September 19, 2020

Fourth fire that we know (heard) of at Eldorado Park Nature center (September 18 2020)

Update 10/16/20... So guess where this homeless guy was. Likely right next to the nature center here And with a gun no less. Nice. Here is the story link

Update 9/18/20: We just saw this short snippet in the Post giving a brief description of a fire likely set by homeless once again on Sept 18, 2020. All the story says is below:

"The Long Beach Fire Department extinguished a brush fire at the El Dorado Nature Center Friday afternoon, according to LBFD spokesman Brian Fisk. Fisk said the department responded to the blaze at 1:13 p.m. just west of the San Gabriel River bike path between Willow and Spring streets. The fire burned about 200 square feet of vegetation, said Fisk. Arson investigators were called afterward to investigate the cause of the fire, Fisk said."

We are pretty sure we will never see the arson report. Even if one is ever created (which we doubt) and we were to request it in a public records request we are confident it would not ever be produced. So why bother.

The city leaders have been warned numerous times about the homeless on the river and their propensity to start fires in the adjoining nature center. And LAAG is told all is well and under control. This email was sent 7 days before this latest fire on Sept. 18. So the only conclusions one can draw is that city leaders and dept leaders such as the FD, Parks Dept. Park "Rangers" and City Council are (1) incompetent and cant solve the problem (2) don't care enough to solve the problem or (3) just try to placate residents with BS. A few days after that email below was sent we saw three county vehicles driving toward the fence holes created by the FD in fighting the August 12 2020 fire and were told they were going to fix it that day. Never happened. Eventually there is going to be a fire that wipes out the Nature Center or does serious damage. That will happen as long as the status quo is allowed to exist and political correctness reigns supreme.

UPDATE 9/23/20: Apparently homeless just like to light stuff on fire or are just careless..

Los Angeles County firefighters quickly extinguished a brush fire that started in a homeless encampment near Spring Street and the 405 Freeway in Signal Hill on Tuesday afternoon, officials said. Firefighters rushed to the scene at about 2:18 p.m. with reports of a homeless encampment on fire, a county fire department spokesperson said. No one was injured in the fire and the department is now investigating the cause, they said. The fire caused a brief traffic jam on the 405 Freeway, witnesses reported.  Avoid 405 S in Long Beach, big fire at the Orange exit pic.twitter.com/3KMjcXRapT
 — Mike Guardabascio (@Guardabascio) September 22, 2020


From: Long Beach Accountability Action Group <updates@laag.us>
Date: Fri, Sep 11, 2020 at 12:13 AM
Subject: "homeless problem in Eldorado Nature center is solved" (NOT)
To: Daryl Supernaw Councilman 4th Dist. Long beach <Daryl.Supernaw@longbeach.gov>, District 4th long beach Supernaw <district4@longbeach.gov>
Cc: Stephen Scott | Dep Dir Parks, Rec, and Marine Long beach <Stephen.Scott@longbeach.gov>, BRENT DENNIS Dir of Parks, Recreation and Marine Long beach <brent.dennis@longbeach.gov>

I just want to go on record with my conversation with a bunch of city people and LB FD people on the river trail  just south of Spring st. on Sept. 8 2020. I was told by the FD honcho that the "homeless problem in Eldorado Nature center is solved" (of course no one told the homeless)  I explained that the fence torn down by the FD in the fire 30 days ago is still not fixed. The point is the homeless will go back into the nature center and start another fire. It will happen. For two reasons 1) its not being patrolled adequately as rangers in SUV's can't see everything from the SUV window esp at night 2) all the homeless in the adjacent riverbed. why not go camping in the nature area and cook up some crack out of sight of the "man"? its too easy.

Get the homeless off the river and into shelters. Dont give them a choice like you do now. its a no trespassing area. Boise case does NOT apply.

keep all the fences all around the nature center fixed. patrol that fence monthly. We call that "ridin' fences" in the west. good fences make good neighbors

Long Beach Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Long Beach, CA | A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ | click here to receive LAAG posts by email

September 6, 2020

Why the budget and the budget process is broken in Long Beach California

As there is yet another budget hearing coming up in Long Beach on September 8 2020 we thought we would use our blog post as our comments. Get them into cityclerk@longbeach.gov before noon 9/7/20. Heaven knows these "Citywide Community budget meetings" were a waste of everyone's time.(which we also had to pay city staffers for as we are taxpayers)

 

Long Beach is currently in a budget crisis brought about mainly because of the covid-19 crisis.  Of course it's a double whammy situation where the city spent more money than it had on emergency type services and as a result overpaid for these services (which were under delivered or did not provide much value) For example there were tons of private Labs that were being paid a very costly premium for test results that were being delivered seven and eight days after the test. Anyone that knows anything about testing said that's completely worthless. Any test result delivered after 48 hours should never have been paid for but of course government never demands that kind of accountability from private contractors.


On top of that because of the economic crisis and less sales tax is being generated we have a double whammy.  So now it appears the most local entities are waiting for the state to get a windfall of money from the federal government who of course can print money regardless of its deficit.  State and local governments can't print money but they use other budget shenanigans and tricks to make it look like the budget gets “balanced” every year.


