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Watchdogs Respond to Proposed City Budget:

Frank Loweree

Mirror Contributing Writer

Watchdogs for the City of Santa Monica’s proposed 2006-07 budget include the City Council’s commissions, committees and boards and the concerned residents’ community groups and neighborhood organizations. Five representatives of these City guardians have responded with problem issues they hope will be addressed on Tuesday, June 20th, when the Council meets to approve this year’s budget.

“As a Santa Monica resident, Heal the Bay Executive Director and longtime Chair of the City’s Environmental Task Force, I am struck by the lack of funding in the 2006-07 budget for our world-renowned Sustainable City Program,” says Mark Gold, Chair of the Task Force on the Environment, established in 1991 and responsible for the development of Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Plan. “We have developed an incredible vision for how to make this City truly sustainable, yet there are no earmarked funds for staff to implement this incredibly ambitious plan. Santa Monica needs to move from rhetoric to reality.”

Susan Cloke, Chair of the Recreation & Parks Commission, established in 1946 to act in an advisory capacity to the City Council and Director of Community and Cultural Services in all matters pertaining to public recreation, including playgrounds, music and entertainment, urges the Council to direct staff to create a “public policy” regarding sustainable City practices in the further creation and maintenance of our parks, including solar alternatives for lighting and sustainable plant palettes. “We do it, but there is no concrete public policy,” says Cloke, whose four-year term on the commission is up at the end of this month, but who is eligible for reappointment by a two-thirds vote of the Council.

“In the area of Community Forest funding, our current census is 32,000 trees,” says Cloke. “The $100,000 allocated in this year’s budget for tree maintenance and replacement will only meet half our needs at this point. We need twice that amount only to stay even with our forest.” Cloke also suggests an interim greening of the Rand property across from City Hall with native flowers, paths and park benches, so that the public can use the space for the five years it will take to develop the permanent Palisades Garden Walk.

In response to the handling of Assemblymember Ted Lieu’s AB 2501, which mandates that the Santa Monica Airport track taxi and idle times on all planes arriving and leaving the airport – a bill sponsored by the Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution and backed by the Mar Vista Community Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club of California and the Friends of Sunset Park (FOSP) – FOSP President Zina Josephs says, “Our board members are puzzled that airport staff failed to agendize this topic for the May 22nd Airport Commission meeting, so those commissioners could have duly advised City Council members on the situation.” The Council is now belatedly working with State Senator Sheila Kuehl to amend the bill to lower administrative costs from $500,000 to no more than $35,000 before it goes before the State Senate.

Josephs’ further requests to the Council include setting aside funds for a Sunset Park traffic study, installing Runway Safety Areas at Santa Monica Airport, increasing efforts to reduce gang violence, hiring a crossing guard for 16th and Ocean Park Blvd. and hiring security personnel for Fairview and Ocean Park Branch Libraries.

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, the renovation of Hotchkiss Park and Ocean Park beach bathrooms, Main Street and Lincoln Blvd. pedestrian safety improvements, improvements to Ocean Park alleys, expanded Tide shuttle service and measures to reduce Sunday Main Street farmers’ market traffic congestion. “This unnecessary traffic is unsustainable, for it promotes wasteful use of gasoline and fouls the air with exhaust and brake dust,” says Winterer.

Santa Monica’s Commission on the Status of Women was established in 1981 for the purpose of enhancing the status of women in the community, and the City has recently been working with the commission to collect gender data in order to better follow the monies going into programs that affect women and girls. “The City is in need of more affordable housing for families, especially single mothers,” says Tia Skulski, Commission Chair. “It would also be helpful for these women to have multiple outreach educational programs and home and/or condo ownership programs so that they can earn equity.”

If you are interested in making a public statement regarding the 2006-07 budget, the upcoming City Council approval meeting is on June 20th at 5:30pm in the Council Chambers at 1685 Main St. For questions or comments, call the City Manager’s office at 310.458.8301 or go to www.santa-monica.org.

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