Santa Monica’s City Council identified homelessness, addressing youth violence and completion of the City’s ongoing update of the Land Use and Circulation Elements of the City’s General Plan as the community and budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2007-2008.
These choices were made after a very extensive public input process that included five outreach meetings with residents throughout the City in December as well as public input at the February 6 meeting. The priorities established during the outreach meetings, according to the City staff report, were mobility, public safety, street lighting, graffiti removal, street aesthetics, education and fluoridation of drinking water. At the meeting, community members also stressed many of these priorities with education taking center stage.
The City has been giving the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) $6.1 million annually as part of a joint use agreement that was agreed upon three years ago. Many of the speakers asked not only that that funding continue, but that it be increased. School Board Vice President Oscar de la Torre noted that these funds equal about five percent of the District’s annual budget and have been used for intervention programs to help “close the achievement gap.”
However, longtime School District volunteer Jean Sedeois called the Council’s attention to a published report at surfsantamonica.com that the School District has made an agreement “with [its former] Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Winston Braham, who resigned in November” to pay him “$190,000 provided he doesn’t disclose the District’s financial condition with anyone. The Council, in particular, needs a true picture of the District’s finances before giving next year’s $6-7 million to the District. You need to know what Winston Braham is being paid not to tell us.”
De la Torre, in response to questions by the Council on Sedeois’ remarks, stated, “I can assure this Council that there’s no issue that’s caused friction with the outgoing CFO.” The only restriction in his separation agreement is that “we are not going to make disparaging remarks about one another.” “There’s no problem with him coming to the Council or anywhere else and being ‘transparent’ about the District’s finances,” de la Torre also said.
Other speakers called for the City to give more support to the arts. Arts Commissioner Fred Dewey told the Council, “The arts aren’t in competition with education or health or social services. They positively affect every aspect of the City’s activities and revenues.”
Community priorities for the current year are to address the impacts of homelessness on the community, enhance the quality of life, safety, and community involvement of residents of the Pico neighborhood, ensure that the public receives timely and responsive service from all City departments and that the City’s regulatory processes are fairly, efficiently and courteously administered with a high degree of predictability for customers moving through a process. Other priorities are to incorporate ways to achieve the goals of the Sustainable City Plan into daily activities and special projects and capitalize on Santa Monica’s climate and community amenities to promote “Active Living.”
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.