Unlike Lakewood which is mostly a contract City Long Beach tries to provide most services through employees that are employed by the city. This is horrendously cost inefficient because these costs are fixed. Once these people are hired they are basically never fired and you have to pay for their pensions, healthcare vacation and other costs basically as long as they're alive and they are usually very costly employees. The more costly employees are the ones that work in the office and shuffle paper and get very little done in terms of infrastructure and repairs.


In addition there are a number of things that Long Beach claims it has to purchase and it does a very bad job in negotiating good prices. Here are two examples. City spends $372,327 on TWO Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD trucks (2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD start at $34,600) AND $539,331 on TWO CNG-fueled 2021 Freightliner M2112 pothole patch trucks, (LB apparently patches so many streets that we need two new trucks?) Who negotiated these prices for these trucks and why are we buying something NEW that's so expensive right now during a budget crisis? Do we have to have these trucks right now? Are we selling off the used trucks are we trading them in what are we getting for them? These questions are never asked and never presented in the budget or any publicly disseminated documents. As for the pothole trucks no needs were spelled out. Zero. You want them Public Works Dept you got them! No questions asked.


Then you look at outside contracting for services and you have a similar problem. Really no transparency at all in terms of how many hours of time you're getting the hourly rate or bonuses being paid, overhead being paid how many hours of services are you being provided with, what specific tasks are going to be completed etc. Here is a recent example:” a fourth amendment to Contract No. 34265 with West Coast Arborists, Inc., of Anaheim, CA, for as-needed tree trimming services, to extend the term through March 31, 2021, and increase the amount by $3,400,000, for a revised total amount not to exceed $11,340,000. (Citywide)”

 

So taxpayers are paying almost 11.5 million dollars for tree trimming but there's really not much of an indication as to what exactly were going to get for that. Even if you assume that these people are being paid $15 an hour and you do the math that gives us about 59 hours a day of tree trimming assuming 2080 hours per year working time at 8 hours per day 5 days a week. But again this says “as needed” (determined by who?). So that might mean that no trees are being trimmed or half the amount. Again clear as mud.


Contract costs are too high because I assume the city relies on “low bid”. The city should be setting the maximum contract prices with bonuses for early completion. The city should be setting a (realistic low ball) maximum amount for these contracts before the bids ever come in. We also have to assume that there are multiple bids coming in on these projects and I doubt that seriously.  My suspicion is certain favorite companies that contribute to campaigns are invited to submit a bid with a wink knowing that these bids are going to get selected because they're the only bid that's being made.  Again the city should set a maximum price for an amount of service and then provide some sort of incentives for early completion or other types of Contract objectives that can be objectively verified.


With respect to labor provided by city employees of course the picture is much more grim. There really is no way to significantly reduce the costs of employee labor.  This is why City employees should be rarely hired and outside contractors should be used because it's much easier to control costs over time when you have a budget problem. 


The Police Department and the fire department are classic examples of the two costliest groups of city employees. Lawsuit settlements due to police shootings and arrests are not helpful either. These depts are heavily unionized and the unions control all labor activity and contract negotiations.


We were recently told that the city is budgeting $200,000 per police officer. (That does not include the cost of special units K-9 units, bomb units, helicopters all sorts of special Patrol units, management, office staff, vehicle costs etc) Of course the best way to do the math is to take the total police budget of about 264 million and divided by the number of sworn officers which is about 792 which gives you about $333,000 per year per officer. Now to make matters worse because of the BLM protests and other Union Shenanigans we are now in a situation where every car has to have two officers so we've cut the number of cars in half and so we're spending anywhere between $400,000 to $650,000 a year for each police vehicle you see driving around on patrol.  What's even better with police and fire is they tend to start work at age 25 to 26 or later and then they retire at 50 and their retirement income is at least the highest amount they've ever been paid in their lives. That continues on until they die and also includes Healthcare and a bunch of other cost-of-living perks so you can see how this adds up when you're paying for hundreds and hundreds of officers that don't even work for you anymore. And you're paying for them at a much higher rate than you are for officers currently patrolling the streets. Eventually this house of cards is going to collapse.


There are no efficiency studies being done by people that don't curry favor with the unions or with the city. All the efficiency studies are done by the departments themselves or by those individuals that pass muster with the union. Apparently because the fire department is so popular in Long Beach in terms of public polling they basically came back and said we're not cutting our budget at all for 2021…. so take that City Council. The fire department and the police department are probably the least cost-efficient agencies in the city and use up the most tax money. For example the whole privatization of ambulance services in Long Beach has never been realistically looked at. The reason of course is if you do that you will lose union jobs and give jobs to private companies which cost less. With respect to the the police department they're finally starting to get smart and realizing that they have to have more civilian staff to do a lot of the functions within the department that don't require sworn police officers. (de-fund protests no doubt helping that argument) This is just an example of the stupidity and union nonsense involved when trying to get even simple things done like the administrative enforcement Lakewood did with respect to fireworks.


Another budget-busting problem we have is that a relatively small percentage of the payroll of city employees is too low for those that actually hold shovels versus those that shuffle paper and the paper shufflers in the people in the office tend to cost even more money that other low level worker bee employees This is likely the reason why it takes so long for potholes to get filled and sidewalks to get fixed; there's not enough people actually doing the work.


