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Friday, December 7, 2012

What Council Did Last Tuesday

There they go again...spending money we don't have and without even getting the details.
Two Really Bad Ideas on Council Agenda Tonight

Two very bad proposals were placed on the agenda that spend money we really don't have and gave authority to the City Manager to spend up to $250,000 without City Council approval.

Earlier this year, City Management hired a consultant, Management Partners, who took exactly one month while we were debating the budget, and were asked to come up with a list of issues that they feel needed to be changed.

One month is nothing to determine what a city needs and the consultants admitted they didn't really know Long Beach. The City spent $80,000 for the one month report and today on a 5-4 vote the council approved an additional $500,000 for a study that had no parameters. (By the way, City Management did not even go out for a bid to see if other consultants could perform this work for less.)

No specifics or details were given to the City Council as to what the consultants would do for $500,000 -- no proposal, no indication of the numbers of hours they would work or when we would see their work. Nothing.

When I asked if the Council would be given the contract to review, the City Manager responded "no." So I voted against the expenditure. I will be damned if I will asked to approved spending $500,000 and I can't see the contract.

What was also very troubling was the fact that as I sat in Council I went on line and found several proposals given by the same consultant to other cities with specifics as to hours, the scope of work and the timeline for completion. But somehow, the City Council in Long Beach could not be given the same information.

Oh, here's the part you will really find interesting. Councilman DeLong spoke and stated: "Isn't it true that Management Partners said it could save the City $28.8 million with their ideas?" Oh, my "yes" was the response and the $500,000 proposal was agreed to on a 5-4 vote. Really? We don't even know what they are going to do for the $500,000 but we know they can save the City $28.8 million? Why not $50 million? Why not $10 million? Amazing because Management Partners didn't promise the other cities it did reports for it could save them that kind of money.

The other motion was to increase the authority of the City Manager to make purchases up to $250,000 without City Council approval. The item was amended to $200,000 but I voted against this bad idea that raised his authority from $100,000.

In this economic situation it is fiscally unwise for a City Council to give authority to spend this level of money without oversight. I asked if any other City in California allowed their City Manager authority up to $200,000 or $250,000 and the answer was "no." I guess we're special. No information on how we are spending money and now we've upped what can be spent without our approval.

I did speak out on both of these bad ideas and pointed out that my constituents have asked repeatedly why in a City this size with the number of managers we have, we continue to hire outside consultants. By increasing the amount the City Manager can spend without our approval he can continue hiring more and more consultants.

Sometimes I think we have gone mad in this City. We don't have enough funds for police and fire, library and parks but yet we can spend $500,000 on consultants. (And almost $1 million on a tunnel design that went nowhere.) Reminds me of the story: The Emperor Has No Clothes -- everyone was so afraid of the emperor that they dare not tell him he was naked. They ooooed and ahhhed and said what a "fine garment you are wearing" instead of stepping up and telling the truth.

Let me know how you feel about these two items by emailing me at:

Gerrie Schipske 

P.S. I  learned that the City spent almost $1 million dollars on a study and design for a tunnel that will not be built between the Police Department and the new courthouse.

Save Station 18

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