With the advent of the Coronavirus, the weakness and short-sightedness of City Hall, and all those who supported the profligate spending are facing a crisis.
In a crisis, we cannot use the same methods as we used before the crisis.
I realize I come from a different time, but the rules of thumb we used made us succeed.
- We don’t purchase anything we do not have the money for. (including getting mortgages, or getting second Trust Deeds)
- We do not obligate ourselves for anything we do not have a GUARANTEED income to fund.
- We do not do fanciful and cosmetic things before we do the structural issues in any project or business.
- We do not hide from facts. We cannot succeed without a clear, concise and fact-based accounting of where we stand, RIGHT NOW.
Basic Economics 101 has been ignored too long in City Hall.
We simply have no time to argue about “agendas” and “policies” which are merely mental exercises and carry about as much weight in the real world as designer clothing (My apologies to Vogue)
The Coronavirus has already affected the City of Long Beach, yet we are plowing down the same path we have been on for years. (It is clear there is no one left who was present during our deep recession of 1991 and 1992) With the advent of coronavirus the economic impacts on this City will be devastating.
- The Port has dropped already 36 to 50% in worker employment, and I predict that will go up.
- The cargo entry into the Port has slowed to a crawl affected by the trade war and now with the virus with mountains of empty containers laying about with no ships to take them back to a quarantined Asia and Pacific Rim.
We are quarantining entire crews on their ships, yet we have no idea how long the virus is active on solid and permeable surfaces. When we “get” this, that will severely impact the whole operation. How long will we be able to send trains or trucks along the Alameda Corridor?
- Our Schools are shuttered, and we really do not know how long they will stay closed. (That will be dependent upon the spread and power of this virus.
- We are told not to go to conventions, large meetings, events, even movies are in doubt.
- We are supposed to be 6 feet away from any other human being for our own safety.
- We are told to stay home from work if we feel poorly.
- Of course, we need to wash hands and keep clean (which one would have hoped everyone was doing already.)
The work force and businesses of Long Beach will be severely impacted, as group settings, personal contacts and social venues scale down and shutter.
This alone will have a tremendous impact upon our local economic stability.
When money stops exchanging hands, the downward spiral will be catastrophic.
Heaven help us as we do not know how long this virus will survive on soft surfaces like the dollar bill.
Already we have seen a plummet of the stock exchange, and although it seems to have rebounded one day, I predict it will fall below levels anyone would have dreamed. That dries up venture capital and real capital backing for businesses and future investments. It also affects the pension funds, and the 401Ks and Roth IRAs of every person who had such funds invested. Whole portfolios will be severely damaged.
We have experienced this in the past, so please listen to those of us who survived intact and helped this City rebuild together.
In a nutshell, those who have real capital in a recession or depression survive and win. Those that have no tangible assets fail.
With the restriction of travel, flights, closing the borders to Asia and Europe, and soon other parts of the globe we will be economically isolated. The United States is dependent upon the rest of the world for most of our small manufactured goods, a great deal of our clothing, steel, other metals, even porcelains and glassware. The Cost of labor in the US is so high that for the past 50 years we have gradually given up our skillsets and our manufacturing to other countries. We take for granted that our consumer power will keep us thriving, but without easy trade, the stocks will diminish, no matter what you want. We are seeing the results in the grocery stores and Costco and Walmart.
Rationing may become a reality.
Yet here we are in Long Beach going about our economic business as usual, with no viable plan for the future. There are those of us in the community who have for years argued against the spending, the huge salaries, the benefit packages, the pensions and the fluff projects of this City.
Perhaps now City Hall will listen.
We must bring to the table the best business minds we have in the City. (I did serve as Chairman of the Council of Business Organizations for this City for years and was part of the Just Five Organization that helped rebuild the City). We must sit down together and chart a path forward which will save us financially and economically. We must prevent poverty and failure from sweeping over this City.
Here are some talking points which I think have to be included:
A: We need an independent fiscal audit of the City to be made public and delivered to City Council not the Mayor or the Manager in order to know where we are spending money, where it is coming from (which may cease) and what our financial situation is. We need to know how much is spent on each individual and each program and each project the Budget supports.
Small Steps Forward. Forgive me if one of these is a pet project or a real desire.
- Stop the 1.5 million-dollar artificial grass field in El Dorado Park. Just let grass grow. (far cheaper and renewable and no plastic, ecologically unfriendly additive to our City.
- Stop the Belmont Pool idea. (It has been rejected by the Coastal Commission) It is only a photo-op for the power elite for the Olympics, which has never made money for any City.
- Put an end to the contract for our 9-million dollar snack shack at Alamitos and Ocean (which only has one worker per day at max there)
- Stop the Belmont Pier project right now. (I know a lot of you want that done, but we must prioritize.)
