Sic Transit: City Mgt. Proposes -- With Councilman-Elect O'Donnell's Approval -- Closing Carroll-Opened 4th District Los Altos Field Office
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(June 12, 2004) -- A 4th Council district Los Altos field office, opened in November 2003 by Councilman Dennis Carroll and called a waste of tax dollars by then-candidate, now-Councilman elect Patrick O'Donnell, will close in the coming days -- with O'Donnell's approval -- if the City Council approves a management-agendized proposal to cancel the lease. The item is agendized for the June 15 Coumcil meeting.
The Council action would put an end to what became a bone of contention in the April 2004 Council election in which voters denied 4th district incumbent Carroll a second term.
A June 15 agendizing memo by Community Development Director Melanie Fallon, approved by City Manager Jerry Miller, says the combination Council field office and LBPD community storefront and bike patrol office at 2117 Bellflower Blvd. (in the back of the commercial center north of the gas station at Abbeyfield St.) was vacated by LBPD in December 2003.
City management's memo adds that "the Fourth Council district has elected a new representative and it has been determined that the Premises will no longer be used for a field office."
Reached for comment, Councilman-elect O'Donnell said that shortly after his April 2004 election victory, he urged City Manager Jerry Miller to close the field office as soon as possible to save taxpayer money in view of City Hall's budget deficit -- a theme O'Donnell repeatedly sounded in his successful campaign against Carroll.
The item is part of the Council's consent calendar, meaning it will be approved by voted Council action without discussion unless a Councilmember or member of the public specifically requests it.
City management's agendizing memo says the property owner has found a new tenant effective July 1...and the owner is willing to cancel the lease without penalty effective June 15.
The memo adds that canceling the lease "will save an estimated $33,312 over the remainder of the lease" (which would otherwise run until Nov. 2005).
In August 2002, the City Council authorized the City Manager to enter into the lease...which began in November 2002. City taxpayers then paid roughly $60,000 to modify the shopping center office for city government use, plus roughly $7,000 for furnishings, plus rent (first three months free, then roughly $1,800 a month) before the office was opened in November 2003.
On November 15, 2003 Councilman Carroll held a "grand opening" of the field office attended by LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill among others.
Councilman Carroll wrote at the time in one of his personally-funded pieces carried by the "Beachcomber" that the field office "will be able to provide more personal service for 4th District residents, and help you accomplish many City Hall activities. We have arranged the office to be children-friendly and will offer children’s fingerprinting and homemade DNA kits. The use of the facility by our community police officers will bring a greater police presence to Los Altos and more personal relationships with our great Long Beach Police Department. The police chaplains program will use the office for counseling with crime victims, officers, and members of the public."
On November 19, free flu shots were given.
Those attending the opening included Mayor O'Neill as well as 5th district Councilmember Jackie Kell, 9th district Councilman Val Lerch and a contingent of LBPD officers, including K-9 officer Winston.
The 780 sq. ft. facility included office tables, computers, phones and informational leaflets on city services.
Framed pictures of Councilman Carroll, Mayor O'Neill and Vice Mayor Frank Colonna, Police Chief Batts and Fire Chief Harbour hang in one corner. Recognitions given to Councilman Carroll by various groups are also posted.
Councilman Carroll and Mayor O'Neill both offered extemporaneous remarks at the opening:
Councilman Carroll: ...We are at our new field office for the 4th district. It's something I have been working from the day I got elected, and we finally have the opportunity not only to better serve the constituents of the 4th district, but we have an opportunity partner-up with the police department, the police chaplain, and really give our constituents the sense that they're not only well served from the Councilmember but they have an additional presence of the police department and have that sense. And I've talked particularly to the ladies in the neighborhood and they just love to have the knowledge that the police are out there in the neighborhood taking care of them, so it's a wonderful opportunity.
And we have the privilege of having Mayor O'Neill here. She is so supportive of the notion of Councilmembers having offices and a presence in their district, and of course is a big supporter of community policing as well, and I think we have the perfect marriage here, so [introduces] Mayor Beverly O'Neill. [applause]
Mayor O'Neill: I just wanted to say that I'm pleased to be here. I think that Dennis is the last person that has a Council district office. I think every Councilmember does have a presence in their own district...
