The City Council’s mid-year budget review meeting was enlivened on Tuesday, January 26, by dozens of people seeking increased support for youth violence prevention and by a discussion of filling the vacancy created by the death of Mayor Genser. The annual meeting, which comes in the middle of the City’s July-to-June fiscal year, generally consists of adjusting the current budget at mid-year, receiving City staff’s 5-year financial forecast as background for developing next year’s 2010-11 budget, and hearing public comment on budget priorities for next year.
Youth Violence Prevention
Family and friends of Richard Juarez, who was shot and killed in Virginia Avenue Park on November 3, 2009, marched from the Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC) to City Hall Tuesday evening [see photos, on pg. 12], and many of them addressed the City Council urging budget priority for programs to “stop the violence and start the change.” Frank Juarez, Richard’s uncle, said they were “trying to harness the community involvement” to use the infrastructure that exists in Santa Monica and to develop a regional approach that would engage West L.A., Venice, Culver City, and the Palisades as well.
PYFC Executive Director Oscar de la Torre said the group had marched to support the Juarez family to “be the change,” in Gandhi’s phrase, on the issue of violence prevention. He said that working together is the key in order to effect “prevention, intervention, and enforcement,” in Police Chief Jackman’s phrase. Others from PYFC, the Police Activities League (PAL) Youth Leadership Council, Santa Monica College, and parents also spoke to the Council.
The Genser Vacancy
The Council officially declared Mayor Genser’s seat vacant, thereby starting the 30-day clock on either selecting a new councilmember or calling a special election. Councilmember Kevin McKeown, in an effort to “balance community transparency and political sustainability,” proposed an application process to solicit citizens not only interested in filling the Council seat but also interested in other roles in the City such as serving on City boards and commissions.
Councilmember Bobby Shriver opposed the formal application process, saying that persons interested in the seat would surely contact councilmembers and lobby for the job. It will likely be one of four, Shriver said, naming Ted Winterer, Terry O’Day, Patricia Hoffman, and Oscar de la Torre. McKeown’s proposal could not get the four votes it needed, and Councilmember Richard Bloom, who chaired the meeting because Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor is recovering from knee replacement surgery, tabled the matter until later in the meeting.
When the subject was revisited, it was decided that persons interested in the vacancy, who will contact councilmembers in any event, should notify City Clerk Maria Stewart, who will post their names and contact information on the City website. The public can then see who is calling the councilmembers, and the local press can inform the public about the candidates. The Council set a deadline of February 17 for notifying the City Clerk, but it also noted that it could appoint any eligible person, whether they met the deadline or not, when the selection comes up at the February 23 City Council meeting. McKeown voted against the procedure.
The Rest of the Agenda
New City Manager Rod Gould and Director of Finance Carol Swindell presented the City staff’s 5-year financial forecast. Gould said that “the great recession of 2008 has finally caught Santa Monica” and it will be three to five years before City revenues recover. Swindell presented “probable,” “pessimistic,” and “optimistic” scenarios, and she outlined deficit-reduction strategies, including asking City staff to propose alternative department budget cuts at levels of three, five, and seven percent.
City Council budget workshop meetings will be scheduled for May 25 and 26, with June 15 targeted for Council adoption of a budget for Fiscal Year 2010-11.
Apart from the calls for increased support for youth violence prevention, public comment included support for funding social service and homeless programs, child care and early education programs, and Catherine Eldridge’s suggestion – a new idea to this reporter’s knowledge – that the proposed Pico Neighborhood branch library be located in the buffer zone proposed for the Expo Phase 2 maintenance yard in that area.
As Councilmember Gleam Davis put it, the budget will present the Council with “difficult choices.”