Another problem with the budget is that the airport revenue/fines and the oil revenue, and the port that money is not being allocated wisely. It's typically trapped in a way that keeps it within the particular Department that it comes from. Fix that.


An ongoing problem with infrastructure ( potholes streets sidewalks bike paths trees parks and other sorts of things) is these were all created many years ago when labor was cheap but there were never any budgets created to support the maintenance of these items and the bills are coming due on almost all of these things especially sewers electricity and water supply. The new money is all allocated for all new projects which get federal and state funding but none of that money is ever allocated or can be allocated towards the maintenance of these projects for 20 or 30 years in the future. Bad idea as it leads to where we are now.


The city spends its time chasing objectives of Sacramento. Not enough of our budget is spent on core infrastructure needs. Too much of it is spent on socialism and other pet projects of administrations. The city received budget funding to create “open streets” for covid yet when it did neighborhood surveys no one wanted the streets to be blocked off from vehicles so the children can play in the streets only to be run over by local delivery trucks. But that money comes with strings attached and you have to spend it on things voters dont want. Much of our budget is being allocated to social projects and not for infrastructure and this loss of focus is responsible for the problem with the infrastructure.


The budget process has very little transparency and taxpayers are never given a seat at the table when Union contracts and other issues are negotiated. There are very few people that could take a look at the current 146 page page proposed budget document and make heads or tails of any of these issues raised above and most don't even care to do it. Most rely of course on their city council member to fight for their objectives. And we see how well that has worked out. 


The budget itself is very obscure and does not provide taxpayers with a clear picture of cost increases cost allocations what goes for health care what goes for pensions what goes for office workers what goes for actual people that perform labor for the city. 


Finally we need to stop penalizing departments for not spending all their budget. They need to be rewarded for not spending all their budget on frivolous matters such as new vehicles. Unfortunately many of these things are going to take many years to change.  California as a whole is running out of money and that includes all of their cities. Cities are still allowed to file bankruptcy (states are not) and a number of cities in California have filed bankruptcy including Stockton. In that case the bankruptcy actually helped Stockton to “de-fund” (reduce funding to) their police department and rethink how they look at public safety. "House Democrats included nearly $1 trillion in state and local aid in the relief bill they passed in May, but the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has said he doesn’t want to hand out a “blank check” to pay for what he considers fiscal mismanagement, including the enormous public-pension obligations some states have accrued. There has been little movement in that stalemate lately."


The reason we have a budget problem is the city is using "other people's money" (yours and mine) and they dont give a damn. Their “solution” to all problems is to shovel more money into the trough (Like Measure A...how is that vote tally suit going? ). At the end of the day it's not really their problem they're going to continue to get paid for going to work, continue to get their nearly free health care, and they're going to continue to get their ludicrously costly pensions. Meanwhile city services and infrastructure spending will just crawl to a complete standstill and our city will decay even further. Until people show up at City Hall with “pitchforks and torches” this is not going to change. The only thing that will really make any difference is to elect a majority of the city council to come in from outside city government not feeding from the trough (real outsiders).  They will have to take a hard look from the outside as to how the budget is going to have to work going forward into these very lean years which we are going to be facing for the next 5 to 10 years most likely ( assuming continued fires, floods, climate change, power outages, disasters, earthquakes, pandemics Etc) California is almost in a constant state of emergency now. Long Beach is in the same situation. It's on life support.

 

Long Beach Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Long Beach, CA | A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ | click here to receive LAAG posts by email

August 23, 2020

Vote by Mail (non USPS) ballot drop boxes and other LA County vote by mail info for the November 3 2020 election (specifically 90808 Long Beach info)

UPDATE 10/11/20: Beware of fake drop boxes for ballots at churches no less. See that story here. Only drop into boxes that look like this. Really GOP..really?

UPDATE 10/10/20: We spoke to a county worker collecting ballots at the Heartwell park county ballot drop box located below in the original post. Collections will happen 7 days a week at least once per day thru Nov 3 @ 8pm. So drop away.

UPDATE 10/2/20: Today via US Mail I received my actual ballot. My Fiancee did not. Everything else from the county we get at the same time. Also Jeffrey Pransky | Election Operations Bureau Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk,
finally responded to our questions via email (we did not see this information anywhere on their website so we are providing it below)

LAAG's Questions:

So there are two ways (county system and state system) to track your ballots return to your office. but how do voters know if their ballot is actually counted? The ballot tracking does not tell you that and that's actually more important.

We assume the ballot tracking methods also work if we dot use US mail...that is we drop them off at polling place or in the country drop boxes?
 
Also if voters ballot is not counted will they be notified in enough time to fix the alleged error? Is it possible that they can fix the error after Nov 3 2020?
 
How will voters be notified to make the correction? phone, email or US mail?

Answers from Jeffrey Pransky | Election Operations Bureau:

You will receive a message saying your ballot is on its way when your Vote By Mail packet is delivered to the US Postal Service. Ballots (with the exception of ballots for Military and Overseas voters) which have not yet been mailed to voters.
 
