The Long Beach City Council spoke about many important city updates at Tuesday’s meeting including the 2020 budget, the Equity Toolkit and street sweeping citations.
Long Beach’s 2020 Budget
Going forward, councilmembers will have to be more conservative with their budget choices as the city’s general fund faces a shortage of $14 to $22 million due to coronavirus-related losses.
Other departments, like the Tidelands Operating Fund, face losses of $6 million in oil revenue and the Airport Fund is facing losses of $10 million due to COVID-19. The overall preliminary impact to total funds in just five areas is $38 to $44 million.
City Manager Tom Modica is cushioning the blow by evaluating the suspension of certain one-time funds and projects, reducing costs that are nonessential and delaying certain staffing hires.
“We will certainly spend whatever we need to spend to address the pandemic,” said John Gross, director of financial management. “ [The] bottom line is that the pandemic has had a significant and severe impact on our finances.”
The projections in the update will be updated as more information becomes available.
“The situation with the pandemic is constantly changing and currently appears to be having a worse and potentially longer economic impact than anticipated at the beginning of the pandemic in the United States, when a significant part of the assumptions for this analysis were made,” the document states. “The resulting financial impact for FY 20 is substantial and will likely also impact future years, especially if there is a resulting economic slowdown.”
Gross said the city may have to dip into its operating funds and emergency reserves at the end of the year.
Health Equity Toolkit
During the same meeting, councilmembers approved a future presentation on the Equity Toolkit and the addition of a healthy equity lens statement on all future agenda items related to COVID-19.
“So when we have items brought forward, we all have a shared understanding of the toolkit and how we can use it to draft policy,” Councilmember Jeannine Pearce said. “We can use it to ask questions as we are drafting policy and giving staff direction, as well as how we are crafting our budget. I think it’s a particularly important time to do that.”
The items come in the midst of COVID-19 related health inequities. Councilmember Al Austin pointed out that 55% of those hospitalized in Long Beach are African American or Latinx.
Other councilmembers echoed support for the health equity lens statement.
“It is becoming more and more apparent that the impacts of this pandemic aren’t spreading evenly amongst our community,” Councilmember Mary Zendejas said. “This step in doing this is to make sure that we’re aware of, and mindful, of these issues in our conversations about COVID-19.”
Christine Petit is the executive director of Long Beach Forward, a group assisting low-income communities of color in Long Beach. She wrote to the council in support of the health equity lens statement.
“In order for our city to make strides toward redressing the inequities that have been created through racist policy throughout our history we must be proactive in our creation and assessment of policy,” Petit wrote. “When it comes to equity, we must strive to bake it into all that we do rather than trying to sprinkle it on top.”
Street sweeping citations
City councilmembers approved a recommendation to reinstate citywide street sweeping on May 18, the Monday after the stay-at-home order is lifted.
Vehicles parked in street sweeping areas will be given warnings starting on May 4, two weeks before citations resume.
“I heard from a social media comment regarding, ‘The city wants to get their money, the parking tickets,’” Councilmember Al Austin said. “This has less to do with revenue from parking tickets and more to do with public health and our ability to clean our streets.”
Street sweeping citations have been suspended for a little over a month now. The city first suspended parking tickets on March 17, two days before the stay-at-home order began.
“People are now not moving their cars,” Beck said. “In the beginning, we did see people would move their cars on their designated street sweeping day, but now that is not happening.”
Councilmember Stacy Mungo said she had been approached by residents who want street sweeping to resume. She also pointed out that there had been an increase in mosquitoes in her district.
For areas that may still be parking-impacted, the city has organized 4307 free parking spaces in lots across the city, 1200 of which are being used.
Councilmember Jeannine Pearce said some of these lots are far from residential areas, deterring residents from using them.
She proposed that the city suspend meter fees on street sweeping days, but the item would have to come forward as an agenda item in a future meeting.
Councilmember Mary Zendejas proposed cutting the citation fee in half, from $70 to $45. This option would require a change to the city’s fee schedule and would also have to come forward in a future meeting.
Councilmember Daryl Supernaw pointed out that half of his district has the lowest population density in the city, while the other half is the most population-dense. His district was only designated one free parking lot, though in the end, he agreed to support the parking warnings.
Councilman Roberto Uranga was hesitant to agree to the recommendation given the uncertainty of the end date of the stay-at-home order.
Although the city’s stay-at-home order ends on May 16, the State of California has not announced an end date.
“At the end of the day, one size doesn’t fit all. We want to warn people,” Uranga said. “What happens if, for some reason, and we know what the reason is, we have to extend?”
Councilmembers were assured that they could amend the citation implementation date if the citywide stay-at-home order was extended.
In the end, councilmembers voted unanimously to give parking warnings two weeks before citations are reinstated on May 18. The warnings will come in the form of a flyer and include information about free parking spaces, the environmental impact of street sweeping and the date when citations will commence.
Upon Uranga’s recommendation, the flyers will also include information in Long Beach’s most common languages: Spanish, Khmer and Tagalog.
The next Long Beach City Council meeting will be held May 5 via videoconference.