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FY 2006-07 City Budget Talks Get Underway:

Homelessness Czar Edelman Updates Council Hannah HeinemanMirror staff writerThe City’s Finance Director Steve Stark told the Santa Monica City Council last Tuesday that “a slight upturn in the economy” has increased City revenue. City officials attribute the estimated $5.5 million increase to additional revenue from property taxes ($2.0 million), the Transient Occupancy Tax ($1.5 million), business license tax ($0.9 Million), a repayment of $1.5 million in Vehicle Licensing fees from the State as well as small increases in other areas. The estimated net budget surplus net stands at $2.5 million, as $3 million of the total was spent on mid-year appropriations. Among those expenditures were salaries ($1.8 million), digitizing Planning and Community Development records ($1 million), funds for the Fire Dispatch Center, custodial services for the new Main Library, fuel for the Big Blue Bus, and adjustments of grants.City Manager Lamont Ewell requested that no surplus funds be allocated for at least 30 days because “expenditures do pop up unexpectedly” and he wanted more time to complete his analysis of “capital projects and other operational needs.” Council members also heard suggestions from many people in the community as to where and how the surplus funds should be spent.Cindy Kerry, speaking for business owners and employees working in the 90404 zip code, told the Council: “There are no City-owned parking structures in this neighborhood and like the rest of the City we’ve been battling an increasing parking shortage. The limited parking that [my business] is assigned is barely enough for our clients. I would propose a significant parking structure be built in the area perhaps on the site of the former Fisher Lumber site.” Georgia Amana Jones, President of Unleash the Beach and Santa Monica’s Dog Owners Group, asked that “money be set aside for improvements in our existing dog parks” to upgrade them as other City parks have been, and also requested the City establish a “dog zone” on the beach. A number of other speakers reiterated the requests. The Executive Director of Meals On Wheels West, Rosemary Regalbuto, said that her organization was recently “asked to leave its office of 25 years which created a tremendous financial burden,” and asked the Council to increase City funding by 20 percent to cover the additional expenses for a new office and relocation and remodeling costs.Former mayor Nat Trives, speaking as a member of the Santa Monica Symphony Board of Directors, asked the Council to allocate $30,000 for a concert in the courtyard of the new Main Library “one year after its opening” by the Symphony Orchestra.The President of the Board of the 18th Street Arts Complex, Cameron Whiteman, asked, “that the City of Santa Monica partner with us” to help refinance their campus, noting that if they went to an outside lender they would have to “pass that debt servicing onto our tenants who are subsidized and that’s an untenable situation for us right now.”Arts activist Bruria Finkel asked the Council to allocate $150,000 to create a Cultural Arts Heritage Project “to preserve the spirit and the creation of a community of artists that reside in our midst.” Such a project would include archiving and recording the artists in Santa Monica, creating a database of works by artists in the community and preserving the history of artistic events in the community. Zina Josephs, President of Friends of Sunset Park, said she had e-mailed the Council a list of 11 areas that needed City attention, adding that one of the most important proposals was that the “City install 300 foot runway safety areas at both ends of the runway and implement the aircraft conformance program which would prevent large C and D class aircraft from using the airport. Planes and currently landing and taking off only 250 feet from homes.” She also called for a new traffic plan for Sunset Park.Laura Rosenbaum, President of the Santa Monica-Malibu Parent Teacher Student Association Council, asked the Council “to keep municipal support for Santa Monica’s public schools as a top priority and to take into account all programs that benefit children and youth.” The Executive Director of the Pico Youth and Family Center, Oscar de la Torre, requested more space and resources to enable his organization to continue “to help youth transform their lives.” A number of other speakers repeated the request.After it heard from the public, the Council asked City staff to work with the 18th Street Arts Complex on refinancing their campus and the Meals On Wheels staff to help with their relocation expenses. It also asked staff to give it a report on a possible Santa Monica dog beach and to place an item on a future agenda that would enable it to support of Assembly Bill 359, which would authorize a pilot dog beach at Dockweiller State Beach.Earlier in the evening, Council members heard a report from the City’s homelessness czar, former County Supervisor, Edward Edelman. He said that since his appointment in December, he has met with many people in the community and beyond in an effort to begin to develop “a regional solution to the homeless problem…each city can’t do it alone. We need a regional, indeed an effort by the state and federal governments to a greater degree than we’ve had in the past. We have, I think, the beginning in this region of an interest that we’ve never had before in doing something significant on the homeless issue. Clearly, Santa Monica has stepped up to the plate and has a record of achievement in this area that is not matched by too many other cities in this region.”Edelman went on to explain that the Los Angeles Homeless Authority (LAHSA), which he founded, “will have its mission redefined.” It currently includes the City and County of Los Angeles, but “it needs to be expanded to bring in other cities that are not part of it.” Edelman added that he would like to “duplicate the efforts that were made in New York City to deal with the issue,” which linked homeless individuals with “mid-town community courts,” where they were referred to the appropriate services rather than being given “jail time.” In other business, the Council approved an appropriation of $1.3 million to purchase a public video security system, that includes 123 cameras, which will be installed on the Santa Monica Pier and the Third Street Promenade “to aid and detect and investigate suspicious activities.”

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