9/24 - Through the State Ballot Tracking system “Where’s My Ballot?” you will receive one of three possible notifications when the ballot is received and processed by our office – this notification will come whether you return it in-person at a vote center, by mail, or by drop box.
 i. Ballot Accepted (meaning we have received and counted your ballot)
 ii. Ballot Rejected (we have received your ballot but it will not be counted)
 iii. Ballot Rejected but Curable (your ballot is currently rejected, but may be counted if we receive more information).

You will be mailed the appropriate form to “cure” your ballot with a postage-paid return envelope. If you do not wish to mail the cure form back, you also have the option of returning it either in-person by Election Day to a Drop Box or Vote Center, or later by fax or email. You may also call our office and we will indicate which form you can download from our website, fill out and return to us. The deadline to return a cure form is November 28, 2020.

UPDATE 9/25/20: today we received via USPS our "official sample ballot" of 32 pages..but don't get excited yet. On the front it says "All registered voters will receive a vote by mail ballot". So this is mostly trash. Also got the 110 page voter information guide 2 days ago. Read that here ...but to get all the full text of all the propositions go here ...very lame they don't point that out clearly. Apparently not enough space in voter booklet to put the full text but for Prop 14.

Original Post:

So everyone can calm down now. Turns out in LA county we don't really need the post office that much to return vote by mail ballots. (post office still needed to get the ballot to you and for those people that cant get to these drop boxes or a polling place)[UPDATE: 9/11/20 the post office just sent this link to us today.] There will be 300+ of these vote by "mail" drop boxes throughout LA county. (And of course you can still walk in and drop off any ballots to any polling place/Vote Center in LA county as well; all the vote center locations and days/hrs of operation map) I happened to see one (picture) in Heartwell Park today located here. It was locked (as of Aug 23 2020) not allowing anything to be deposited. I am assuming that Postal Workers will NOT be collecting ballots from these drop boxes but rather LA County poll workers. Apparently the map of the 300 LA County drop box locations will be made available 30 days before the Nov 3 2020 election. What is not clear when these will be unlocked allowing you to deposit your ballot nor is it clear how often these will be checked for ballots.(I assume they will be unlocked soon after ballots are mailed out or or about Oct 5 2020 and will be checked daily after that date) They will close or last be collected at 8pm on election night Nov 3 (barring some catastrophe). This will be the link (live Oct. 2) to a map with where all the boxes will be located within LA county.

After returning your voted ballot via Drop Box (or by mail or walking it in to a vote center) you can check on line to make sure it was received and tallied through the county's Vote by Mail Status Tool. This tool will be available 30 days prior to Election Day. There is also another method provided by the state of California: Ballottrax. Why there are two methods is unclear. I guess to add more confusion to the already confusing process.

As I was curious (and because this information was not posted anywhere on the web two weeks ago) I asked LA county when the "vote by mail" (and or "absentee") ballots would be mailed out to voters and they told me (via this email VoteByMail@rrcc.lacounty.gov ) that they would be mailed out on Oct. 5, 2020. So If you don't get yours (in the US mail) within a week of that date you better take matters into your own hands and get a ballot. Start here. If you don't receive one in the mail the first thing to do is check to see you are registered to vote in LA County. You can use the state of CA site to see if you are registered to vote in any county and it will tell you which county. The deadline for registering by mail to vote is (postmarked by) Monday, October 19, 2020 You MUST register to vote in LA county in order to be eligible to vote in LA county in the Nov 2020 election.

The deadline to register in person to vote IN PERSON AT A POLLING PLACE in CA is election day Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Conditional voter registration is a safety net for Californians who miss the deadline to register to vote or update their voter registration information. Voters can use the conditional voter registration process from the day after the mail registration deadline (Oct 19, 2020) all the way through Election Day. Finding a polling place (now called "vote centers") is also relatively simple. Just go here after Oct 4 2020. Unlike prior years any LA county resident can vote or register in ANY LA county vote center regardless of your residence location (as long as its in LA county.)

Also this election (Nov 2020) the state will be ensuring that all registered voters in all 58 counties are mailed a "mail in/drop off" ballot (regardless if they were permanent absentee, occasional absentee or some other vote by mail category) This was part of The California Voter’s Choice Act passed in 2016. But for Nov 2020 due to the covid 19 pandemic the timeline was moved up to include all California counties, not just LA county and a few others.

We noted this bit of info that is also helpful with respect to absentee or mail in ballots in CA:

California does not require a copy of your ID in the ballot and a Notary or Witness Signatures on Return Envelope is NOT Required.

As for how Absentee Ballots Are Verified CA elections code 3019 is applicable which in summary says upon receipt of a vote-by-mail ballot, the elections official compares the signature on the identification envelope with either of the following to determine if the signatures compare: (1) The signature appearing on the voter's affidavit of registration or any previous affidavit of registration of the voter. (2) The signature appearing on a form issued by an elections official that contains the voter's signature and that is part of the voter's registration record. If upon conducting the comparison of signatures pursuant to subdivision (a) the elections official determines that the signatures do not compare, the identification envelope shall not be opened and the ballot shall not be counted. The cause of the rejection shall be written on the face of the identification envelope. Voters are given the opportunity to verify their signatures before the election is certified for their ballots to be counted.

