|(March 5, 2019, 6:20 a.m.) -- Mayor Garcia wasn't present, and neither were any of LB's policy-setting City Councilmembers, but City Hall-hired consultants couldn't avoid seeing hand carried signs and hearing public testimony repeatedly urging the City to implement "no kill" policies at the City-run animal shelter. For roughly half a decade, LB's Mayor, Council and city management had resisted serious discussion of the building grassroots effort which couldn't be contained at the meeting.
LBREPORT.com provides extended VIDEO coverage below.
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City management described the meeting as an effort to hear public input as management develops a "strategic plan" for the City-run animal shelter. The event drew roughly 150 people to the El Dorado Park West community center on Sunday afternoon, March 3. Officials planned to allow guided public testimony in response to event-provided questions whose answers would be heard by JVR Shelter Strategies, LLD, a City-hired consultant (Principal Consultant is Dr. Jyothi V. Robertson, DVM) who will "help guide the creation of the Long Beach Animal Care Services Strategic Plan." However the meeting was conducted basically as a "Town Hall" in which public speakers were allowed three minutes to speak (on an initial round, with repeats allowed) but weren't otherwise restricted or censored.
Public speakers variously urged implementing "no kill" practices focused on more robust City-run adoption programs. A number of speakers criticized Mayor Robert Garcia, who has supported animal rescue efforts and conducted "kitty hall" adoption events but to date has stopped short advocating "no kill" practices at the City-run shelter. Multiple
Nearing the conclusion of the meeting, one man drew applause by calmly stating that the consultants and management could see that the people at the meeting were well informed, won't be quiet and won't accept anything less than no-kill practices at the City-run animal shelter.
In opening the meeting, Gerardo Mouet, Director of Parks, Recreation and Marine (which oversees operation of the animal shelter) indicated that neither he nor the consultants would answer questions during the proceedings (later offering to do so after the meeting.) Mr. Mouet said the meeting's purpose was to hear the public's views as part of a strategic planning process recommended by a City Auditor performance audit that Mayor Garcia requested...but his narrative diplomatically sidestepped a contentious history.
The animal shelter audit was initially sought years earlier by "No Kill Long Beach," a grassroots group (originally called "Stayin' Alive Long Beach") organized and led by Dr. Patricia Turner, Ph.D. Since its inception nearly six years ago, the group has moved discussion beyond non-controversial spay-neuter programs to City policy changes...and hasn't shrunk from publicly criticizing current City practices and holding LB elected officials, including the Mayor, responsible for changing things.
The group's approach has split LB's animal advocacy community. Some strongly support its unflinching approach; others have reacted by defending city management and the Mayor; a sizable number have remained publicly noncommittal...until now.
City management, citing the City-shelter's decreasing euthanasia numbers (major reductions from previous years) has thus far resisted applying "no kill equation" practices. Faced with continuing pressure from No Kill Long Beach, Mayor Garcia sought a City Auditor performance audit of the animal shelter...which ended up validating several issues identified by No Kill Long Beach. To date, neither the Mayor nor any Councilmember(s) have agendized the audit for Council discussion and action. Instead, with the Mayor's support and the Council's silence, city management is preparing a City Auditor recommended "strategic plan" for the animal shelter. ["Strategic plans" generally aren't binding and city management can control development of the plan.]
Simultaneously, Mayor Garcia created an "Animal Care Visioning Task Force" whose members he chose and excluded audible supporters of No Kill Long Beach. [One Task Force member, Jacqueline Case, has since publicly announced that she supports No Kill policies.] To date, the Mayor's Task Force meeting agendas and presentations have been controlled by city management.
No Kill supporters now regularly attend each City Council meeting and use the period for public comment on non-agendized items to cite animal shelter issues and criticize the Mayor and Council for declining to agendize the issues for Council discussion.
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