At their first City Council meeting Tuesday, the new Democrat-majority administration tabled their first and most prominent agenda item, a resolution to declare a fiscal emergency.
The resolution is thought necessary due to combination of insufficient spending controls, no dependable overtime policy, revenues consistently overestimated and a running tab of unbudgeted expenses that all led to according to City Manager Schnirman. The city presented it's findings in a handout at the meeting.
“Do we absolutely need this or can we do without it,” Schnirman asked. “That is what we have to decide in a fiscal crisis. We either do or do not have it in the budget.”
Since his appointment on Jan. 3, Schnirman immediately started to address Long Beach’s spending practices, and seeks to improve them, in part, by bringing greater accountability to the spending and purchasing approval process, establish an overtime policy and bring consistency to personnel issues like hiring and terminations.
The resolution also includes language that would give city manager greater authority to control and veto spending. Resident Eileen Hesh addressed the resolution where it read: “That the City Manager is hereby authorized by the City Council to make any and all amendments … as deemed necessary.”
Hesh wanted to know if this means the City Council waill relinquish all of its powers on such fiscal matters to the city manager. “If you have total power, we voted for the City Council,” Hesh said. “My vote went to them to make those decisions for us because they are the people that know our town.”
Both Schnirman and Council President Fran Adelson, along with Councilman Michael Fagen, said that the resolution doesn't call for such a transfer of authority.
“We would like to have the citizens be very clear on the fact that Council is directing policy and the manager is carrying out policy,” Fagen explained.
Adelson told Patch on Wednesday that the council wants to add more “helpful language to strengthen the resolution, and we are counting on the new comptroller to help the city manager and council with his approach, to improve the budget. We also will be adding some language as to the authority of the council in relationship to the city manager with regards to the resolution.”
After discussing the resolution at length, Fagen introduced a motion to table it for the next meeting on Feb. 7, and the council voted unanimously to postpone the item.
The council also approved an item to change the city charter to require the city manager to move to Long Beach within 90 days of his appointment.
“I felt the past couple of years that the presence of not having the city manager live here was very detrimental for us,” Adelson said. “The city manager will be spending his money here, eating in our restaurants, shopping and paying taxes here.”
Another item that was approved called for Good and Welfare sessions to be held at all City Council meetings. The sessions, which allow residents three minutes to present any government-related concerns to the council, previously were held only at the first meeting of each month.
The council also approved a contract with All-Ways Elevators to service and maintain five passenger elevators. Two elevators are at City Hall, and one each at the Senior Community Center, Ice Arena and Martin Luther King Center.
During Tuesday’s Good and Welfare session, Lucy Centeno, a nurse’s aid who cares for three disabled individuals, passionately told the council: “Under the Americans for Disabilities Act, all places in the city must be accessible to the disabled, and Long Beach is not one of them. It will be a thorn in my side until I see every business handicapped accessible.”
Jane Novorro, a former deputy clerk for the city, took the opportunity during Good and Welfare to look for answers as to why she was let go.
“When I was laid off on January 3rd, I was told that the city was heading a new directon,” Novorro said, as she gave examples of the non-partisan tasks of her position. “… I took the position very seriously, and frankly I have no interest in the back and forth between Democrat and Republican administrations.”
Tuesday's meeting was the first that was live streamed and it drew 209 unique viewers, according to Gordon Tepper, the city's director of online communications. A webcast of the meeting was posted on the city’s website last night, and a podcast will be posted on Wednesday.
* This story was last corrected and updated at 9:56 p.m. on 1.19.12.