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Council Approves $68 Million Budget

The City Council approves the proposed $68 million annual budget for 2012-2014 as presented. Revisions will likely be made at next Council meeting on July 2.

Facing a state-mandated deadline of June 30 to have a new budget in place, West Hollywood’s City Council approved the proposed $68 million annual budget for the fiscal years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 at its Monday night meeting.

That budget projects revenues of $13.5 million in transient occupancy taxes (20% of the budget), $12.9 million in property taxes (20%), $11.4 million in sales/user taxes (17%), $8.4 million in parking fines (12%), $4.3 million in parking meter revenue (6%) and $17.6 million from other sources (26%).

On the expenditure side, 38% goes to staff wages and fringes, 23% for sheriff/fire services, 6% to social services contracts and 5% to debt/bond repayment, among others.

The Council passed the budget as presented due to the state deadline, but will likely make adjustments during future meetings.

The budget faced severe criticism from speakers during public comment. Some were concerned about specific expenditures. Others were frustrated by the lack of details contained in the 272-page document.

The council shared the frustrations about the document’s presentation. Councilmember John Heilman said it was lacking in specifics and needed more details.

Councilmember John D’Amico said the budget read more like a year-end report that a company releases, not a detailed listing of how the city plans to spend its money. Mayor Jeff Prang said it was written like a story but without explanations for why the money was being spent.

D’Amico questioned why the various commissions hadn’t been given the opportunity to weigh in on the budget and why the public hadn’t been involved in the process.

Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land said that the council usually has a budget study session to ask specific questions and make specific changes in April before approving it in June. However that had not been done this year.

Councilmember John Duran said that the budget is not a Bible, but rather a guiding tool for how the city likely will spend its money. He pointed out that the Council makes revisions to the budget at virtually every meeting when it approves various expenditures.

The Council then started making requests for specific changes – $10,000 more here and $10,000 more there, put this money here instead of there, etc. D’Amico said he wanted to double the arts budget from $100,000 to $200,000.

As this was going on, Prang said the Council was essentially having the budget study session it should have had in April during that meeting. City Manager Paul Arevalo said he would bring those modifications back to the July 2 Council meeting for approval.

D’Amico questioned what the budget as a whole said about the city. He said the budget reflects the priorities of the city and the City Council but not of the residents and businesses. He also noted that the budget seemed to reflect policy shifts that had not had hearings in the public realm.

Prang responded that it was a good document and that it does reflect the values of the community. Prang also noted that he has never seen as much community involvement with the budget before.

