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News / With VIDEO

Mayor/City Auditor Say City Hall's Current Software System Hobbles Collecting Parking Ticket Revenue, Nearly $17.6 Million Uncollected In Past Three Years

Latest sum appears in addition to approx. $18 million uncollected b/w 2003-2007; also learned during Q & A: wheel clamping/booting system, expected by Auditor in 2008 to generate $1-$2.5 million annually, has been quietly abandoned

(Mar. 30, 2012) -- LBReport.com provides extended video below of the Mar. 29 news conference at which City Auditor Laura Doud and Mayor Bob Foster unveiled the results and recommendations of a parking citations collection audit, stressing the need for a new software system to track and pursue unpaid parking tickets. (The video was on our front page shortly after the event).

The City Auditor's audit says $17.6 million in parking ticket fines have gone uncollected during the past three years...the Mayor and City Auditor cited multiple reasons why the city's current software is ineffective and needs to be replaced.

In addition, City Auditor Doud mentioned during the news conference that another $18 million went uncollected for the years 2003 through 2007...a sum only partially disclosed in her 2008 report on potential revenue from wheel clamping/booting. Her 2008 report publicly cited $11.7 million uncolelcted from vehicles having five or more uncollected tickets (whose cars can be towed/booted) but at the news conference...but Ms. Doud stating from the podium in her opening remarks that the total was $18 million for all tickets during the 2008 report period (1/1/03-12/31/07).

On that basis it appears that LB's total uncollected parking tickets for the period spanning the City Auditor reports for 2008 (1/1/03-12/31/07 data) plus 2012 ("last three years") is roughly $36 million. (Context: As the City Auditor and Mayor both pointed out, not all of this is realistically collectable).

  • The Mayor and City Auditor cited multiple reasons why the city's current software is ineffective and needs to be replaced. No estimate was offered on how much a new software system might cost. Asked about cost during Q & A, the Mayor described the general type of procurement process he'd recommend.

  • The City Auditor's report didn't offer an estimate of how much revenue a new software system would bring in and City Auditor Doud didn't offer a figure from the podium. In his opening statement, Mayor Foster implied, but stopped short of predicting, that the sum might be over $2 million per year. [Context: Audit found approx. $18 million uncollected over the past three years for an average of roughly $6 million uncollected annually]

    Mayor Foster said in his opening statement: "If we collect even a fraction of the money due us it makes a big difference. For example, if we collect an extra $2.5 million just to put that in context on an ongoing basis that would mean 21 more police officers and you can imagine what it would do to libraries or to improve our park system."

    In follow-up Q & A, Mayor Foster said (several times) that he's confident a new software system will bring in additional revenue but declined to be pinned down on a specific predicted figure.

  • During Q & A, it was learned that a wheel-clamping (booting) system aimed at parking ticket scofflaws -- which the City Auditor said in August 2008 was expected to produce roughly $1.1-$2.5 million annually -- has been quietly abandoned. Asked about that project (which was the subject of a 2008 City Auditor recommendation (details below) and a public Council vote), Mayor Bob Foster said the wheel clamping system hadn't been effective in Long Beach. [To our knowledge, the Council wasn't told publicly about this and we're unclear as to why the system would be effective in other cities but not in Long Beach.]

    Background: On August 19, 2008, in response to an item agendized by City Auditor Doud and Councilmembers, Suja Lowenthal, Gary DeLong, and Rae Gabelich, the Council voted 8-0 (Reyes Uranga absent) to direct the City Manager to "address various issues as discussed in the [City Auditor's report] and report back to the City Council in 60 days regarding the initiation of a wheel clamping program in Long Beach." LBReport.com is unaware of such a report being presented publicly at a Council meeting, but we can't rule out that the report may have been given to Councilmembers as an "off-agenda" item sent to their offices but not agendized for the public.

    On April 21, 2009, as part of an item publicly agendized as amending the city's Master Fee and Charges Schedule, a city management agendizing memo included the following:

    The Environmental Services Bureau recommends establishing a new "wheel clamp release" fee under a pilot wheel-clamping program to determine if this service could effectively be used to support the existing towing/impound operation. No new revenue is estimated at this point as it is unknown what impact the pilot program will have on towing revenue. Staff will return to the City Council after the data gathered during the pilot phase has been analyzed to make any appropriate revenue generating suggestions.

    That item prompted a brief colloquy between Councilman Patrick O'Donnell and city management.

    In September 2009, in discussing her office's budget, City Auditor Doud told the Council that Public Works was moving forward with a wheel clamping system as a pilot project.

  • Further to follow on LBReport.com.

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