Vice Mayor Kell Tells Golfers She's Urged City Mgr. Miller To Try To Provide Relief In Response To Displeasure Over Proposed Fee Increases For LocalsReturn To Front Page
(July 26, 2004) -- Vice Mayor Jackie Kell, whose 5th Council district includes most of LB's municipal golf courses, told a capacity crowd at a LB Golf Commission rates and fees committee meeting that she's urged City Manager Jerry Miller to try to provide relief in response to local golfers' displeasure over proposed fee increases for LB residents.
Vice Mayor Kell wasn't required to attend the July 26 advisory meeeting...but did so and asked permission to address the roughly 175 people who filled Rec Park's clubhouse at the start of the meeting.
She told LBReport.com that she'd heard the public's concerns about the proposed fees...and on July 25 attended the LB Open Golf Tournament and "talked to different residents, and I heard their concerns. And so I talked to [City Manager] Jerry [Miller] this morning saying that they're unhappy with [the new fees for locals]...and that I think we need to take those concerns to heart and deal with them and perhaps lower them."
Vice Mayor Kell said City Manager Miller "understands that the residents aren't happy about practically doubling it [some of the fees] and he said that he would consider very carefully what could be done, you might say to mitigate the situation [address the concerns] so that more of our residents are happier with the fees and feel they can afford to play."
For the next roughly 75 minutes, people lined up to be heard.
Their comments were polite, but pointed.
Many opposed the fee increases for locals and local seniors. Some, including Golf Commission member Len Kennett, indicated frustration at not knowing how much profit American Golf (which operates LB's Municipal golf courses under contract with City Hall) is making -- and would make make if the proposed fee increases were approved. Still others questioned the major Skylinks (now Legends) course revamp and upgrade...with larger proposed fee increases (see related article, below).
One speaker opined that Skylinks was designed for average players and the major upgrades plus fee hikes had taken that away. Another speaker opined that whoever approved the the Skylinks upgrade ought to be fired. A Redondo Beach resident urged LB residents to hold their Councilmembers accountable for increased fees.
"They've turned it (Skylinks) into something that doesn't look much like municipal golf...I agree that you [the city] do need an increase, you do need to make a little bit of money...but we want something that's reasonable and equitable..." [large applause] (Dick Allen, President, Skylinks Men's Council)
"...If we had something comparable to what Rec Park is charging, and perhaps we raise the fees more than $10 for the non-Long Beach population, that might be a way of keeping Long Beach Municipal Golf course very affordable, and even cheaply affordable to our residents, but still affording American Golf an opportunity to make some money."
"It's a beautiful place that new Skylinks, but you need to charge a reasonable rate, especially for the working man. Not everybody in Long Beach makes a lot of money, so you need ot keep the fee equitable with the amount of money we make here in Long Beach..."
"...A public golf course means just that. It's the public's golf course and accessability to the public is necessary...I think if this [proposed] fee structure goes through, you're telling a segment of the public that 'I'm sorry but you can't play golf here.'" [testimony of a non-LB resident]
"I recall when this was approved by the City Council...I remember this specific statement being made, how important this was to the city of Long Beach because people are getting off their airplanes and we've got to have a nice thing to show them so that we're a first class city...Then I think the City Council should consider what its role is in this fee issue..."
"I and all my friends from Long Beach and the surrounding communities built the beautiful new ride over there at Skylinks, and now we can't afford the ticket."
Dan Gooch, formerly a Golf Commissioner, said that since city-issued bonds used to finance the upgrades at Skylinks are to be repaid in green fees, American Golf (which operates LB's golf courses under contract with City Hall) should "identify how much of the proposed fee increases is to be used for this purpose. If this is not done, any fee increase that exceeds the amount necessary to repay the bonded indebtedness, and that which would afford the contractor a fee increase commensurate with the CPI (consumer price index) would be pure profit." Mr. Gooch, who repeatedly referred to American Golf as "Goldman Sachs" (part of investor group/parent company ownership) recommended that the City Auditor "make an independent review of the [fee increase] proposal and advise us all." [strong applause].
One woman submitted written testimony supporting the proposed fee increases, stating in part: "Golf is NOT a RIGHT, it is an entertaining way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Not everyone can afford Lakers basketball tickets, Dodgers baseball tickets, Disneyland tickets or Skylinks Golf Course -- after the increase. Golf is entertainment. There are people who will argue it is exercise. I am sorry, take a walk around the block for exercise. Golf courses cost money to operate. Nothing is free, not employees wages, water costs or the costs tomaintain quality golf courses in Long Beach."
The Golf Commission's fee committee took testimony, and will report back to the full Golf Commission next month. The Commission will then vote on non-binding, advisory recommendations that will be sent to the Dir. of Parks, Recreation and Marine and ultimately to the City Manager...who will incorporate them in his proposed budget. The City Council then ultimately has last word on golf fees (and other city fees) when it adopts City Hall's budget in September.
City management has publicly indicated that it expects golf fees to provide roughly $400,000 in deficit reduction under city management's three year deficit reduction strategy...an approach previously approved in principle by the Council.
In Depth/Perspective: Fiscal Sand Trap? Council's Dec. 2002 Deal To Float Debt For Skylinks Golf Course Revamp Laid Groundwork For Higher Fees, Arguably Uncertain Taxpayer Future
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