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90069 June 19, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Looks like the council did a good job questioning CIty Staff on this disastrous budget presentation. City Manager, the highly paid Pasadena resident should be under fire for such a mess.
GoodGriefCharlieBrown June 20, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Seems I'm the only one who is stunned by John Duran's declaration that he doesn't want to be bothered meeting with a mere 40 people from the community to discuss their concerns on any subject for any reason. Why, he's already bothered all day every day & bombarded with questions from so many other little people, he just wants to be left to his own devices. You'd think he was drug kicking & screaming into this city council seat against his will, and that it's such an imposition on his actual interests in life. Why should this very busy wanna be, wanna be bothered reducing himself to talking with 40 pesky little West Hollywood peasants when he's so busy raising his lofty perch in the world even higher? Why he's even off to see the Prez-i-dent, and to a "Latino Conference" whatever the hell that is! Seems to have alot of time for this "stuff". This guy's arrogance is so thick you could chop it with a hatchet. My conclusion is that this babbling buffoon has outgrown his obligation to community service and is getting restless & impatient with voters who ask questions and impose on his hallowed space. This guy needs to be thrown out on his pompous ass and replaced with someone who lives on planet earth and who wants to do the job he was elected to do instead of using the city council seat to try and expand his social life and sense of self importance. Anymore, he seems to respond to every question like a snarling queen. To me he just seems to get angrier & uglier
scott ferguson June 20, 2012 at 03:21 AM
I watched his comments. I believe you are serious mis-paraphrasing what he said. The best gauge of popular sentiment in this democracy is elections. For the most part, that sentiment suggests that indeed those who attend council meetings, as eloquent and committed as they are, and with I'm sure some real insights, does not represent the majority of residents. That was what he conveyed to me.
meister4weho June 20, 2012 at 03:58 AM
@GGCB: Regarding Duran's comment about the "usual 40 people" - you are absolutely right on. It's shameful. As I said last night, we don't have a "silent majority" in WeHo, we have a SILENCED majority, as evidenced by the General Plan process, Plummer Park, the "Mixed Use Ordinance," Tara... and so on....
RTL June 20, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Fix this grass at WeHo park please. It's a mess since Pride.
West Hollywood Central June 20, 2012 at 04:10 AM
What I heard John Duran say, in summary, was: SHUT UP! It was shocking and kind of sad.
Henry Scott June 20, 2012 at 01:50 PM
I disagree. The City Manager, the highly paid Pasadena resident, shouldn't be under fire for such a mess. He should be fired for such a mess. How long has he been in this job? And he doesn't know the basic of municipal budgeting? Early presentation to council members and the public for discussion and review is City Management 101.
Henry Scott June 20, 2012 at 01:58 PM
This disastrous approach to the budget (I mean, we're not the City of Bell, or are we?) illustrates a very serious problem this city faces. It's ruled by a small group of oligarchs, and governed day to day by a well-paid man who doesn't even live here. There are two core problems 1) many residents don't get involved because they don't understand or know the impact of city government on their lives and their businesses, and 2) while some residents are engaged in worthy fights focused on highly specific neighborhood issues, they aren't organized across neighborhoods to press for the kind of citywide reform that would make the neighborhood problems easier to resolve. D'Amico is so right that this budget reflects the priorities of the city (the oligarchs, in my words) and not its residents and small businesses. And he is so right that council members and city staff should have presented it for discussion with various commissions and the public. If they don't have the time or can't be bothered, they should resign.
Cathy June 20, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Right on Henry....you nailed it.
Riley June 20, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Hmmmm.....scott ferguson is beginning to sound like Lindsay Horvath!
George Martin June 20, 2012 at 07:35 PM
This was the most overloaded agenda I've ever seen. Major planning decisions on controversial projects and a huge budget nobody understands. The El Mirador discussion was embarrassingly amateurish. Then they had to vote on this budget to meet a state deadline, but still couldn't get it right with months and months to prepare. Meanwhile Prang says its a good document while Duran says it's not really meant to be a budget. 5 hour council meetings? Shameful.
Chloe Ross June 20, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Mr. Duran has been on my sh*tlist and I on his since I asked him where on his nameplate did it say "king, oligarch or dictator (might not have been dictator - but close) and he looked stunned. I was so angry by his snide condescension that I left my actual comments and went straight for the throat - I believe I also said "how dare you?' Watching as I sat with those same other tiresome 40 people on Monday, he pulled some of the best faces I have seen on a non-scripted broadcast. And FYI - I don't care if he did the damn Tour de France. How many times does he have to mention his bike trip or his singing in any chorus??? Bear in mind though - Mr. Duran is a criminal defense attorney and this means his interaction with scum is a daily routine. I would probably be jaded too. BTW @SF - just a heads up - Allegra Allison fought city hall on Tara all the way to the state supreme court and it took 8 years. She won. She and Sheila are friends and calling one out against the other is juvenile. You are obviously better than that.
GoodGriefCharlieBrown June 21, 2012 at 03:15 AM
