The North of Montana neighborhood was the focus of the final Budget Planning Community Input meeting, held at the Montana Avenue Branch Library.
Since early November, meetings have been held in different neighborhoods to receive input from residents on how they would like to see City money spent during Fiscal Year 2008-09.
The January 7 meeting, like those held in other City neighborhoods, began with a presentation by City Manger Lamont Ewell on the City’s economic outlook. At this meeting however, Ewell discussed the state’s budget crisis by noting, “The Governor’s budget is going to have a negative impact on us.” He also mentioned that other perceived threats to the City’s economy were an unpredictable drop in revenues from the utility user’s tax and the flattening of revenue streams as a result of the slowing of the national economy. “We’re having to adjust to revenues that were anticipated,” said Ewell, but may not materialize.
Residents mainly commented on citywide priorities. There was a request for more cultural venues in the City, better signage for the Third Street Historic District, improving parking options in downtown Santa Monica, controlling the heights of downtown mixed-use developments, and subsidizing taxi coupons for seniors.
Concern was also expressed about the amount of money the City is spending by employing outside consultants when pursuing different projects. A related suggestion was that the City should have a separate line item in their budget for outside consultant costs.
City plans to remove some of the ficus trees that line downtown Santa Monica’s 2nd and 4th Streets also came up, as it had in previous meetings. One resident suggested that the City use the $600,000 slated for this project for another City need.
The only specific suggestion made for the North of Montana area was that the City should address the buckling of sidewalks on Montana Avenue due to the roots from the ficus trees.
The current community priorities are culture, sustainability, recreation and active living, education, customer service, capital needs, and infrastructure, with a special focus on homelessness, the update of the City’s Land Use and Circulation Elements, and youth.
Other suggestions on community priorities will come from the City’s boards and commissions, a resident satisfaction survey, and the February 12 City Council discussion of priorities. The Council will then hold a series of budget workshops in May and adopt the final budget on June 10.
Those who are unable to attend the meetings can email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to smgov.net, and click on the City Budget Suggestions link.