Mayor Garcia + Council Incumbents + Police / Fire Union Leaders Signal Lockstep Support For March 2020 Ballot Measure To Extend
(July 2, 2019, 11:40 p.m.) -- As carried LIVE on LBREPORT.com, city management delivered a Power Point presentation (slides here) paralleling management's agendized memo here citing rationales for reneging on the terms of the 2016 Measure A sales tax increase that it would drop in half by 2023 and disappear in 2027.
Following four public speakers (with LB's police and firefighter unions in support and only one taxpayer speaking in opposition), Mayor Robert Garcia and all eight Council incumbents voiced their readiness to put a measure on the March 2020 ballot to make the temporary tax permanent.
Following a 20 minute presentation by Assistant City Manager Tom Modica, Mayor Garcia invited public testimony. Four speakers came to the Council Chamber podium, three of whom supported making Measure A permanent, including the President of the LB Police Officers Association, Jim Foster, and a boardmember representing the LB Firefighters Association (speaking on behalf of LBFFA President Rex Pritchard.) The two City public safety unions were the two largest financial contributors to the 2016 campaign to enact Measure A.
Following voter approval of Measure A in 2016, city management negotiated and the Council approved generous new contracts with both unions. The City is now in the process of negotiating new contracts with those two unions and others.
Since enactment of Measure A (now bringing City Hall roughly $60 million more each year), the Council has restored 22 out of 208 officers erased between 2009 and 2014, leaving LB taxpayers without 186 citywide deployable budgeted officers not restored to date (including LBPD's former field anti-gang unit.) The Council also restored Fire Engine 8 (Belmont Shore) and Rescue 12 (NLB) but not Fire Engine 17 (Stearns Park), Engine 101 (downtown) and Engine 18 (ELB). (City management has applied for a temporary FEMA grant to restore Engine 17.)
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Local lawyer Stefan Borst-Censullo [known for his civic activism as a co-organizer of the Long Beach Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America] supported extending the Measure A tax for further fire restorations (but not additional police restorations.) .
Only one LB taxpayer spoke in opposition to extending the Measure A sales tax. Joe Weinstein, PhD, said LB City Hall had shown itself consistently committed to Oscar Wilde's style of budgeting: "Give me the luxuries of life; the necessities will take care of themselves." He said the City had engaged in spending for extravagant items (including a new City Hall) while failing to restore [roughly] 200 police officers. He also charged that the City had made misleading and arguably illegal ballot measure statements to voters.
Following public testimony, Mayor Garcia spoke in support of extending Measure A. Each Councilmember then followed, all eight voicing support for extending Measure A (with several repeating reasons offered in city management's presentation.)
Councilman Daryl Supernaw cited what he called the importance of re-opening Community Hospital and the benefits it would offer for shortening LBFD times to transport patients. Earlier this year, the Council voted without dissent to agree to basic terms of a transaction (with a final agreement pending) that will obligate LB taxpayers to spend $25 million over 15 years -- from revenue sources that management acknowledged at the time that the City didn't have. The sums would pay half the cost of seismic improvements to enable a private for-profit LLC to use the seismically challenged city-owned land to operate a smaller version of Community Hospital. (Community Hospital was previously larger and operated on a non-profit basis.) City management has indicated that it plans to use a portion of Measure A revenue, if voters extend it, to cover the cost of the Community Hospital transaction.
Councilwoman Suzie Price cited the need to "maintain" current public safety levels but, consistent with Mayor Garcia and all other Council incumbents, made no commitment to restore additional police or fire resources for taxpayers.
Councilwoman Stacy Mungo (nearly all of whose 5th district precincts voted against Measure A in 2016) said she shared her Council colleagues' views on Community Hospital and public safety and cited 5th district Measure A-funded infrastructure projects including streets and park bathrooms.
No candidates who've surfaced to date to seek the vacant 1st dist. Council seat (Nov. 2019) or to unseat incumbents in Council districts 2, 4, 6 and 8 (March 2020 when the Measure A sales tax extension will be on the ballot) spoke at the July 2 Council meeting.
No representatives of the LB Area Republican Party spoke to either criticize the Mayor/Council's spending record or City Hall's now-sought permanent extension of the Measure A sales tax.
The issue is expected to return to the Council in the next few weeks when it takes enacting votes on declaring a "fiscal emergency" to get a required unanimous vote to put the tax extension on the March 2020 ballot (along with ballot text and the like.).
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