- Stop the traffic engineer from producing more road diets, meters, and road constrictions. (That money will quickly dry up and although the department head can go back to his 6-bedroom house in Ramona, the City of Long Beach will be left with the wreckage created)
- We must stop the 46% and higher overtime of the Police Department and the Fire Department. (we simply will not be able to afford to pay a $177,000.00 salaried Battalion Chief $402,417.13 per year anymore. I suggest a limiting of overtime to 10% max with approval of City Manager on a monthly cost projection basis. Only a declared State of Emergency for flood, fire, earthquake, corona virus etc. should allow for more overtime.
- We must curtail the inflated salaries of our City Hall Management. We will no longer be able to afford a doubling of the $300.000.00 club. It is clear to any reasonable businessman or woman that we have inflated the management staff of the City to unsustainable proportions. No functioning business would survive 8 middle managers with one worker. I am not anti-anything except willful stupidity and ignorance.
- We must re-write all contracts with all employees to reflect a new financial situation. If no one wants to sit down at the negotiation table, they will wish they had when the City declares Bankruptcy. (Orange County did in the early 1990s) Once bankruptcy happens all previously negotiated agreements are null and void.
- We need to build up essential workforce for survival. The City gave $50,000.00 raises to the heads of the Development Department yet fought our “on the ground workers” for four years over a 2% raise. This is an example of how illogical we are in this City. In a crisis, the boots on the ground are the most important asset you have.
- Elimination of positions which are simply not imperative. (In our businesses we double down on the work and survive. It is time for this City to do the same)
- No more foolish spending on “Complete Streets” “Vision Zero” or any other Agenda without having the financing and the economic impact understood first (not projected) and with a real acceptance of the citizens.
- Remove any manager or any group who were responsible for building a one-bedroom affordable housing unit that cost us $540,000.00 per unit. If that is the result, those persons are not the kind of managers we need.
- Hire social services and health care workers to survive this pandemic. Hire Registry Nurses if we must.
- Add staff to the Health Department and shrink the slush fund rich Development Department for now.
- Cancel all festivals as we are directed to do and take the time to rethink our cost benefit analysis for each of these events. (In many cases the cost of providing security services is greater than compensation) We should also create a real and viable community driven Noise Ordinance right now during this “downtime”. And we cannot afford one more “double speak” explanation about how these events increase possible hotel revenues, when we have exempted the hotels from even paying the tax due
- Stop the demolition of the Old City Hall and the Old Port Building (We may find it is far cheaper to rehab those buildings for transitional housing once it is out of the bag that the earthquake danger threat is exposed was not quite as truthful as everyone thought.
- Restore our 9 Park Rangers and Bring Parks and Rec back into the forefront of funding. As people will cease to join in mass events, we will see an increase in park and beach use. Remove Public Works from any tree maintenance on the median and public areas of the City. They don’t have the expertise and cost far too much for people with no training. (Cost consciousness is important)
- In order to survive this pandemic, the City must certify the beds we have as required by State Law to match the homeless Count. Whether we agree or not with the results of the homeless count (The City now says we have only 1894 homeless.) I believe that we have adequate beds if we count all combined. Once that is authorized, we must use our 8 dedicated police officers to actually pick up the homeless and take them to the Multi-Service Center for the Homeless. (Read my entire blog on Homeless Solutions on my website, Foxforcouncil.com.) I am not in favor of criminalizing poverty, but if homeless people do not want to be helped, or exit the beds and housing we provide, the only common sense thing to do is to enforce our vagrancy laws on the books. This corona virus is a pandemic and that population more than any other will be susceptible to the virus. We realize that handwashing, cleanliness, and social interaction issues are not strong points for the Homeless population of Long Beach particularly if we agree this is a Mental Health Issue and a Substance Abuse issue on top of a Housing Issue. If only for humanitarian reasons we have to get people off the streets, out of the alleys and off the beach. We are all in the same City. Let’s act like it.
I could go on for a long time, but, in essence, what I am calling for is for common sense. If anyone is so beholden to the powers that be, we will not make the right decisions. Everyone in power right now has to set aside their allegiances to outside influences of money and feet on the street.
We have a job to do.
We have a City to safeguard and protect our people.
We are in a Crisis that will create another crisis and doing crisis management has never succeeded.
I hope we will all come together and demand common sense and a pragmatic way forward for all of us and to the benefit of the City and its survival.
I will be putting forward an agenda for a “Just Five” organization, bringing together the best business minds and leaders we have to assist our City leaders in the restructuring and streamlining of our government so that we can supply the needed services for our people in this time of need.