Community meeting draws 55 people to Mirage Coffee House

coffee-with-rae.jpgBY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Staff Writer

About 55 residents came to a community meeting hosted by Eighth District Long Beach City Councilwoman Rae Gabelich on Saturday morning at the Mirage Coffee House near the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Bixby Road. While some came to hear updates on projects happening in Bixby Knolls and throughout Gabelich’s district, concern over the city’s $17 million budget deficit was first and foremost on everyone’s minds.
“What concerns me is that (city staff) is telling us that over the next few years we are going to have to cut another $21 million,” Gabelich said. “Where are we going to cut it from?”
During the question-and-answer period, one resident asked how the city could justify the pay raises it granted to a large number of city employees earlier this year, before the budget process began. The councilwoman noted that she did not approve of the pay raises, the sum total of which almost equaled the deficit amount. She acknowledged, however, that the city was faced with serious employee retention and recruitment problems, and without competitive salary and benefits packages the city would continue to lose many of its most trusted and knowledgeable workers.
Mayor Bob Foster spoke for about 30 minutes during the approximately two-hour-long meeting. The mayor took that time to encourage audience members to vote “yes” on Measure I, which would authorize the city to issue $521 million in bonds to finance infrastructure improvements throughout the city. If approved by two thirds of the voters on November 4, the bonds will be paid back by a $120-per-year fee on all residences within Long Beach for about 30 years. Foster’s comments echoed the presentation he made to the Wrigley Association, which was reported in last week’s issue of the Signal Tribune.

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