City Hall Million Dollar "Media Wall" Will Consume Quarter Million Dollars More In FY20 For Media Wall's "Video Programming" Plus Other Civic Center Related Spending;
|(Sept. 14, 2019, 8:30 a.m.) -- City Hall's one million dollar "media wall" (added by Council voted action in December 2018, motion by Councilwoman Stacy Mungo) will consume over a quarter of a million dollars more in FY20 for the media wall's "video programming" plus digital messaging/announcements in the new City Hall's elevators and Civic Center-related content for a City-run TV channel as part of the City's budget approved
It's among roughly $650,000 in Council-approved items using LB's "Special Advertising and Promotions Fund" (revenue mainly from hotel room taxes and short term rentals) for a city employee to "focus on community engagement and monitor social media ($120,421); support a "commemorative history book for the new Civic Center" ($50,000) and "support co-hosting" the 2028 Summer Olympics (including "qualifying Olympic events and planning consultants") ($200,000).
The items were all listed publicly in LB's proposed FY20 budget proposed by city management and recommended by Mayor Robert Garcia. LBREPORT.com first reported them in August.
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At the Sept. 3, 2019 Council budget adoption meeting, Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce made a floor motion to reduce the $388,900 sum for "video programming" for the media wall by $100,000, seeking to allocate it instead ("divided-by-nine") to Councilmembers for events in their Council districts ostensibly promoting the city. Councilwoman Mungo defended spending the full $388,900 for the "media wall"/Civic Center related "video programming" (audio below.)
The exchange occurred after Councilwoman Pearce asked City Hall's Director of Technology and Innovation, Lea Eriksen, to provide details on the proposed $388,900 proposed cost item. Ms. Eriksen replied that the sum was comprised of $138,900 for a position (city employee plus budget) to help work with Long Beach Television (the City Hall-run TV channel that often features the Mayor and Councilmembers) as well as city staff in dealing with programming on "art and engagement" focused on the Civic Center "because that position and the funding will help with the media wall. Ms. Eriksen also indicated that the city employee would deal with electronic messaging/announcements in the new City Hall's elevators as well as general features on Long Beach Television.) [On that basis, LBREPORT.com presumes the $138,900 city employee cost/budget will become an added cost item each year.] Ms. Eriksen indicated that the $250,000 is "one time" money, a portion of which would be spent for content on the "media wall" with a portion going to curation of "original content" including working with local artists, the LB Museum of Arts and the local Arts Council.
No other Councilmembers pursued the issue. Later in the proceedings, Councilwoman Pearce made a floor motion to reduce the $388,900 sum by $100,000 (divided by nine for Council district events). Councilwoman Mungo opposed it, arguing for spending the entire $388,900 on the video programming/media wall items. After several Councilmembers sided with Councilwoman Pearce, Councilwoman Mungo ultimately relented and joined in voting for the $288,900 sum.
The net result: the Council approved spending $288,900 in the FY20 budget for "video programming"/media wall" related items, City Hall elevator messaging and Civic Center related content for the City Hall-run TV channel ($138,900 for a city employee's salary/budget plus $150,000 in related "one time" costs.)
The Council spent the above sums using public money in its "Special Advertising and Promotions Fund" That revenue is comprised mainly of sums collected from LB's hotel room tax ("transient occupancy tax") which by a recent Council vote now also covers "short term rentals." In recent years, City Hall has been collecting Special Advertising and Promotion Fund revenue at a rate of about $11 million annually although it has varied considerably in the past.
Several years ago, a prior Council specified by ordinance that "Special Advertising and Promotions Fund" revenue may only be used for City-promoting items. (Municipal Code section 3.64.100 purposes that include "advertising, promotional, and public relations projects calling attention to the City, its natural advantages, resources, enterprises, attractions, climate, and facilities.") This effectively prevents the Council from routinely using the "Special Advertising and Promotions Fund" for other taxpayer serving purposes including police/fire/parks/streets/library items.
The City Council could change this restriction either by a Council ordinance amendment (requiring three Council voted actions) or by putting a measure on a citywide ballot enabling the public to lift the restriction. Deputy City Attorney Rich Anthony recently indicated to LBREPORT.com that the City Attorney's office is currently studying whether a vote of the people is required to do so.
Despite the restriction, Councilmembers weren't legally required to spend "Special Advertising and Promotions Fund" for the spending items they authorized. The Councilmembers' decision was discretionary, their choice.
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