Tag Archives: lb city beat

[UPDATED] Dear Mr. Hennessy, Everything doesn’t have to be a conspiracy!

LB Patch blogger Jim Hennessy just wrote an article called “Councilmember Eileen Googin Uses Taxpayer’s to Fund Her Political Career.” That title basically explains the gist of what Mr. Hennessy is trying to say. Now, I have no idea if he is right or not; I’ve been trying to stay away from the politics in this town, so I’m barely paying attention these days (we also have a lot of other things to worry about, like getting people back in their homes and businesses). But Mr. Hennessy, with all due respect, using taxpayers money to allegedly fund campaigns has been done before:

Read: Election 2011 – The LB CityBeat (A Republican Campaign on your Dime?) Edition

I use the word “allegedly,” but I truly believe what I wrote is true and nobody can take that opinion away from me.

If City Councilwoman Goggin’s brochure came out next October, I’d possibly agree with Mr. Hennessy, but it’s May and elections are still six months away. Nobody is going to remember this brochure come November. The multiple-LB City Beats, on the other hand, were mailed conveniently before last election: October 7th, 2011 (article A) (article B) & November 2nd, 2011 (article). Election was November 8th, 2011.

UPDATE: The only reason why I wrote this blog post is because in my previously mentioned article, a person named Jim Hennessy wrote “Everything doesn’t have to be a conspiracy!” Assuming it’s the same Jim Hennessy, I’m just defending what I wrote and want to apply that same exact comment to Hennessy’s article on Eileen Googin: Everything doesn’t have to be a conspiracy.

(Thanks John for posting SeabytheCity’s link in the comments of the Patch article)

Anxiously waiting for the December issue of LB CityBeat.

The 2011 October issue of the taxpayer-funded LB Citybeat came with no surprise. After all, its been since July when we got the Summer 2011 edition. This Fall 2011 edition was just about due, only it wasn’t called FALL 2011 – instead it was labeled October 2011. There were things about that issue that seemed off; maybe because election time was coming. I questioned the content while fellow-blogger Shaun questioned the Math. Life moved on.

November came along with another issue – November 2011 (again, not FALL 2011). We questioned the content of that issue as well, and the fact that we just got a LB CityBeat the month prior. It surely couldn’t be some political stunt to favor those few up for election, could it? Noooooo. It could only mean one thing: The taxpayer-funded LB CityBeat will no longer be seasonal, but be monthly. YIPPIE!! I love local news!

It is now December and I’m anxiously waiting for the next issue of our taxpayer-funded LB Citybeat. I bet it’s going to be called December 2011 (fingers crossed!!!!!). I cannot wait to see what news it brings. Most of these LB CityBeats have six main topics, so I’m going to gaze into my crystal ball and take a crack at what the December 2011 issue will say:

  1. North Park Flooding Fix – CityBeat usually talks about infrastructure projects & improvements. This project was a biggie, so I can see it in there.
  2. Work continues on the parking malls on E. Park Ave between Long Beach Blvd & Monroe Blvd. Again, more infrastructure talk.
  3. New Fire Hydrants. Again, improved Infrastructure and one of the hydrants was dedicated to a former Fire Chief. Good stuff. Good story.
  4. They usually do a charity or ‘good deed’ article, so maybe something on the Soup Kitchen Thanksgiving Feast. These good deeds keep our city rolling and should be recognized.
  5. Election Results – DUH!! Well obviously!! This is big news around here. The balance of power will be shifting along with a new City Manager and City Council President. It would be a no-brainier to include this in the December 2011 taxpayer-funded LB Citybeat.
  6. Long Beach is broke and needs to take out a 4.5 million dollar loan. Ahh top story, as far as I’m concerned. Of course they’re going to have to write about this because it effects all of us here! But how will they spin it since our City Council members disagree on why we need to borrow this money in the first place. Will the LB CityBeat-folks blame it on Hurricane Irene or will they tell us how our elected officials don’t know how to balance or forecast a budget? Either way, this top story will make all that “Moody’s Bond Rating” gloating seem kinda silly.

The month is young, so there is plenty of time for the December 2011 issue to come. Perhaps Santa will bring it? (A Christmas miracle!!) Or will the LB CityBeat go back to its seasonal schedule. After all, the election is already over, so what’s the point?

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the LB City Beat

(Image courtesy City of Long Beach)

At the beginning of every month, I’m like a little kid on Christmas anticipating the arrival of the LB City Beat. While anxiously waiting since the last edition I wondered if anyone at City Hall read SBC’s series of reactions to the October issue.

