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City Budget Priorities Discussed at Pico Community Meeting:

Education and youth services topped the list at a discussion of community budget priorities for fiscal year 2007-2008 held by Mayor Richard Bloom and City Manager P. Lamont Ewell at Virginia Avenue Park.

Lisa Balfus, co-PTA President at Edison Language Academy, stressed the City “needs to place more school resource officers” at the schools “to establish ongoing relationships with kids from a very young age” and to help ensure there is a more positive relationship “between the City’s youth and police.” She also called for the City to extend library hours.

Peace Activist Jerry Rubin, who helped establish the City’s Disabilities Commission, asked that the City organize a Youth Commission similar in nature to Malibu’s, which would give the City’s youth an opportunity to advise the City Council on youth issues.

The officials also heard from some students during the December 18 meeting. Santa Monica High School freshman Andrew Torres requested that the City designate walls specifically for graffiti so the City doesn’t have to spend so much money on graffiti removal.

A John Adams Middle School student complained that his “campus is littered with trash” and asked if the City could do something about it. Several other residents echoed his concerns and asked that the City help maintain Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) sites better.

Others were concerned that having youth walking from one activity site to another wasn’t safe, so they asked that the City have a shuttle service. There was also a consistent call for the City to maintain, or even increase, its annual $6.1 million contribution to SMMUSD.

A representative from the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA), Irma Carranza, brought up another topic that was on a lot of people’s minds: a traffic mitigation program for the Pico Neighborhood. Another Pico neighbor, Jim Reese, asked that more traffic cops be placed by the 26th and 20th streets freeway ramps.

Other community needs that were discussed at the meeting included creating more affordable housing for Santa Monica residents and workforce housing, better funding for community organizations, adding Big Blue Buses that would run north to south, and adding more crosswalks.

This meeting was one of five similar meetings being held throughout the City this week and last week. The input received, along with the input from the City’s boards and commissions, will become part of the Council budget discussion on January 9. The Council will then give budget direction to staff on January 23. In May, the Council will hold a series of budget workshops, and a public hearing will be held on the proposed budget, including its adoption on June 19.

The $457.8 million budget for the current fiscal year has focused on the operation of new community assets including the Main Library, Virginia Avenue Park, the Skate Park, the Airport Park and the Civic Center Parking Structure. It also has focused on such core services as a higher level of graffiti removal, tree and landscape maintenance, street lighting, street paving, sidewalk repair and building repair.

Those who were unable to attend the meetings can give input by e-mailing

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