Internal City Records Obtained By LBREPORT.com Show What $1 Million Media Wall Will Look Like And What It Will Display; It Was Publicly Described As Part Of New City Hall's "Critical Technology Needs Infrastructure"
|(Mar. 16 2019, 8:35 p.m.) -- Internal City records, obtained by LBREPORT.com under the CA Public Records Act, provide details of a $1 million "media wall" now planned for inclusion in the lobby of LB's new City Hall. The cost item, approved by the City Council on December 18, 2018
Below is an artist rendering of the "media wall" and some of its contemplated content.
Scroll down for further.]
[Source: Internal city staff communications obtained under LBREPORT.com Public Records request
Below are some types of content LB taxpayers might see on City Hall's million dollar media wall.
Internal memos show city staff initially believed the City might win competitive grant offered by Bloomberg Philanthropies for temporary public art projects, that City staff appeared to believe could be used for the media wall. An April 10, 2018 memo from a Public Works Dept staffer stated: "Very excited about the Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayor Public Art Challenge that the CLB will receive $1M from Fall 2018!" The email linked to a Bloomberg Philanthropies pdf describing the grant opportunity as "Supporting Innovative Temporary Public Arts Projects That Enhance The Vibrancy Of Cities"] The staffer's notes from an informal meeting included "Focus on interactive Video Art! Use the Video Wall in the new City Hall lobby as the place to bring together video art and stories collected from all over the city; Create a mobile studio; Inspiration Story Corps; The cost, to be covered by the city, for the video wall installation can be our 'in-kind' contribution capital contribution."
However, although the grant didn't materialize, the media wall advanced as a $1 million cost item, funded from the City's "Special Advertising and Promotions Fund" (details below).
Four days before a Council vote on the item scheduled a week before Christmas, city staff met to discuss the media wall. A city memo indicates those at the meeting included a representative of ARUP (the firm hired by the City to provide "Civic Center Technology Program Management") and city staff from LB's Technology & Innovation, Public Works, Financial Management, Public Information, Arts Contracts Liaison/1% for the Arts and "Civic Innovation and User Experience" offices.
Technology and Innovation Director Lea Eriksen later summarized the meeting in a December 14 (10:42 p.m.) memo:
As you know, our new City Hall lobby will feature a very large, 63 foot by 9 foot, media wall which will greet everyone who enters. This wall is a signature art component for the building and will be a great way to communicate our City identity and mission to visitors. However, because it will be a programmable, dynamic video screen, it will require ongoing management, governance and policies to be an effective and useful tool for the City. Therefore, we will be convening an internal stakeholder meeting in January to discuss the media wall. Our goal for this meeting is to kick off a discussion of these issues and, using some existing materials for guidance, determine a path forward.
City staff agendized the item with this publicly available memo. Fifth district Councilwoman Stacy Mungo (Mayor Garcia's choice to chair the Council's Budget Oversight Committee), made the motion to approve the $4.3 million Civic Center spending item but asked staff to explain why, she said, the Council couldn't use the $1 million from the "Special Advertising and Promotion Fund" being used for the media wall to pay for other uses such as street repair, sidewalk repair or other items.
Lea Eriksen, Director of Technology/Innovation replied (consistent with the agendizing memo) that the Special Advertising & Promotions Fund "is restricted for communications and marketing of the city's facilities in art" [and other projects], adding "It can't be spent on street repairs and other purposes." That was accurate but merits further explanation and comment. Neither Councilwoman Mungo nor any other Councilmember questioned management's premise that the "media wall" is "art" as intended by LB's Municipal Code. Even if one does consider it "art," that didn't commit the Council to spend the taxpayer sums on it. LB's Muni Code section 3.64.100 (adopted by a previous Council) does say that City Hall's "Special Advertising and Promotion Fund" (comprised mainly of revenue from LB's hotel room tax) may only be expended for purposes that include "advertising, promotional, and public relations projects calling attention to the City, its natural advantages, resources, enterprises, attractions, climate, and facilities.
That's true, but it's also true that it's still LB taxpayers' money and the City Council can decide how it's spent. Nothing prevents a Councilmember(s) in the future from agendizing an item to amend LB's Muni Code so the Council could use Special Advertising & Promotion Fund revenue for general fund purposes including streets, sidewalks, police and firefighter services.
Ms. Eriksen went on to state that "we do have a public art component" and "this is our public art component, this video high definition media wall" and this funding "goes to fulfill our commitment to our percent for the arts program."
This didn't initially persuade Councilman Al Austin, who noted that the "media wall" wasn't part of the original plan and asked city staff in a skeptical tone if "this is something that just came up as a great idea?" Public Works Director Craig Beck replied:
Mr. Beck: The media wall was an enhancement that was added to the [City Hall] building. As we look to a 21st century City Hall, we look to 21st century technology and experiences. And having this media wall is an opportunity to really engage our whole community. I mean if you think about the opportunities to have a webcam from a playground or a webcam at the beach, or to show videos from different neighborhoods and art displays from different communities and allowing us to engage with our university, really the opportunities are almost endless when you think about what can actually be displayed on the video wall. Not to mention it becomes a very useful device on those evenings where we have controversial items and we have overflow from the Council Chambers, we could actually have the Council meeting being displayed on the video wall and that would allow our residents or participants in the Council meeting to kind of be engaged through that all in the lobby or even through that courtyard of the new Civic Center project. So this is an enhancement. We do believe it's an important element to having a building that really represents where this city will be now and for the next 40+ years.
Councilman Austin voiced concern over what content would be shown on the "media wall," said the subject deserves Council discussion, noted that earlier in the year he had to struggle [along with Councilmembers Rex Richardson and Dee Andrews] to obtain a fraction of sums allocated to the Civic Center to fund an Long Beach African-American Cultural Center. However Austin ultimately joined the rest of the Council in voting to approve the $4.3 million Civic Center-related cost increase.
Earlier in the year, on March 20, 2018, the Council voted (8-1, Mungo absent) to approved a $7.05 million expenditure for what management described as Civic Center technology infrastructure
All of this stems from a fateful Dec. 9, 2014 Council 8-0 vote -- Gonzalez, Lowenthal, Price, Mungo, Andrews, Uranga, Austin and Richardson voting "yes" (Supernaw not yet elected) that chose Plenary to construct, operate and maintain a new Civic Center. A little over a year later on Dec. 15, 2015, the Council voted 9-0 to finalize the transaction in full.
The Council's 2015 action, supported by Mayor Robert Garcia, effectively committed LB taxpayers (without seeking LB taxpayer voted approval) to pay annual escalating annual sums determined in part by factors (including interest rate increases outside of the City's control) without seeking bids for a less costly seismic retrofit of LB's roughly 40 year-old City Hall or using a voter-approved bond, likely a lower interest rate, carrying fixed payments.
The Civic Center transaction was facilitated in part by Sacramento legislation carried at the City of LB's request by then-state Senator (elected Insurance Commissioner Nov. 2018) Ricardo Lara (D, LB-Huntington Park) and then-state Senator Janet Nguyen (R, SE LB-west OC) (defeated in seeking re-election in November 2018 based mainly on SE LB votes.)
The state Senate seat is currently being pursued by LB Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, who has former state Senate incumbent Lara's endorsement. In 2019, voters across roughly half of Long Beach will have an opportunity to vote on candidates seeking the vacated state Senate seat.
March 17, 2:20 p.m.: Text re Special Advertising & Promotion Fund added and clarified.
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