As we found all of the district offices, they all have different opportunities for citizens, whether they have some police there, many of them do not, many of them have storefronts elsewhere, or whether they are just for constituents, or whether they have the other services of the city in their district office. And that's very, very important I think to have a local area where citizens feel comfortable because not everybody feels comfortable or wants to come to City Hall when they have something that they would like to talk about that's in their neighborhood. So I know [Council office staffer] John [McNaughton] is going to love it. This is going to be his home and he will be available. People can find him at all times, one way or another, because he does have a central location there will be somebody here who will know where he is if he isn't here.
So this is a very important time for the 4th district. Dennis has been working on it since he became Councilperson for this district, and I don't know all the services that are in here. I know that there are going to be other areas that are going to be also here because it's a central location for the city of Long Beach and Dennis, congratuations.
In an agendized, publicly voted action on August 6, 2002, the City Council approved entering into a lease for the office space for a combined 4th district field office and LBPD storefront/bike patrol station...but after Anthony Batts became LBPD Chief, plans for the police storefront and bike patrol changed.
In a Nov. 14, 2003 memo to Councilmembers, City Manager Jerry Miller said that in addition to the 4th district Council office, the office space would now be used as a "community resource center and provide support to Police Department functions including serving as a location at which technicians will service/repair police vehicles' mobile data terminals." The memo indicated it will house "the Police Chaplains program, serve as an off-site interview location for victims/witnesses involved in crimes of a sensitive nature (such as Child Abuse or Sexual Assault); facilitate interaction between Community Police Officers, Fourth District residents and staff of the Fourth Council District; serve as an alternate location for officers to prepare police reports; serve as a restroom/coffee break location for police officers; and serve as a possible location to display memorabilita from the Police Historical Society."
The City Manager's memo indicated occupancy of the office had been delayed by issues including "needed structural modifications, improvments required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), procurement of necessary fixtures and furniture, and numerous program changes required by the Police Department.
The City Manager's memo indicated the cost to modify the space for city occupancy was $61,090. Furniture: $7,465. Current monthly rent: $1,934. (Starting base rent was $1,755/mo; the lease began in Aug. 02 and the first 90 days were rent free). Modifications and furniture costs were allocated to the LBPD and Public Works Department; rent is shared by the Dept. of Technology Services and the 4th district Council office budget.
Asked in Nov. 03 by LBReport.com whether some city-owned property might have served as a district office, Councilman Carroll said, "Unfortunately, I would have to evict somebody at Whaley Park or Stearns Park. They're staff, and I've chosen not to do that. Jackie [Kell] has an office. Frank [Colonna] has an office. I don't personally see why Los Altos residents [should be denied having an office (audibility difficult)]."
Other Councilmembers maintain field offices at varying levels of taxpayer cost in addition to their City Hall office. Council office expenses are items in City Hall's budget which currently has a multi-million dollar deficit (spending exceeding revenue) that management is seeking to remedy with a three-year Council-approved financial strategy comprised of cost savings and other budget cuts.
When Carroll opened the field office, then-candidate O'Donnell told LBReport.com that in his view "the timing of this office opening seems curious, given it so close to election time" and added "Mr. Carroll could have fought to get more police patrolling our neighborhoods or to fix our sidewalks and streets. Instead, he is using our tax dollars to lease himself a second office."
Asked by LBReport.com about the timeline in which the lease began in Aug. 02 but the office opened in Nov. 03, Councilman Carroll said, "I tried to get it open as soon as we could, and you can ask the [city] manager and the police what the difficulties were." [see items cited in city manager memo above]
Independent of Mr. O'Donnell, Steve Kleekamp (who with wife Traci Wilson-Kleekamp have since left LB for the midwest) made an appearance at opening of the field office, carrying a homemade sign that put a political thumb in Carroll's eye.
After taking office in July 2000, Councilman Carroll conducted field office operations for a time out of his car...and didn't have a budgeted field office until the Aug. 2002 lease for the Los Altos office space.
Councilman-Elect O'Donnell told LBReport.com he has no plans to open another field office "given the fact we have a more than $100 millon deficit and I'm going to be asking some city departments to cut their budgets. I think we need to make wise financial decisions."
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