Wondering how many people attend the special events West Hollywood puts on and how much they cost? So is the City Council. In fact, the council was so curious, it directed City Hall staff to write a report on the subject.
But when that report came back at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, it did not contain the information the council requested, leaving council members none too happy.
In July, the council directed staff to come up with a report of all the special events the city puts on, including cost and attendance figures. Such a report was needed to evaluate how the city is spending its money in light of the fact that six city staff positions (including a code compliance officer) were frozen and not being filled.
The report the council got contained a list of 206 special events the city put on in 2010, everything from the annual Halloween Carnival to a senior Valentine’s Dance to the Rainbow Key Awards ceremony. Included in that report was the date, location and type of event, but no information about cost or attendance.
Mayor John Duran said they could not evaluate the data without cost and attendance figures.
Councilman John D’Amico agreed, saying, “This doesn’t get to the goal of having a better understanding of how we’re spending money on the events that we’re doing.”
Councilwoman Abbe Land said they needed to know how much staff time was used in producing an event to fairly evaluate it. Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang said the report needed to distinguish ongoing events from one-time events.
Councilman John Heilman said they needed to know what constituencies were being served by each event to make sure certain groups of people were not being underserved.
Data not in yet
City Manager Paul Arevalo defended the report, explaining that they did not have the final cost and attendance information yet. Hearing that, audience members talking amongst themselves wondered why since the report was for 2010 events, not 2011 events.
But Arevalo did not elaborate. He said final cost and attendance figures would be included as part of the biannual budget review process in the spring.
Land said they needed to have the information well in advance of the budget.
Duran concurred, saying, “206 does seem to be excessive. All of the five of us wish to have some input into that rather to delegating it to the budget subcommittee.”
Arevalo said he would have to schedule a council meeting where the report was the only substantive item on the agenda since it would take considerable time to go through each event. The council directed him to do so for the Feb. 21 meeting.
During public comment time, former City Councilman Steve Martin criticized the shoddy staff report, saying that the council had given clear direction about the report it wanted.
“Welcome to what the rest of us have to go through dealing with staff,” Martin said, pointing out that residents are often stymied trying to get information out of City Hall staff. “This is an issue of respect. Staff does work for you and the public. It’s embarrassing this is happening.”
According to the report, of the 206 special events the city put on in 2010, 62 were events that the city sponsored (city staff produced the event entirely). The city co-sponsored 33 events. All of them carry direct costs to the city.
The report also lists 22 events that the city endorsed and 89 events the city helped to promote. None of those events carried direct costs to the city.