Update: Anthony pointed out that LB City Beat prints on an irregular schedule and doesn’t traditionally come out monthly.

In October, I took umbrage with the fact that something was written, printed, and mailed at tax payer expense, amounted to little more than a taxpayer-funded campaign newsletter. I talked about some of the articles while Anthony crunched the numbers.

I hoped, this issue would at least make an attempt and pretend to include all members of the City Council, or just ignore the urge to identify particular council members and take the high road, using the pronoun “the City did ….”.  Again, this newsletter is supposed to list accomplishments of the City as a whole, not particular members of it.

And then I was greeted with November’s issue.  Realistically, all I could do was shake my head and laugh.  They seemingly took my every criticism, and somehow ratcheted up the volume even more.

Instead of highlighting how the articles read like advertisements for how much Mr. Sofield Junior and Ms. Goodman have singularly done for the residents of Long Beach, I’m going to instead focus on another tactic on display here: construction.

The tried and true technique incumbent politicians have used through eons to drum up support before an election is get the the trucks and the work crews out, and have them build or fix something. Whether the official has been in power a year, two years, four years, or a decade, right before the election, they get the workmen to come out and start making all sorts of superficial (and sometimes substantial) improvements across the tow: Filling potholes, curb repair, light posts, planting trees, etc.  These are the sorts of projects that every resident of any municipality will see and acknowledge, so when a voter goes to the booth they say, “wow, they’re really doing so much for us!”

In our case, they’ve done an exemplary job picking the perfect projects to maximize visibility: the boardwalk and parking lots. The boardwalk is self explanatory. Often called the “jewel” of Long Beach, besides those little violent crimes that we’ve all forgotten about, the crews have been out full force over the last two weeks ripping it up and putting it back together. They appear to be doing a bang-up job too. Curious that they’ve decided to begin the overhaul of the boardwalk nearly dead center – at Riverside Ave, as opposed to, say, one end and working towards the other. But then, that wouldn’t get quite the same visibility.

And then there are the parking lots. Park Ave is literally the main drag of Long Beach. Conservatively guessing, I’d say two thirds of all vehicle traffic leaving Long Beach exit via Long Beach Road or the Loop. Every person driving in and out through that route see the construction.  The parking lots east of Long Beach road have been decrepit for a decade. I’m thrilled they are finally getting the overhaul they need. Shockingly, (with cameras ready) the crews showed up and started working weeks before the election, and there’s a big sign. Don’t worry, the symbolic beginning of the project was captured for future generations by a City photographer, and immortalized in the November issue of LB City Beat.

Great: Two new infrastructure improvement projects in the middle of town just started. These are all welcome additions to the City and have sorely been needed.

Picking mid-October to start though? Were these planned to begin earlier but bumped because of Irene or perhaps the Quiksilver Pro? Interesting timing with the winter bearing down on us – especially in light of this year’s early snow. Have major boardwalk rebuild projects traditionally started this close to the winter – or more often during early spring, before the peak summer months?

If all this wasn’t so glaringly a campaign gimmick – without a doubt one that will still benefit the city – I would really have to laugh. The implicit story presented in this “campaign” flier is that the current majority is solely responsible for these projects (and a laundry list more that’s included in the City Beat), and that without the current majority, this frantic construction would somehow not happen.  It’s blatant in the choice of “quotes” and photos used to convey these stories.

This month’s LB City Beat has done a great job of highlighting how much this City has been able to do in just a few weeks.  Now why doesn’t the City operate at this pace of improvement for the other 22 or so months when the City is not afflicted with election fever?

Election 2011 – The LB CityBeat (A Republican Campaign on your Dime?) Edition

The City of Long Beach-produced LB CityBeat usually runs articles like Sewer upgrades or Coming Soon: A dog walk. While scanning through the October 2011 issue (which should be in your mailbox any day now), I noticed something that was somewhat startling because it appeared to be blatantly obvious. I believe the latest issue of LB CityBeat is nothing, but a taxpayer-funded campaign for two Republicans (Thomas R. Sofield, Jr & Mona Goodman) that are up for re-election. Conveniently in your mailbox just weeks before November 8th, it heavily favors these Republican incumbents by overwhelmingly highlighting some of their recent achievements. You can see it for yourself – the numbers I’m about to show you don’t lie.

(Everybody play along with me.) Scan through the current issue of LB Citybeat (October 2011) and you will find the following names with the amount of times mentioned. (The top two are in bold.)