John Duran has become West Hollywood's Eva Peron, dropping coins into the frayed baskets of his peasant subjects while trying to avoid their pleading gaze. He can barely grant them their two minutes each between making plans for his world tour. And they are humble, "Thank you" for this, & "we're grateful" for that & "we appreciate your time". It is an embarrassment to dignified, self respecting people. Otherwise, he doesn't want to hear what they have to say because he wants only to talk about himself. "Look, Ma - It's Me- The Mayor!" In that way, Duran is right. Why should he waste the time he needs for self promotion on the little people when they are going to reelect him anyway and the usual suspects will continue to stand before him and grovel? "Things have reached a pretty pass- When someone pretty lower class- Graceless and vulgar, uninspired- Can be respected and admired." (Lyrics from 'Evita')
Lynn Russell June 21, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Respected and admired? My Grandmother often told us that you could always tell the worth of someone by the way they treated their household staff and help. Poor and disrespectful treatment of others was a sure sign of lack of self respect.
Sheila Lightfoot June 21, 2012 at 08:37 AM
John Duran supported some issues that really matter to me. He was responsive and supportive of my efforts on behalf of those issues. So I find it particularly disconcerting when he degrades citizens who participate. This was at least the third time I have been in the audience when he denigrated those of us in the community who spend the time and energy to inform ourselves and try to do our civic duty. As commenters on these blogs can attest, those of us who show up to speak represent many of you who don’t. In Mr. Duran’s narrative, you don’t show up because you support everything he does. When he describes how few participate, he discounts all those who show up to protect their own neighborhoods. He also ignores the big attendance at meetings like that for the general plan. He wasn’t at that meeting even though he was acting mayor at the time. He doesn’t acknowledge that most people give up after they’ve been ignored a few times. It takes a tremendous amount of effort and determination to stay involved. Those of us who do should not be disparaged and belittled. Citizens should be encouraged to participate. Maybe that would spur others to get involved instead of sending a message that you will be a target of scorn if you go to the trouble of showing up to participate. That is a terrible message for any Council member to send.
Shawn Thompson June 21, 2012 at 04:59 PM
If the best Paul could do was get the Budget on the agenda 18 days before the state deadline I think his management isnt producing timely results, After working for the city for 10 years before becoming the city manager. And now being the City manager for 12 YEARS, I think it just doesn't make sense. And for being paid $300,000 a year I would expect better from him.
Shawn Thompson June 21, 2012 at 05:32 PM
@Chole I loved that moment when you gave that comment, I thought it was courageous and an accurate representation as to how Duran was acting that night.. Also I agree the meeting is full of too many thank you staff and thank you this group, Along with the personal council member's as I see it speeches on what their opinions are. I'm not anti CSW pride, but isn't one thank you enough in a meeting to a group. The amount of time thanking CSW at the last council meeting repeated over and over again by different council members was so unproductive in my mind I wanted to be informed and involved and it was so hard for me at times when watching the meeting online to sit thru all the unneeded filler. All this why the residents have to sit there and wait for there names to be magically called and get 2 mins of talk time. And because of all the filler at the front the real quality of life items always come up hours into the meeting when a majority of the residents have become so bored they leave. The raising EVERYTHING parking was at the end along with the El Mirador. In the end watching from home, Jeff Prang whose turn it is to be called “ THE MAYOR” had left the meeting? I'm not sure why, but because he had left and they numbered four total they couldn't get a to vote on it and had to table it?
Stephanie June 21, 2012 at 07:02 PM
We, the residents, should hold a "study group" to go over the budget. We could each take a part of the 308 pgs and look at it line by line, which we should have done months ago. Even at this point, facts are facts. Information is power. It's all there in black and white. I'm sure there are some financial types among us, and maybe an attorney or two who deal in civic financing. I feel our rights are being violated by leaving us out of the process and being DISCOURAGED from participating. 6 hour mtgs are DISCOURAGING. Scheduling and then cancelling meetings is DISCOURAGING. Speaking for 2 minutes is DISCOURAGING. Having the same people "representing" us year after year is DISCOURAGING. Saying one thing and doing another is DISCOURAGING. Having to work full time, raise kids, go to school, being ignored is all DISOURAGING. But being told that not enough people attend meetings is ABSURDIST DRAMA. Last year the Mayor told the Plummer Park people we "could" keep coming and speaking out if we wanted, but we did not have to. So, which is it? We don't have to come OR not enough of us come? What we ALL know is things MUST to change. Business as usual is no longer acceptable. But what we also have to know is that WE are responsible for the change. It will not change from the inside. We do not have term limits. The next best thing is what Heilman spins over and over again,"Elections ARE term limits." Prove him right. We need a citizens "quorum" to make the changes. START NOW.
Sheila Lightfoot June 22, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Stephanie, I’ll be the first volunteer for the study group (great idea). Unfortunately the budget that was released doesn’t contain the expenditure details required to do a line-by-line review. However, John D’Amico posted a comment on my blog and I responded with a request for a more detailed budget so we can do exactly what you suggest. See my post for him. http://westhollywood.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-city-councils-dereliction-of-duty
Sheila Lightfoot June 23, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Re: Detailed Budget. I got an email response from John D'Amico's Deputy. She said, "we are looking into getting this information for you." If I do receive a more detailed budget, I will find a way to make it available to everyone.

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