Following his appointment and his address to city employees and constituents Tuesday morning, Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman and the new City Council, consisting of President Fran Adelson, Vice President Len Torres, Michael Fagen, Scott Mandel and John McLaughlin, sat with the press to answer questions in the city manager's office at City Hall. McLaughlin was not present at the meeting due to a prior travel commitment, he said. The first part of this Q&A was posted Wednesday and the second part on Thursday. The following is the third and final part:
Have you seen the independent auditor’s report that was talked about before the transition of administrations?
Schnirman: We’re anxious to see the auditor’s report and we’re anxious to meet with auditors. We’re going to, in the near future, be calling in our auditors, financial advisors as really a war council, so to speak, as part of addressing this fiscal crisis, and we’re going to be asking them for their assessments and for their recommendations and their options.
Fagen: If there is a positive in all this, we’ve got nowhere to go but up. It’s just an exciting thing in some ways because you can finally offer excellence to the citizens of the city.
Schnirman: I would actually exercise a little caution, in that we don’t yet know what we’re going to find, and we hope that the crisis, as we really examine the numbers, that we don’t find worse information. And if we do, we’ll make it public and we’ll address it professionally and we’ll have a corrective action program.
Fagen: The disturbing part of all this is that each day since, Mr. Torres and I finally have access, we’re finding something else. To go into detail wouldn’t be fair until we go into the full analysis. We’re not going to go there ….
We have the right guy. That’s why Jack is here. He’s been through the wars, there’s a united council including John McLaughlin, and we’re focusing on fixing the city. There’s going to be excellence, there’s going to be a plan and there’s going to be a restoration of trust. And those are the things that Lenny and I have been howling about for two years, and now we’ve got willing partners and a real credible city manager to get the task done.
Schnirman: As an observer observing two incumbent councilman, it seemed like they didn’t have the information to be responsible fiscal stewards and it’s disappointing to see, as an observer, that the city announced that we’re not going to make payroll right now if we don’t go out to bond for an anticipation note. So based on that, it’s day one and we’re just going to analyze the numbers and get to the bottom of things and we’re going to go where the truth takes us. And the elephant in the room is that, because of the fiscal crisis that we’ve inherited, we’re going to have to make tough decisions.
What opposition or road blocks do you anticipate?
Fagen: You know what, it’s been remarkable. Jack, Fran, Lenny and I, all we keep hearing from the unions are ‘what can we do to help?’ And that would usually be the first sense a push back. Everyone understands that this city was burned to the ground, and everybody is interested in helping to rebuild it. The unions are willing partners now. We’re all neighbors at the end of the day.
Mandel: I think it’s one of the things that even the unions were shocked at the true fiscal picture that we were left with. So, we’ll all have to see how things unfold to assess how we’re going to deal with it.
Adelson: I think when we found out what happened with Moody’s, that kind of crystallized things and got a lot of people’s attention that we’re not paying attention ... It was kind of like a smack in the face, for lack of better words.
Schnirman: When Moody’s downgrades you to that extent, it’s a back door to a tax increase on borrowing. And that’s what that means. And it’s significant. It’s just something to keep in mind that that costs residents more. There are costs to financial mismanagement. And so we have to find a way to get out from under those costs. The nice thing is that we’re all in this together.
Torres: Just to add to that, I think that as a retired person on a fixed income, a lot of folks are looking up to us for help, and basically whatever that means, whether it’s that we try to keep from having a tax increase, that we look at other ways of being able to run more efficiently, to provide the services that we learned to expect from the city. But we also realize that mismanagement has taken its toll. And I think the unions are ready and the public is ready, ready to save our city.