Our Best Days Are Behind Us
From Issue: Volume XX - Number 18
It is still a little too early to know what the final outcome will be for the 2012-2013 city budget but one thing is for sure and that is this will not be the last year in which a major sacrifice will be required in order to produce and balance a budget.
After watching some of the recent discussions that have taken place at city council meetings and throughout the press and media it is also very apparent that this is a city council that still just doesn’t get it.
The totality of what is happening is not to be minimized. I just shake my head when I listen to council members who complain about the little things -- such as sidewalk repairs -- when we are reducing public safety services, putting our parks and open space at significant risk, closing libraries and shuttering all semblances of recreational programs.
Kudos to the city manager at last week’s meeting when he took the bull by the horns and actually restored some of the cuts that had been proposed. I don’t know how or if those restored cuts will make it through the next two weeks but I do think that he had the right idea.
Budget Oversight Committee referrals have historically been a death sentence for certain items sent there and last week’s maneuver doing just that with some of these items was referred to by some senior city staffers as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Our new fire chief had his first dose of reality three weeks ago when his proposal to reduce paramedic services in this city got a very unwelcomed if not rude reception before the county commission that oversees these services. I think that it is fair to say that this issue is dead. Hey chief, it ain’t happening any time soon, not even on a trial basis. This was a very bad idea from the very beginning.
Personally, because I love the Long Beach Fire Department and its rich history of excellent service, I think that the men and women who work there would be much better off just throwing in the towel and going to the Los Angeles County Fire Department as lateral transfers.
They would all get a pay raise. They would all have equal benefits to what they currently have. They would all be in a superior pension system that what they have at CALPERS. They would all get a superior retiree health care benefit (they currently have none), and they would have the opportunity to work a much larger variety of assignments than they currently have in Long Beach.
Furthermore they would not have to endure the annual ritual of fighting for everything that they have from their budget to their staffing levels, hoping that they can survive another budget cycle without having their staffing cut to what I truly believe would be an unsafe level in this city. If you have to give that up then it is just time to throw in the towel and make the move and take the pay raise.
It is pretty apparent to anyone who is paying attention that the big dog in this town is the police department and their budget, although being cut significantly, is going to win out in any comparative battle. While I predict that someday they too will be forced into making a serious career decision with respect to lateral transfer to LA County, that day is far away.
Unfortunately our city council, with a couple of exceptions, just doesn’t do a very good job of seeing the big picture in this town. While I thoroughly understand the old adage that all politics is local, that scenario seems to be playing out today much to the detriment of many who live and work here. For the first time in my lifetime of living here I fear for the areas in this city that have always been resilient and envied by many throughout the region.
Our best days, unfortunately, are behind us.