Long Beach Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Long Beach, CA | A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ | click here to receive LAAG posts by email

August 13, 2020

Third fire (that we know of) at the Eldorado park nature center August 12 2020

So here we are once again reporting on a fire at the El Dorado nature center on August 12, 2020 (approx 445pm). Pictures here. LB fire tweet here. The fire was in this approx location. When we spoke to the LB Park Ranger on scene blocking the southbound bike path at Spring St. we asked if this fire was due to homeless activity in the nature Center and he said "most likely". The two prior fires were April 3 2019 and June 19 1019 that WE KNOW of and there have most likely been others that were never picked up by the media (like this one). Long Beach city staff and Long beach city council (Mungo and Supernaw; the nature center in Supernaw's district; north of spring St Eldlorado park is in Mungo's dist.) are well aware of the problem (we raised the fencing problem and potential fires in the nature center as far back as Dec 2017 with Mungo and Supernaw as well as city Manager) and we were led to believe that Supernaw's office was going to develop some secret plan with LB Fire dept to fix the issue in the nature center.

The nature center (the restricted area here) is a very problematic area for fires. It is filled with brush and hundreds of very dry trees. It is very hard to access (being a no trespassing area) and in previous larger fires water dropping helicopters had to assist. There are also no hydrants in the area and fences usually have to be cut by the FD to access the area (as was done yesterday) these of course are left unpaired for months on end. So all we need for an out of control fire is lots of dry conditions (8 mo out of the year) and wind. That could cause the entire nature center to go up in smoke. Highly feasible if conditions are right and FD response is delayed to to slow reporting (likely).

So other than complete inaction (ineffectual action) by the city council what are the causes and solutions?

The homeless problem (the criminal element parts of it at least) on SG River and in the area of the nature center is well known. We suspect the LB park rangers and LBPD have been told to leave them alone (based on discussions we have had on this topic with officers). Part of the reason we feel the city takes a "hands off approach" is that not a lot of people (voters) can see the problem on the river and in the nature center as its very well hidden from everyone's view except for the few people who live very close, or walk, run or bike ride on the river path. So the city leaders would just as soon leave the homeless there than chase them over to in a visible are on the street that more voters will see (and demand be fixed).

The city (and county) use the Boise case (Martin v. City of Boise, 902 F. 3d 1031 - Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit 2018) to try to excuse their politically correct stance on the homeless criminal element that are living in NO TRESPASSING areas. The Boise case says nothing about removing people from and keeping people out of no trespassing areas. It simply holds as follows:

"Our holding is a narrow one. Like the Jones panel, "we in no way dictate to the City that it must provide sufficient shelter for the homeless, or allow anyone who wishes to sit, lie, or sleep on the streets... at any time and at any place." Id. at 1138. We hold only that "so long as there is a greater number of homeless individuals in [a jurisdiction] than the number of available beds [in shelters]," the jurisdiction cannot prosecute homeless individuals for "involuntarily sitting, lying, and sleeping in public." Id. That is, as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter."

The city and county will have to commit to keeping all the fencing repaired in that area. They know areas with cut fencing is a sign that homeless are in a no trespassing area but they then refuse to remove them and until removed the fence will keep getting cut. The city and county need to commit to a homeless trespassing removal program and a fencing check/repair program. They likely wont do it. Its not a budget issue its simply an issue of unwillingness to actively solving the problem. Could also be a problem with public unions not wanting to do the work (can never rule out public union pressure when extra work required; public unions are big campaign contributors as well). The other excuse now being thrown around is "covid 19" ..."we cant interact with homeless due to Covid..." (covid is now the generalized excuse for everything in government) Of course Covid did not stop them in interacting with BLM protesters or even in interacting with taxpayers in general.

The other problem as we have discussed before is that when the city or county encounters homeless people in no trespassing areas even if they have beds available (under Boise) they will not force the people to take them and they wont remove them from the no trespassing areas (like the nature center which excludes even taxpayers). This is even true in instances were they know the homeless person is a threat to others (this has been documented) This is an example of how government entities (via their employees) give uneducated voters false interpretations of case law and statutes to excuse inaction (very common with police). Lakewood on the other hand does remove trespassing homeless from the west side of the Carson St. overpass over the SG river. Its amazing to see the difference in approaches to the problem. Same laws. Different interpretations.

So until voter pressure forces the city council to do its job the fires will continue. Lets hope the city wises up before the entire nature center is lost to a fire. It will take years to recover from that as nothing will be done to fix it once it burns down.

As an addendum to this story above this is an interesting note on the Azusa ranch fire This was initially reported to us by one of our loyal readers after hearing it on KFI radio... "It was reported about 2:45 p.m. near North San Gabriel Canyon Road and North Ranch Road, according to the Azusa Police Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which called in a second-alarm response. At least two residents said the fire began after a fight between two people at a homeless encampment in the river bed area.

"They were arguing over a bike," said resident Jimmy Pockets. "Things got escalated to where the fire started. It took off so quick."...Fire officials have not determined a cause..." Given where the fire started this seems highly plausible.

