Long Beach’s 4th District Community Meeting - March 2016 - Mayor Garcia
It was a packed house at the Los Altos Library activities room for Councilman Supernaw’s monthly 4th District meeting. And the reason for the crowd was soon apparent as Mayor Robert Garcia materialized just as Supernaw took to the lectern.
Supernaw joked that the topic of taxes must be a popular subject, but he quickly moved forward with a serious message. As per government guidelines, the presentation had to neutral and if at any time we did not feel it was being neutral we should raise an objection. Remember, the Mayor or Council-members cannot show biased on a subject that has been put to the electorate, or a subject that is being voted on by the council.
As you can imagine this can be tricky but I think Garcia and Supernaw did a good job offering transparency without swaying. It would have been brilliant to have the somewhat stern looking attendee Deputy Police Chief Beckman, use Joe Friday’s quote, “just the facts, ma’am”. Supernaw has a proclivity for quotes and used this one by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to this own opinion, but not his own facts” to drive home the need for education prior to the June 7 vote.
Supernaw and Garcia are in the same position when it comes to the International Airport issue. To come out strongly for or against the issue could jeopardize the noise ordinance should this end up in a court of law. Supernaw did remind us that the next meeting concerning the Long Beach Airport will be held this evening, Wednesday, March 30 from 6 to 8. The address is 2400 E. Spring Street, which is actually in Signal Hill, next to the Mercedes-Benz dealership (Take Spring exit off the 405 North and make a left, building is on your left). There will be police on hand directing traffic.
Garcia started off by saying how much he likes presenting at community meetings because it reminds him that Long Beach citizens are active and involved. He gave kudos to Supernaw who he assured us was district-centric in his voting and concerns.
Being a good public speaker, Garcia gave a brief overview of his speech. He would address in this order: the good, the not so good, the item on the ballot, and lastly questions.
The economy has improved. Unemployment was at 15% in 2008 and now at 6.5%. Agreed is should be lower but there is no doubt there has been a recovery. Long Beach Business Journal announced there have been 400 new businesses in the last two years. One in eight jobs in Long Beach touches on either trade or transportation. February 2014 broke the port cargo record. If the trend continues, Long Beach will replace the Port of LA as the largest port in the US soon. There was a $40 million deficient when he joined the council. This year the deficient is 1.5% of the General Fund budget of $400 million.
Education is doing well. CSULB is the 5th most applied to University in the country. There were 90,000 applicants this year with 60,000 rejection letters sent. City College offers the first year free to any graduate of a Long Beach High School. The Promise program is a model for other communities. Being a teacher himself (teaches at CSULB), Garcia is an advocate of early pre-school. He is working with educators to increase the number of internships.
Long Beach has become more livable. He mentioned the conversion of every streetlight in Long Beach to LED. This will save money, is better for the environment and can help reduce crime. The lights can be turned up or down which could help the police in some situations. Parks have been improved and air quality is better. Household income has increased as well as housing prices. There is great interest from National Retailers to move to Long Beach.
Increase in overall crime. Still not horrible, but like most city the crimes rates are back to 2011 levels. Garcia called it the ‘boomerang of crime’. Deputy Chief Beckman confirmed there were more illegal guns captured in sweats then there were in the past 20 years. Criminal reform and the passing of Prop 47 could be the problem. They money for the re-entry programs from Prop 47 will not be available in the form of grants until 2017.
Long Beach lost 200 officers, 150 support personnel and 84 fireman in the economic downturn. Government is much leaner overall. Most neighborhoods are generally safe but compromised neighborhoods are taking a hard hit.
Long Beach has little revenue into infrastructure for the past 35 to 50 years. They estimate $2.8 billion is needed to make improvements. Infrastructure includes; alleys, streets, trees, sidewalks, water storm drain systems, parks, police academy, libraries and structures such as the senior center and recreation buildings. Currently Long Beach spends $65 million on infrastructure.
One percent or one cent sales tax for six years, reduced to half a percent years seven through ten and end after the 10th year. I believe there is a second part to be voted concerning the citizen oversight committee but I could be mistaken.
- How can we be sure our water quality is safe? Garcia drinks Long Beach tap water and assured us that the water department provides a good product.
- Where did the $2.8 billion come from? The attendee said she got a quotes on a remodel and one came in at $15,000 and another at $4,0000. She asked if the $2.8 billion was the low bid or the high bid. Interim Public Works Director Craig Beck said it wasn’t the high bid. Streets have been prioritized and values calculated for repairs. Sidewalks are on the agenda for prioritization.
- How can we feel confident that the council members without constituents under the flight path will not care about the International Airport and the noise ordinance. Garcia assured us that everyone wants to keep the noise ordinance in place. The study will have to assure them that it won’t hurt the Long Beach economy by having an International Airport. Garcia is not convinced that the council believes an International Airport is a good move. He is glad to see Southwest Airlines using their slots so there is some competition to JetBlue.
- Question on the marijuana dispensaries? Garcia feels it should be sold at a pharmacy but of course this is not a possibility at this time. He feels Colorado is struggling with the issue. I believe he said it is being put to the voters on a state ballot.
- What happens should it not pass? They are planning on a 1.5% cut to departments.
- What guarantee do we have the money will be spent on crime and infrastructure? As much as the council could legally, they have called for an oversight committee. The Mayor has veto of any budget.
- Last question had me a bit bamboozled but he wrapped it up by saying when he goes out to dinner in Long Beach he asks for tap water on the rocks, with a twist of lemon.
Garcia quickly wrapped it up by saying that Long Beach has traditionally passed every county tax increase but rejected a city increase.
Oh and I had asked a few bookkeeping questions and I congratulated Mayor Garcia for being on the top 10 list for Mayor that use Twitter. I know I like reading his Tweets :) Also the cookies, which were baked just before I arrived were a hit.
Hope you found this informative and somewhat enjoyable to read. Sorry for any errors and as I told one gentleman after the meeting, don’t shoot the messenger!
Michele K - Local Realtor and Neighbor Enthusiast