There's no one to blame but City Manager Jack Schnirman.
Schnirman has demonstrated, once again, that he is incompetent and that he is more interested in playing politics than getting Long Beach back on the right fiscal track. As a result it is time for him to resign or be fired for cause by the City Council because by not having a back up plan should his original plan not come to fruition.
Since taking over the city Schnirman continually played the "blame game." This is one thing he can’t blame on the prior administration for. This is Jack Schnirman’s doing. This is his failure and his alone. When he took the position of city manager he inherited a budget. He had six full months to get things in order. Yet, despite a hiring freeze and a fiscal crisis that he declared, he continued to hire politically connected friends and family to the taxpayer’s cost of nearly $1.3 million. Furthermore, he and his administration handed out settlements and contracts that cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. He put all of his "eggs in one basket" in the hope that the state legislature would pass his borrowing budget plan. Schnirman's plan failed.
Jack Schnirman spent $5000 of taxpayer money to mail out a glossy four page letter to every single home in Long Beach declaring, “We are getting things done on time, and we are pleased to announce that fiscal responsibility has finally been restored to the City of Long Beach.” However, two days after this letter arrived at residents’ homes his plans completely fell apart when the legislature adjourned, rejecting the Schnirman borrowing plan. In fact, Schnriman had the audacity to state in his letter that..."We are able to reduce the burden on taxpayers by paying down the deficit over the course of 10 years." He intentionally tried to mislead the public lie or he didn't know what he was talking about; this raises real concerns as to accuracy of anything he says. Instead of cutting expenditures his plan, which was nearly $4 million more than last year's budget, Schnirman's plan is to "tax and borrow" his way out of the problem thus leaving future generations of Long Beach residents to pay the bill for his spending spree.
Taxing already overburdened taxpayers and borrowing your way out of debt doesn't work; cutting spending does.
Schnirman's plan was to have the state "bailout" the city's deficit. However, the state doesn't feel that Schnirman has done enough to address the city's problems. State officials said, "Our position is you get your fiscal house in order through reducing spending." While Schnirman will continue to play the "blame game" and point fingers at the state for not approving his plan the fact of the matter is this; the state didn't feel he was doing enough to reign in spending. In fact, despite the fiscal crisis he has hired politically connected family and friends to city hall jobs at a cost of over $1.3 million and his proposed budget is nearly $4 million higher than last year's budget. Just like a bank won’t lend money to fiscally irresponsible borrowers, the state is not going to bail out a city that cannot act in a fiscally responsible way. If Schnirman has demonstrated anything in his six months as city manager it is that will blame everyone else except himself for the city's problems. Clearly, Schnirman doesn't get it and in typical Schnirman fashion he continues to blame everyone else rather than taking responsibility for his own actions. Schnirman can't have it both ways; he can't declare a fiscal crisis at the same time he increases spending and hands out jobs, contracts, and awards to politically connected friends and family of the local political clubhouse. This in itself is a reason why Schnirman should leave city hall, either by resigning with dignity or being fired for cause.
But here is the ultimate reason Schnirman has to go: He has no "Plan B". The Long Beach City Charter states that the city must adopt a balanced budget by the “last day in May." . As a result on July 1, 2012 the city begins its fiscal year with faulty budget with a $15 million hole. I am sure the residents would like to see them. This leaves the city is a dire crisis because as I understand it, once the budget is adopted, while you can amend the budget you cannot amend the tax rate which is set by law by the last day in May. As a result of Schnirmans's actions, the city is left in a dire fiscal situation that could have, and should, have been avoided.
How is it possible that Schnirman did not have a backup plan, in case his plan fell apart, just like it did? While Schnirman is a Harvard graduate one doesn't need a Harvard degree to know that 1) you can't borrow your way out of debt, and 2) no one can predict with certainty that any legislation will be passed until the votes are cast. Just the fact that Schnirman saw this scenario as a fait accompli and didn’t provide a back-up plan this late in the fiscal budget process is reason enough for him to leave city hall immediately. But this isn’t the only example of incompetence he has demonstrated in the six months he has been at the city's helm.
Schnirman can blame other people for many things but the following actions were solely his and all occurred on his watch:
- He had a full six months of the 2011-2012 budget to cut spending, yet he increased the city's expenditures by proposing a 2012-2013 budget that included $4 million more in spending!
- ” yet he continued to spend and hand out awards, promotions and judgments to politically connected friends and family.
- ” yet he hired politically connected friends and family to city hall jobs at a cost of over $1.3 million!
- He didn’t follow through on the prior administration’s revenue generating programs that would have brought money into the city such as Deco Bike and a parking meters programs. These programs were in place and ready to go, yet here we are in late June and neither has been implemented.
- His plan to bring the city's fiances under control was to borrow more and continuing to spend. You can't borrow your way out of debt.
- He refuses to address the high salaries of the paid fire and police department, many who make well over $150,000 per year, despite the fact that these two department's represent nearly 23% of the city's budget, and $15 million of total city spending. Both the police and fire unions endorsed Adelson, Mandel, and Torres.
- He has done NOTHING to stop the outrageous termination payouts that retiring police department members get which sometimes cost $500,000 per retiree!
- Where are all the grants that were supposed to bring revenues into the city. This administration promised that the city would "aggressively" pursue grants yet its been 6 months and we have heard NOTHING about any substantial grants that the city has applied for or been awarded.
- He has hired incompetent and unqualified people to the highest positions in our government. He has not hired the "best and the brightest" as promised. He has hired politically connected "family and friends" to city hall positions at the taxpayers' expense.
- He has assassinated the city’s reputation in the press, hurting our home values and our businesses and thus our tax revenues.
Unfortunately, Adelson, Mandel, and Torres gave Schnirman a two-year contract. If Schnirman is fired, the city must pay him his full two years of salary. Make no mistake about it, Adelson, Torres, and Mandel are just as responsible for this debacle. They should have sat Schnirman down in January (before they handed him his contract) and said: what are you doing right now to solve the problems we face, what is your Plan B? They didn’t and they are just as irresponsible as Schnirman.
In 2004, when the Coalition was first elected, we faced a genuine $7.5 million operating general fund deficit. We got to work immediately, cutting costs, working with the unions, and enhancing revenues. Within six months we had a balanced budget, the deficit paid off (without state help), a Moody’s upgrade, and the beginnings of the first budget surplus in years and we did it without raising taxes one cent for the following two years!
Jack Schnirman, Fran Adelson, Len Torres and Scott Mandel put our city in a serious fiscal box. The administration as a whole has failed miserably. The fact is this: the City of Long Beach is worse off today than it was six months ago and it is Schnirman’s, Adelson, Torres, and Mandel's fault.
While Schnirman should resign or be fired for cause, Adelson, Mandel, and Torres should resign from office as well. They violated their oath of office by adopting a annual budget that is critically flawed in that it is not balanced which is required by law. As such, they have violated the law of the City of Long Beach and as a result they too should resign from their positions. They allowed this to happen.