Update: A witness who lives in a riverbed near Mountain Cove told NBC4 an argument between two homeless men sparked the fire."There were two gentlemen in the back (of a homeless encampment) fighting and they were arguing over a bike and one guy said he'd burn the other guy out, and things got escalated to where the fire started," evacuee Jimmy Pockets told the station. "Ran over to try to put it out but it just took off so quick."

Long Beach Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Long Beach, CA | A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ | click here to receive LAAG posts by email

January 5, 2020

Written Comments in Lieu of Public Comments at City Council meeting Jan 7 2020 Agenda item: 20-0019 2020 Affordable Housing Assessment



Long Beach City Council
Stacy Mungo (5th Dist) district5@longbeach.gov, stacy.mungo@longbeach.gov
The Mayor  mayor@longbeach.gov
City Manager  CityManager@longbeach.gov, Tom.Modica@longbeach.gov
City Clerk  CityClerk@longbeach.gov

Date submitted: January 5, 2020

Re:      Written Comments in Lieu of Public Comments at City Council meeting
            Meeting Date: Jan 7, 2020
            Agenda item: 20-0019  2020 Affordable Housing Assessment

Dear City Council and Mayor:

Due to the fact that my time is valuable and public comments were limited to 90 seconds by the council in August 2019 I am submitting my written comments below regarding the above matter to be inserted into the written record as if made in person at the meeting.

This proposed tax and related ballot measure is totally unacceptable. Property taxes go up yearly, as do the direct assessments and the “voted indebtedness” and on top of that Proposition 13 may soon be abolished in the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has put $500 million into his January 2020 budget proposal to shore up financially struggling board and care homes. https://ktla.com/2019/12/31/500m-from-gov-newsoms-ca-budget-could-keep-l-a-s-most-vulnerable-from-becoming-homeless/

Homeless issues are issues that are statewide and the budget pain needs to be shared by all statewide. We can’t have a tax just on property tax in one city. As this is a statewide issue this needs to be paid for by everyone in the state. NOT just property owners. Otherwise this is sure to pass as renters will see this as no cost to them. Use “other people’s money” to solve my perceived problems.

We also have the county wide measure HHH passed in Nov 2016 and now the expenditure of that money is already being scrutinized as likely wasted. https://laist.com/2019/10/08/prop_hhh_homeless_housing_audit.php
County officials also estimated the average property tax rate required to repay these HHH bonds to be $9.64 per $100,000 in assessed property value It is not clear at all what percentage of those HHH funds are provided to Long beach each year (for Long Beach to spend as it wishes) or what percentage of those finds are spent on or in Long beach each year with respect to the homeless.

LA City also passed its own separate Measure H in March 2016 (authorizing a 0.25 percent county sales tax for 10 years in order to fund homeless services and prevention.) just before HHH was passed. Again same effect. 

There is no accounting of all the NGO, Federal, State and county money currently spent or directed to the city of LB that impact homeless, drug addicted etc. There is also no accounting as to what Long Beach’s current level of spending it on these and related issues. This needs to be clearly presented to taxpayers. No mention of it in the memo from Councilmember Rex Richardson, or any staff report. And Im sure it will not mentioned clearly in the ballot measure as government entities do all they can to obfuscate the real costs to taxpayers in these bond measures.

We can’t force people to take free housing. Even when we do they can’t stay in it. See LA Times article  https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-12-29/street-within-broadway-place-homeless-los-angeles  This is really not a housing issue. It’s a crime/bail issue (helped along with things like proposition 47). It’s a mental illness problem. (see proposition 63) It’s lack of healthcare. It s drug problem. It’s a human nature problem. Some people clearly like living on the river bed and other places as they have all been offered help and housing by the city numerous times and refused it (that’s why I’m told the city “won’t” “move” them from their tents). Why? They don’t want to follow rules. This just goes on and on.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/09/12/why-california-keeps-making-homelessness-worse/#60a587825a61  A tax or bond in Long Beach will do NOTHING but make existing fixed income homeowners more unable to stay in their homes or perform upgrades to their homes.

Half our (general fund) budget now is for police. Half!! So that roughly $557 million dollars each year is really spent on homeless when you think about it. So we need to put more onus on the police to dial in this problem.

As I recall LB was not even part of the Supreme court amicus challenge to Martin v. City of Boise, 902 F. 3d 1031 - Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit 2018. https://www.lbreport.com/news/sept19/martin2.htm  Either way it does not matter. You are over extending the holding of the case and using it to defend non police action in all circumstances. You are also using it as an excuse to build very costly free homes for homeless people. https://www.lbreport.com/news/dec19/boiseprice.htm

The law that was attacked by the ACLU in Boise was an “anti camping” law. That is all it addressed. The holding was narrow. Its states in full:

“Our holding is a narrow one. … "we in no way dictate to the City that it must provide sufficient shelter for the homeless, or allow anyone who wishes to sit, lie, or sleep on the streets... at any time and at any place." Id. at 1138. We hold only that "so long as there is a greater number of homeless individuals in [a jurisdiction] than the number of available beds [in shelters]," the jurisdiction cannot prosecute homeless individuals for "involuntarily sitting, lying, and sleeping in public.”  Martin v. City of Boise, 902 F. 3d 1031, 1049.