Thomas R. Sofield, Jr  –  9 times
Mona Goodman  –  9 times
John McLaughlin –  1 time
Michael Fagen – 1 time
Len Torres – 1 time
Charles T. Theofan  – 2 times

As you can see, is the magic number here. Sofield and Goodman equally highlighting their achievements, conveniently one month before the election. Sounds like a whole lot of campaigning to me. (Note: Each person automatically gets a ONE due to their names being on the heading. So yeah, you can say 8 is the magic number here.. but you get the idea.)

Now let’s look at the number of quotes per person. I’m counting each quote that is between a set of quotation marks. (The top two are in bold.)

Thomas R. Sofield, Jr  – 6  times
Mona Goodman  –   6 times
John McLaughlin –  zero
Michael Fagen –  zero
Len Torres –  zero
Charles T. Theofan  –  zero

As you can see, is the magic number here. Sofield and Goodman equally highlighting their achievements, conveniently one month before the election. Sounds like a whole lot of campaigning to me.

Ok, now Photo Ops. Here are the amount of times the same list of people are seen in this latest issue. (The top two are in bold)

Thomas R. Sofield, Jr  – 2 times
Mona Goodman  –  3 times
John McLaughlin –  zero
Michael Fagen –  zero
Len Torres –  zero
Charles T. Theofan  –  1 time

See a trend here? I sure do. As far as the actual content is concerned, Sure, the cleanup at the playground was great and yeah the city did a fine job with the Hurricane Irene cleanup. What about the City’s Bond rating? Didn’t we get that news already like three months ago? (see Summer Lb Citybeat) Why waste ink on something that has already been said?  For further “digging” on the City’s Bond rating, check out Shaun’s article: Whacked Out Budget Math from the City Council Majority (How’s Your Cost of Living?)

I wanted to scan the Annual City Budget to figure out how much the Lb CityBeat costs per taxpayer, but those numbers are most likely buried under PRINTING COSTS. Since the City of Long Beach produces and mails us the LB Citybeat, I can only assume that we pay for it. I would love to contact the author of LB Citybeat and ask, but I can’t even do that since there are no byline credits!!

If the author of Lb CityBeat is reading this, can you answer me the following questions: Who are you? Are all the City Council members involved with what is printed in this public newsletter?

The bottom line is this: I believe this issue of LB Citybeat is a campaign that WE paid for and it’s pathetic just how blatantly obvious it is. Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it, besides pointing out the obvious and we would point this out, regardless of what party is involved.

Whacked Out Budget Math from the City Council Majority (How’s Your Cost of Living?)

Tonight, I was thrilled to see the October issue of the LB City Beat was hot off the presses.

The City Council President for the last four years, and City Council member of eight, Thomas Sofield Junior is quoted a number of times in the second of three articles in this issue.  It’s really worth a read.  I’m not sure if it is written by Mr. Sofield himself as there is no byline, but he is quoted throughout and there are no writers’ credits throughout this edition.

The article titled, “Sofield: City maintains a-1 Bond Rating, 0% tax increase,” is a doozy of a read.  It’s full of double-speak and incoherence, and it terrifies me that the City of Long Beach paid money to print thousands of these, and then pay postage to mail them around the City.

First off, the Moody’s stuff about bond ratings was covered during the summer here

Now for the fun with taxes: there’s this gem of contradiction from City Council President Sofield: “Our administration is proud to lessen the tax burden to our residents with no increase in taxes for the fiscal year.”

To break that down:

– Tax burden means how much a person pays in taxes.

– No increase in taxes means taxes stay the same.

Let’s solve this riddle together.  If taxes stay the same, then a person pays the same, not less.  I’m frankly baffled by this statement and have tried to make sense of it over and over.

If a cup of coffee costs 1 dollar, and Dunkin’ Donuts decides not to raise the cost of a cup of coffee, I still pay 1 dollar for my cup of coffee.  Because Dunkin’ Donuts decided not to increase the cost of a cup of coffee does not mean I somehow saved money.  Unless Mr. Sofield somehow misquoted himself or the writer left off a bunch of words, this sentence is just a contradiction at best, and misleading at worst.

And now comes the real whooper that should terrify anyone that lives, rents, or visits Long Beach:

“We are committed to reduce spending while seeking funding through alternative sources as we move forward with infrastructure and other upgrades throughout the City.”

To borrow a phrase used by this City Council President, “in this era of economic uncertainty,” reducing spending means cutting services and programs, pure and simple.  Many will say that savings can be achieved through “efficiencies,” but time and time again that assumption is proven wrong.  What’s easier – firing a few people on a bloated staff on the government pay roll, explaining why you need to can cops, closing a firehouse, or just slashing the entertainment budget, ending City support for the arts, scaling basic maintenance programs, canceling free events, and putting on hold urgent infrastructure projects that are backed-up anyway?

