Letters to the Editor
Having read in the June 15 article “Watchdogs Respond to Proposed City Budget” that “Ted Winterer, President of the Ocean Park Association, hopes the Council will consider the narrowing and beautification of Ocean Park Boulevard from Lincoln to the beach,” I sure hope Ted is unsuccessful in his efforts to narrow Ocean Park Blvd. and make it “beautiful.” Based on the narrowing and beautification of Wilshire and Pico Blvds., I hope the Council just leaves Ocean Park Blvd. alone. After the Council narrowed Santa Monica Blvd. and made historic Route 66 into just one lane in either direction, traffic now blocks access to the cross streets (2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th) from Ocean to Lincoln Blvds. One can drive enjoyably all the way across the United States of America on Route 66 until you get to Lincoln Blvd in Santa Monica. You are better off walking the rest of the way if you want to see the Pacific Ocean.
Both Wilshire and Pico Blvds. were effective paths of travel to reach the City limits, but no more. Traffic islands and narrowing of the streets have made Wilshire Blvd. frustratingly slow, even more so with the poor traffic planning associated with the new Whole Foods store between 22nd and 23rd Streets. At one time, Pico Blvd. was the fastest route out of the City, but “beautification” of this blue-collar boulevard has made travel increasingly difficult. Because of the so-called “traffic improvements” made by the Council, it is not unusual to see traffic backed up all the way from the City limits at Centinela Avenue to Santa Monica College.
Now, if that wasn’t enough, Ted wants to employ the same heavy-handed tactics to our own Boulevard in Ocean Park. Ocean Park Blvd. is a lovely street, wide enough to enjoy the ocean view, incorporate bicycle lanes and keep traffic moving. Parts of Ocean Park Blvd. between Lincoln and Main Street were unnecessarily narrowed to one lane several years ago. This Boulevard is a major thoroughfare to the lovely blue Pacific (hence its name), and local residents find its unencumbered passage necessary for regular travel to work, shopping, dropping the kids off at school, etc.
Previously, Ted was chairman of the traffic committee at OPCO (Ocean Park Community Organization). During his tenure, streets in Ocean Park were regularly torn up to install so-called “traffic improvements” and for “beautification” purposes, such as constructing landscaped islands, corner curb extensions, etc. Later, those same streets were repeatedly torn up again (and the “traffic improvements” demolished) to install new water mains and utility lines. Then, the beautification and “traffic improvements” were rebuilt again, all at taxpayer expense. For whatever their reasons and ill-conceived logic, the City Council has caused gridlock in many parts of Santa Monica, particularly along the coast and during the summer months.
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Last Friday afternoon, SMMUSD quietly posted its final proposed 2006-07 budget on their website. But when you “clicked” on it, the following message popped up: THE RESOURCE IS NOT FOUND. That’s been the story of their budget process all year – an illusion of transparency. After my call to the District, the electronic transfer was corrected by Monday afternoon. Earlier that day, the District had sent out another last-minute “press release” e-mail announcing the next Board meeting agenda was online for June 29 without the courtesy of highlighting the importance of the Public Hearing item on the budget. Now you see it; now you don’t!
Consider the following time-line of the District’s latest procedural shell game: When the Board agenda for May 18 was posted on the website, it included a discussion item titled “PRELIMINARY 2006-07 GENERAL FUND BUDGET, pages 55-61z,” but without the cautionary message that Budget Summary pages a-z were not available for electronic transfer or how to access them. Subsequently, that meeting had to be adjourned early without any budget discussion. Now you see it; now you don’t.
Then, at the rescheduled June 1 meeting, the same Budget agenda item was brought back, but failed to mention that the Summary Budget pages were only accessible in a separate PDF file on the website. Adding insult to injury, you had to stick around until almost midnight to hear the Board’s first PUBLIC discussion on the proposed $3 million DEFICIT budget. Now you see it; now you don’t.
Things didn’t get any better for the June 15 Board meeting. The Revised Summary Budget documents did not make it online until I reminded the District offices of their latest glitch. But mysteriously, two of these informative documents did not get electronically transferred with their “fix.” Unfortunately, the only consistent part of the process was another Budget Discussion starting around 11:30pm – SEVEN HOURS after the Board began their Closed Session! Yawn. Now you see it; now you don’t!
During the first, time-sensitive portion of the June 15 meeting when the Board had a joint discussion with the Financial Oversight Committee, the Chair of the FOC reported something that says it all about the process: “We [the FOC] have not had an opportunity to review the version of the budget before you.” Later, another FOC member complained (for the third year in a row!) that the committee doesn’t receive the budget materials in a timely manner making oversight almost impossible. Is anyone surprised that there are two more vacancies on the FOC? Now you see them; now you don’t!
Finally, since the District did not give the Public Hearing on the Proposed 2006-07 Budget a time-sensitive slot for the June 29 meeting, I wouldn’t rush down to the District Offices this Thursday expecting to hear a timely final budget discussion. But with no live local broadcast of the meeting, you would have to wait to see the video replay of the District’s closing magic act. Now you see it; now you don’t!