It does not say "no trespassing" signs cannot be enforced in areas where humans should not be like in the Eldorado nature center or under bridges crossing the river where we have public safety issues. Re do the signs like Lakewood did here at Carson St. and SG River  https://photos.app.goo.gl/dgZaJc7cN2ACRvSB7  The Boise case does not say you cant arrest or cite or move people due to other crimes like drugs or theft. Its specifically says you can. Also the informal policy of leaving people in posted “no trespassing” areas if they don’t want to go to an available bed is a failed policy. How can that ever work? What constitutes a "bed" under case law? A 500k home or a tent in a lot? No trespassing means NO trespassing by ANYONE homeless or not. This is why the fires were started by the homeless in the nature center. No trespassing laws were NOT enforced with predictable results.

Since Long Beach failed to get the Boise case taken up by Supreme court just create a new case with news fact that the ACLU can loose!. Start rousting people in trespassing areas and let the ACLU sue again then you can revisit the limited ruling in the Boise case. Stop being so passive. We will never have enough beds in LA county to solve this problem. Ever.

Look at how Utah avoided running afoul of the Boise case: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-12-22/homeless-salt-lake-city-utah-shelter

This is a bottomless pit. It’s a regional and statewide issue. The more money LB gives out the more homeless will come to Long Beach. This is documented. Its that simple. In the years since Measure HHH and H have passed homelessness has increased. I think you have a cause and effect problem. But if your goal is to add more city employees to the payroll (Richardson’s memo says at p. 3: “It would also likely require significant additional investment in staffing and programs to effectively manage the resulting expanded affordable housing program”) and reward NGO campaign contributors them by all means add more taxes onto the backs for struggling homeowners. The exodus from CA is starting to become apparent and is going accelerate for the next 20 years. That’s for sure. The middle class will be gone. It will be elites, high income people, overpaid government workers and homeless or zero income (read not paying taxes) people.

Speaking of homelessness and NGO’s Katie Hill the U.S. Representative for California's 25th congressional district from January to November 2019, was the former executive director of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH). Word on the street is that Hill was making 150k a year at PATH where she made the contacts to get her seat. PATH pays 52% of the (tax) money it gets as payroll. This is at the heart of the problem with homeless funding. Its an emorphoes problem with many causes and many solutions. Exactly the kind of problem where money is thrown at it wil very little success. Just look at PATH as an example. https://www.guidestar.org/profile/95-3950196 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katie_Hill_(politician)

I am also attaching a copy of the entire thread (226 comments as of today) on this subject from nextdoor.com regarding this issue and as you can see all of the comments were negative. The direct link to the thread (login required) is https://nextdoor.com/news_feed/?post=133260938&comment=325958381

Please vote against adding this Affordable Housing Assessment to the ballot.

Signed:

5th District Property Owner
Registered Voter
Taxpayer

Cc: mail@LBreport.com, editor@gazettes.com


Long Beach Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Long Beach, CA | A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ | click here to receive LAAG posts by email

June 19, 2019

After a seond fire on June 19 2019 at the ElDorado nature center, the time for city and county officials to act has arrived



At about 5:30 this afternoon as I was headed southbound on the San Gabriel River bike path. I  noticed smoke in the area of the Eldorado Park nature center and I said to myself this could not possibly be another fire in the nature center as we just had one on April 3rd 2019 That fire was located here


As I got closer I entered the nature center and saw Long Beach Park Police driving around in their SUVs trying to figure out how to get closer to the fire. I could hear sirens in the distance of the fire trucks trying to locate the fire and how to get closest to it as it was not very accessible. They eventually did locate it and it was in the section of the park where people are not allowed to go near the off-ramp from the southbound 605 freeway to westbound Willow Street. This map shows the location of the June 19th fire to the east of the April 3 fire (about 1500 feet apart). The photos and video here show where the fire trucks are parked to fight the fire. As you can see its far enough away from the freeway that it was not likely caused by any motorist. So we concluded it was likely set by a vagrant as the one on April 3 likely was. LBPD did not catch any suspects who were likely long gone by the time they got on the scene.


Just before leaving the house today I had sent another email to Stacy Mungo's office along with Pat West and the county (see below) explaining to them that the fence along the San Gabriel River which prohibits vagrants from getting into the unoccupied sections or restricted sections of the nature center was still down in about five places where the fire department (and vagrants before them) had cut it down to fight the fire. I also saw over the last few weeks new trash in that area since the April 3rd fire and its seemed likely to me that vagrants were still going into the parts of the nature center that are prohibited to enter


The County of Los Angeles also did one of their infamous river sweeps on May 27th to try to “clean up” the vagrant problem and their “byproducts” along the river which of course is bleeding over into the El Dorado nature center, which gives them cover from the authorities


The problem is you can see from the emails is that the system that the county and Long Beach is using to deal with homeless in this particular area is not working because the drug addicted or mentally ill vagrants often refuse treatment because they do not want to be restricted in any way in their housing situation and prefer to make it on their own out on the river or in the nature center where they can start fires to cook drugs or food and sort of live out in nature sort of like in the middle of a forest.