And to the next part of the whooper of a budget boondoggle, I love that we have a new term , “alternative sources.”  “Alternative sources” are fees on your cost of living in Long Beach, and you cannot escape them. These fees are a de facto hidden tax, even if the City Manager wants to deny that. As tax revenue have dipped in the previous years, and this majority has had a staunch opposition to raise any tax (which certainly is based in a principled and understandable stance), the only way to makeup for the shortfall has been an unwavering reliance on fees and cost of living increases.

– Sanitation fees have gone up 50%

– Water fees are up double digits

– Recreation fees went up 40% – what I’m talking about here is if you want to send your child to a Long Beach camp, or use the other services provided by the Rec Center (which was also promised to be replaced), they’ve gone up.

– Beach fees have gone up to in the last few years.  While most residents just get a family pass, when friends visit and you don’t have an extra pass to spare, do you enjoy having to fork over 12 bucks?  That used to be $10, and before that it was less – I remember the $8.50 days.

– Now this is just a guess on my part, but wasnt’t a standard parking ticket normally $25 bucks back in the good old days?  Well, just recently a friend of mine got one of those for $75.  Hiking up police fines is just another defacto tax that the residents have to endure.

And you better believe anything else that can be increased will be increased as the budget shortfalls add up.  The leader of the ruling party just promised you that with this “alternative sources” talk.  Remember all those rainy Sundays this August?  Every time it poured, that meant thousands in losses from beach revenue.  One day doesn’t matter, but a month of them mean there goes that new stretch of boardwalk.  And the way a budget works – that projected income has already been accounted for and spent, whether we actually received it or not.

What’s become the mantra of the ruling party – and seemingly their only rallying call – is that they’ve maintained a “0% tax increase.”  That’s good right?  It’s just not that simple.  And the City Council President’s article, if anything just highlights how that isn’t really honest.  Taxes are one component of cost of living, but clearly, there’s a lot more to the pie.

True statement: The majority party has not raised taxes.

Really true statement: Though taxes have not been raised, every conceivable fee for Long Beach residents has been increased.  While revenues continue to drop, the LBFD and LBPD continue to operate without a contract (meaning when a contract is met, a massive off-budget lump sum payment will have to be made), the 2012 budget required dipping into the rainy day fund to the tune of about $1 million (even with all these jacked-up fees), and promised infrastructure renovations have simply not happened  (like a true boardwalk renovation or the Rec Center overhaul).

And weren’t the final numbers on the FY2011 budget due before the election?  If revenue declines were worse than expected that budget neutral position could easily become a budget shortfall and completely change the fiscal situation this City is in.  You can take a quick look for yourself and see several points in the FY2012 budget where revenue projections had not yet come in where they were expected to (for FY2011).  If those projections from the Spring hold true, the City could be missing a whole lot of money they were literally banking on.  (To play budget analyst yourself, scroll to page “1” titled  “Revenue Summary for th 2011-2012 Fiscal Year” and compare 2010-2011 Original with YTD-6/2/2011.  Those are early indicators of budget shortfalls)

So perhaps, I’ve taken a long way to say: look past all the political rhetoric that’s pouring out of City Hall and decide for yourself if you really think your “burden” has lessen[ed]” over the last few years.

Note: Please correct any of my numbers above if you believe I’m off and if you have an additional example of what you think is a cost of living increase, let me know.

LB CityBeat – Summer 2011

The latest issue of Citybeat (no relation to Teen Beat) should be in your mailbox, but for those who can’t wait, you can view it online. Citybeat Summer 2001 – http://longbeachny.org/vertical/Sites/%7BC3C1054A-3D3A-41B3-8896-814D00B86D2A%7D/uploads/Summer_2011_NEWSLETTER.pdf

Highlights include:

  1.  0% Tax Increase approved by City Council – 100% of the tax payers in Long Beach should be happy about this one.
  2. Dog Run near the skate park.  – Don’t we have a dog run already? It’s called my front lawn.
  3. New street lights (fixtures?) –  Are we talking bulbs or the lamp posts? and if so, will these be the same ones that were installed last summer near E. Broadway & Long Beach Blvd?
  4. New parking mall between Monroe & Long Beach Blvd.  – This needs to be done, but I love the trees at this mall. They’re most likely to be removed since they take up too many parking spots…  I’m also surprised they plan on doing this work now, to be completed in October, since parking is going to be extremely scarce when the Quiksilver Pro rolls into town.