By Nick Diamantides
Another well attended “community coffee” proved once again that North Long Beach residents are interested in communicating with elected officials on issues pertaining to their neighborhoods. The “coffees” are informal public meetings conducted by 8th District City Councilwoman Rae Gabelich once every two months in different venues. The recent meeting, attended by about 40 people, took place at Avila’s El Ranchito Restaurant at 5345 Long Beach Boulevard.
Gabelich began by asking residents to attend the March 10 city council meeting to make their views known on how the city should allocate the approximately $12 million it has earmarked for street repairs. During its February 3 meeting, the council voted 7–1 to deny any of that money to the 8th District because of money the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency was spending to repave Atlantic Avenue.
Gabelich noted that the Atlantic Avenue repaving was part of the RDA’s efforts to revitalize the Atlantic Avenue business corridor, but many residential streets in the 8th District also needed significant repairs. She asked residents to attend the March 10 meeting during which the council will reconsider how the street improvement funds are allocated.
Turning to another hot item, Gabelich reminded the audience that the city is facing a $20-million budget shortfall this year and an additional $37 million deficit over the next two years. “This will mean we will have to make some painful cuts. There will be no way around it,” she said. “We are also implementing furloughs for city employees, meaning that City Hall and other services will probably be closed the last Friday of the month from May through September and probably additional furlough days in the next fiscal year, which starts in October.”
Again Gabelich reminded audience members that their input is important and she urged them to make sure the city focuses on core services.
Gabelich also invited the crowd at El Ranchito to attend four upcoming events: The Centennial Gala for the Long Beach Band at the Long Beach Convention Center on March 14; Jazz the Ides of March, starting at 4pm at the Expo Furniture Building on Atlantic Avenue on March 15; a community meeting to discuss the future of Scherer Park at the North Division Police Station at 6:30pm on March 18; and the meeting of the North Long Beach Community Action Group at the North Division Police Station at 2pm on April 5.
Long Beach Police Sergeant Steven Petersen was at El Ranchito too. He told the attendees that North Division police have increased their success rate in the arrest of burglary suspects in the past few months because of the department’s recent decentralization of detectives. Petersen noted that, under the new system, detectives are able to initiate investigations of crimes committed in the division’s area on the same day that the crime is reported.
Petersen added that daytime bicycle police units will soon be patrolling in the north area and segue units will be added as well. He explained that officers on bikes or segues are better able to get close to suspicious scenes and people.
During the question-and-answer period, residents asked what they can do about suspicious-looking door-to-door solicitors that might be planning future burglaries. “Anytime you see something like that, give us a call,” Petersen said. “It’s up to us to determine whether they are actually selling something or planning criminal activity. If you call, we will send a patrol officer out to talk to the people who are knocking on doors.”
After Petersen spoke, Moe Ashley, a local resident, described a situation in which a telephone caller tried to scam her parents out of several thousand dollars. The caller pretended to be their grandson and told them he was in trouble in Canada and needed them to send money right away. She added that her parents were not fooled by the ruse.
Then another resident, Rita Borja, gave a three-minute presentation praising the city and the police department for the many good things they do, but also calling attention to problems that need to be solved in North Long Beach. Borja noted that big-rig trucks parking on Long Beach Boulevard present a hazard and create blight in the area. She added that illegal garage conversions and fences exceeding the four-foot height limit should not be tolerated.
The meeting closed with Gabelich receiving questions and comments from the participants. Residents voiced concerns on a variety of issues including graffiti, sidewalks and streets in need of repair, barking dogs, and motorists who ignore stop signs.