Councilmembers open dialogue between residents and city employees

<strong>Eighth District Councilmember Rae Gabelich (far left) thanks residents for attending the second North Long Beach Community Assembly. Several neighborhood groups were represented, giving residents a chance to get involved with the community.</strong>

Athena Mekis
Staff Writer

A bottom-up approach was used at the second North Long Beach Community Assembly Oct. 22 as residents and city employees discussed recent accomplishments and possible solutions to city plights.
Eighth District Councilmember Rae Gabelich and 9th District Councilmember Steven Neal hosted the assembly at Dooley Elementary School, presenting speakers from the Long Beach Police Department, the Redevelopment Agency, Animal Care Services and several neighborhood associations.

North Long Beach Police Dept.­

North Patrol Commander Galen Carroll of the Long Beach Police Department informed residents of the fiscal resolutions the City has decided for the police department. He called the two main decisions to decrease officers and increase parolees a “perfect storm.”
The City of Long Beach will not be hiring any new police officers for the next fiscal year. The employee reduction will occur through attrition, the natural occurrence of staff moving or retiring, to avoid layoffs. According to the State of California website, beginning Oct. 1, “non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offenders” whose sentences are less than three years will not be sent to state prisons. Instead, they will serve their sentences in county jails. As the Los Angeles County Jail cannot house this influx of inmates, many non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offenders will be placed on parole.
“There are 15,000 parolees now,” Carroll said. “When the current county inmates are released, there will be an estimate 28,000 parolees.”
In response to this information, Eileen Oien, president of the Saint Francis Neighborhood Association, gave her input about developing community groups and programs that would assist parolees from further partaking in criminal activity.
On a positive note, gang enforcement officer Chris Zamora shared good news with the residents about the newly revamped injunction process, which is a system that allows police officers to keep track of individuals who have been charged with gang activity. Those served with an injunction are not allowed to drink alcohol in public or associate with other known gang members, Zamora said.
He shared several success stories, including one in which a gang member thanked Zamora for the injunction because the gang member had an excuse not to attend gang meetings.
There were many questions for Zamora, but one gave him a smile. After being asked how long the injunction will exist as law, he responded, “The injunction will last as long as there is a gang problem.”
As many states continue to cut police department funding, Carroll urged residents: “When it comes to budget time, let your council know how important public safety is to you.”

North Long Beach Redevelopment Agency

Tony Foster, North Project officer for the Redevelopment Agency (RDA), discussed current and completed redevelopment projects in North Long Beach such as the streetscape project from Del Amo Boulevard to 56th Street, which is “on time and under budget.” With the $500,000 saved, the North Long Beach division of the RDA will put plants in parking lots, improve sidewalks, build wheelchair-accessible ramps and continue making façade improvements.
Since July 2011, the California Redevelopment Association, which represents all California RDAs, has been in litigation over the constitutionality of the state’s plan to eliminate RDAs unless they agree to pay $1.7 billion for Fiscal Year 2011-12 and $400 million in subsequent budget years, according to the California Redevelopment Association website. The court agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis to reach a decision before Jan. 15, 2012, when the first payments under AB 1x 27 would be due. Therefore, there will be no new projects, but those that began before the litigation will continue. (To see redevelopment projects being completed in Long Beach today, visit LongBeachRDA.org.)

Animal Care Services

John Keisler, acting manager for Animal Care Services, informed residents of steps his department has taken to improve life for both citizens and domestic animals.
The main issue for Animal Care Services has been feral cats, which are the offspring of stray cats who have never had owners and fear or resist contact with people, according to the California Food and Agricultural Code.
“There were 14,000 feral cats in 2008. There are 32,000 today,” Keisler said.
One resident expressed his frustration with feral cats in his alleyway. He said he wanted to trap them, which Keisler told him is legal on his own property, but that the cats must be taken to a shelter immediately.
In recent years, Animal Care Services has passed leash, license, spay/neuter (cats only) and feces laws. They have also made business deals with veterinarians to encourage the vaccination of cats and dogs to combat rabies.

Upcoming community events
The city traffic engineer, who has conducted a traffic-control pilot program that restricts traffic on Linden Avenue, will conduct a community meeting during which the public is welcome to ask questions and provide feedback. The meeting will take place on Thursday, Nov. 3 from 6:30pm to 8pm at the Expo building, 4321 Atlantic Ave.
The 15th annual Long Beach Veterans Day Parade will take place Saturday, Nov. 5 at 10am. The parade route will go down Atlantic Avenue, Harding Street and 56th Street. For more information, call Pageantry Productions at (562) 618-5558 or visit lbveteransdayparade.com.
The North Long Beach Community Action Group will present Commander Galen Carroll on Sunday, Nov. 6 from 2pm to 4pm at the North Long Beach Police Substation. The meeting will be open to the public. Contact Dan Pressburg at (562) 428-7710 or nlbcag@gmail.com.
Ninth District Councilmember Steven Neal and several Long Beach businesses and organizations are sponsoring the Getting Back to Work: Summit on Job Creation in Long Beach at Hotel Maya Saturday, Nov. 12 at 12:30pm with keynote speaker Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, D.C. To reserve a seat, call (562) 570-6137 or email district9@longbeach.gov.

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