Obviously this practice of allowing the vagrants to stay under the bridges and living in the nature center is not working and we need to have a new approach. This is not really a "homeless" problem per se it's more of a vagrant drug user petty crime problem. The homeless word is just a label masking a multifaceted causation issue and in a way is preventing realistic solutions.


That new approach needs to be that if these vagrants in these heavily restricted areas that involve public safety issues such as bridges, the nature center places (where fires can break out and are hard to reach and extinguish) and where there are oil and gas pipelines over the river attached to these bridges, refuse assistance or treatment they will have to be told that if they do refuse they're going to have to move their camp to some other place where they can be watched more closely. We cannot allow them to remain in these areas where they can create costly damage and possibly catastrophic damage.


This is the problem with the nature center there is no way for anyone to see what is going on in that thickly wooded area normal people are not allowed to go into. Same with living under freeway bridges or roadway bridges. No one can see the activity under those bridges except the occasional cyclist that happens to drive under that bridge on his bike. Those vagrants are not seen by police and they are not seen by helicopters and they are not seen by residents or motorists passing by. They are invisible 24 hours a day to do whatever they want with our infrastructure and our natural wooded areas like the nature center. Start fires, damage the infrastructure with all the tools they have (we know many have bolt cutters to cut fences and locks and gain access to non permitted areas)


Common sense says that it's one thing to have a vagrant on a sidewalk it's another thing to have a vagrant or numerous vagrants living inside a thickly wooded area that is very difficult for firefighters to reach and even more difficult for them to put out these fires because there is no nearby water for them to use other than the river. Which is why today they had to again use a water dropping helicopter. This is the same problem with the homeless living on the San Gabriel and LA Rivers where numerous natural gas and oil pipelines cross within a few feet of their encampments. If a fire were to happen in those encampments a short distance from those oil and gas pipelines that could be catastrophic results for human life and people traveling over those bridges every day.


We suspect that the reason the vagrants are allowed (by the city and county) to stay in the non visible yet restricted areas is that voters don't see them and so feel there is less of a problem. Out of sight out of mind.

"L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn admits finding the right office to call can be frustrating for people looking to report homeless problems. With the county allotting $460 million this year to homelessness-related programs, Hahn says the resources are there to get more people off the street. "What I want to see happen is more of our homeless outreach workers traversing the county of Los Angeles on a daily basis and finding people before someone has to call," Hahn said." Quote from this June 2019 article.


The homeless response situation as it's currently set up needs to change and it needs to change now. This is the second fire we've had in 2 months and it's at least the fifth fire that we've had on the San Gabriel River that is likely been started by vagrants. These last two just happened to be the most visible.


Emails sent today by LAAG just before the fire started:

From: Long Beach Accountability Action Group <updates@laag.us>
Date: Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 4:27 PM
Subject: Re: SGR river sweep on 5/21
To: Herlinda Chico | Hahn 4th dist LA Co Field Deputy <HChico@lacbos.org>, Hahn 4th dist LA county general email <fourthdistrict@bos.lacounty.gov>, Chris Stone, Asst. Deputy Dir LA Co DPW <cstone@dpw.lacounty.gov>, Rich Armond | LBPD East Division Quality of Life Unit <richard.armond@longbeach.gov>


Herlinda:

The 5/21 sweep was delayed to 5/27. Almost impossible to notice that it occurred. I dont see any homeless folks "gone" from Carson st to the ocean along the bike path as a result of the sweep. Some of their "trash" was taken out but that was it. Ill just assume that all "refused" "help" and were then told to have a nice day trespassing/defacing/trashing county property. We are going to need to start twisting arms when they refuse or apply some sort of consequence. All carrots wont work apparently. But the 125 beds in LB wont help either. drop in the bucket.

I dont want to tell you how pissed off people are on nextdoor.com since the so-called "river sweep". you know that. And no they are not all crazies. Most just concerned homeowners that fear encroachment of more homeless spilling out of the river.

So I hope we can increase the frequency and effectiveness of the sweeps in the near future
From: Long Beach Accountability Action Group <updates@laag.us>
Date: Wed, Jun 19, 2019 at 4:50 PM
Subject: Re: SGR river sweep on 5/21
To: Herlinda Chico | Hahn 4th dist LA Co Field Deputy <HChico@lacbos.org>, Hahn 4th dist LA county general email <fourthdistrict@bos.lacounty.gov>, Chris Stone, Asst. Deputy Dir LA Co DPW <cstone@dpw.lacounty.gov>, Stacy Mungo Councilwoman City of Long Beach, 5th District <stacy.mungo@longbeach.gov>, Pat West LB city Mgr <patrick.west@longbeach.gov>

Herlinda:

One more point. In the 5/27 sweep no one fixed the fences along the east side of the river (which I was lead to believe was part of the sweep process). Who has fence fixing responsibility from carson to ocean on the east side of river boundary.? The county or LB or both. That fence needs to be checked weekly. the LB nature center fence still down in about 5 places since fire on april 3 2019  Amazing.   That fence being down was the reason the fire got started to begin with  https://photos.app.goo.gl/1XnnES9e2gwy2KKg9


Long Beach Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Long Beach, CA | A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™ | click here to receive LAAG posts by email