz Bustamante]. I don't know if you realize that the deficit of the state of California -- the deficit -- is larger than every single general fund budget in the United States except for New York...So to think that that is not going to roll down and impact cities...we're kidding ourselves if we don't think that it's a serious problem, but it's not something we should be afraid of...

    ...I think that today is a day of courage and it's a day of leadership. We can either sit back and point fingers at what didn't happen. You know, it was really interesting. I heard a presentation from the County of Los Angeles. And they talked about that, when we were all told that PERS [Public Employee Retirement System] we were superfunded, we weren't going to have to pay anything into was interesting, the chief financial officer there said that back in, I think it was about maybe '95 or somewhere, they started putting away, even though they were superfunded, they started putting away $30 million a year just in reserve because they knew that that day would come when they would no longer be superfunded.

    They talked about the issue of that the County didn't approve 3% at 50, or 2% at 55, and for the city employees who are here and our bargaining units who are here, you know very well what I'm talking about.

    But I think this city decided that we residents, we our employees were important and it was a value. And I think what today we have to do is we've got to take that same courage and leadership and say, how can we prioritize? How can we set policies to protect our city, not only to get us through this three years of our plan but to make us a better city in years forward? And I'm very confident with our staff and our city manager Jerry Miller, our Financial Director Mr. Bob Torrez and our Auditor Gary Burroughs that we have the right team to do that.

    So thank you, and your Council is ready and willing to work hard to make sure that this city gets better. Thank you.

    City Auditor Gary Burroughs

    ...One of the things that's included in this [three year deficit reduction] plan that's key, and that is the elimination and the dependence of this city on one-time revenue sources. If you really study the budget over the last few years and how the city has financed its operations, there are millions of dollars that have occurred year after year on a recurrent basis but they were one-time revenue generators and they're not always going to be there. In fact, they're not there now.

    And that's part of what our struggle is. Because of this prior dependence upon one-time revenue generators has really put us in the place that we're in today... has posted the 31 page city management document previewing the '04 budget in pdf form. We've split it into three sections for quicker downloading.

    The document is entitled: "City Manager Dept. Summaries Including Year-One Implementation of Three-Year Plan Proposed FY 04 Budget Changes"

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