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Proposed City Budget Raises Concerns Among Residents

Councilmember John D'Amico has an informal meeting with residents regarding the city's new budget for the 2012-2014 fiscal years. The City Council will discuss the budget at its June 18 meeting.

With the City Council scheduled to discuss the city’s proposed budget for the 2012-13 and 2013-2014 fiscal years at its June 18 meeting, Councilmember John D’Amico held a meeting with residents to discuss this budget as part of his periodic "Coffee with the Councilman" meetings.

About 15 people showed up for the meeting in Plummer Park on Saturday morning. They were grateful for the chance to discuss the budget, but questioned why there were not public meetings devoted to the topic, much like was held for the General Plan.

A specific item that had many attendees concerned is a proposed $212,000 feasibility study for moving City Hall to the southeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente Boulevard, where the Sheriff’s station currently stands.  

Attendees questioned why the city would even consider moving City Hall when it is planning to build a $16 million automated parking garage behind the current City Hall. They also wondered why the idea of moving City Hall has never been broached publicly before and what other sites might serve as alternatives.

The question of lowering parking fees was raised. Some wondered if the city should re-bid the contract for parking enforcement since the city currently pays the company doing the enforcement $27 per ticket written.

The wages and benefits for city staff also brought questions. One person wanted to know why these costs are rising when other cities are struggling to pay their staff. Also troubling was city employees who are retired and collecting pensions, yet still working for the city in consulting positions. Some called this “double-dipping.”

Others expressed concerns about the loss of redevelopment agency money and why that isn’t discussed in the budget. Others wanted more details about the bonds the city issued to finance the proposed $41 million renovation of Plummer Park.

D’Amico wasn’t there to provide answers so much as to listen to the concerns and then raise them during the City Council’s discussion. He told Patch it was a “really great conversation” and that it raised important questions about how the process in general is handled.

“Is the budget the place for political decisions or for budgetary decisions? Are they the same or are they different?” D’Amico said. “When it’s a policy decision, how is it best to have that discussion? Is it better to do it separate from a budgetary discussion or in tandem with it? Or both?”  

Copies of the city’s budget are available for viewing at the . A PDF of the budget can be viewed by clicking here, however, be warned it is a 272-page document.

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Rudolf Martin June 13, 2012 at 07:29 AM
there are $160+ million dollars in debt listed in the redevelopment agency document: http://www.weho.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=10485 that debt is not in the budget. it certainly would not look good if it was.
Cathy June 13, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Thank you James for writing about this. The budget, just like the the future of Plummer Park should be considered single item agendas and presented to the community for consideration and discussion. It is business as usual to not bring this before the public. Especially the plan for a $212,000 feasibility study to move City Hall! Councilman John D'Amico goes out of his way to connect with the community and I commend him for that. Hasn't city staff and this council learned anything from the Plummer Park Master Plan debacle? We, the stakeholders of West Hollywood deserve nothing less than to be included in major decisions.
Jeffrey Prang June 13, 2012 at 02:33 PM
The RDA is a seperate government agency (although completely integrated into the City) with an independent budget, which is why its budget is not comingled with the City's budget. This is he case with all redevelopment agencies in California.
Ali June 13, 2012 at 10:31 PM
What concerns me is the possible elimination of the Rent Stabilization Department. Without that department, the tenants of rent controlled apartments will be powerless. There are landlords that know the laws but choose to ignore them. I know, I have one that I am currently dealing with.
Rudolf Martin June 13, 2012 at 11:45 PM
I share the concern about Rent Stabilization Dpt and would like to hear the reasoning for eliminating it. And regarding the RDA's 'independent' budget I would point out that they are still substantial debts, our city will have to pay in the future, no matter how we write them down. But at least we will now save the $16+ million on Robo Parking behind the soon to be abandoned City Hall.
Jerome Cleary June 14, 2012 at 01:10 AM
my friend had called the Dept. of Rent Stabilization for a simple question and the person answering the phone asked the legal dept. and they could not give a solid yes or no answer to it? Which does not make sense since the tenant was asking whether the actions of their landlord had a legal right to do what they were doing in West Hollywood. So I don't know what is going on there?
Djaluvit June 14, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Per the proposed budget, the WEHO Rent Stabilization and Housing Department will become a division within the current Human Services Department directed by Sam Baxter. Functions related to rent stabilization/control are NOT being eliminated. What is being eliminated are two top-heavy management positions that are no longer needed since the state has eliminated funding for housing redevelopment projects. The former RSHD Director (Allyne Winderman) and Housing Manager (Jeffrey Skorneck) no longer work for the city and their positions are to be eliminated. But still working for the city will be 1 rent stabilization manager and 11 other rent info coodinators/counselors/project development administrators. That appears to be enough to cover the rent control waterfront and any housing opportunities that come up. One would think that answers to simple questions could be handled by the 12 personnel still working on rent control/housing and the variety of lawyers on the city payroll.
Rudolf Martin June 14, 2012 at 06:02 AM
thank you, 'djaluvit'. i agree that a staff of 12 should be plenty. now how does one go about finding out on who's request the feasibility study for city hall was put into the budget? anyone?
Shawn Thompson June 15, 2012 at 05:26 AM
@Jeffery I really admire you posting here on Patch as You... I'm hoping your post will be two way dialogues with every one who posts her in patch? Are you looking to respond to residents comments and questions here?
Riley June 15, 2012 at 07:14 AM
@Jeffrey Prang, isn't that "the RDA WAS a separate government agency? Weren't they dissolved last year? The Plummer Park Plan is mentioned in the new budget and yet I have heard that the millions more required to execute the plan was part of the RDA money. How does that work? And I think I heard that when there was a Redevelopment Agency that the city council members were also the members of the RDA. It sounds comingled. It is very confusing. I also think I read somewhere that ALL of the redevelopment agencies in California are now gone. So, what happens now?
Rudolf Martin June 15, 2012 at 08:15 AM
Good questions, @Riley. But 'commingled' is such a negative word... The RDA was indeed made up of our beloved 5 City Council members and has been dissolved. But of course the fearless five live on to 'wind down' the RDA's affairs. They now call themselves 'The Successor Agency' and are governed by a 'Board of Directors'. Who sits on this board? You guessed it: our beloved 5 City Council members. And not to be neglected our esteemed City Manager has been made 'Executive Director' of 'The Successor Agency'. But in case you wonder if there is any oversight don't be alarmed: after all there is an 'Oversight Board' to the 'Successor Agency'. Who sits on this Oversight Board? You guessed it: our esteemed City Manager. So I'm pretty sure they'll do what's best.
Shawn Thompson June 15, 2012 at 10:12 AM
@Djaluvit Does the budget then give Sam Baxter a increase from his current 215,00 year salary for these extra duties?
Chloe Ross June 18, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Parsing a 267/297 page budget that is gobbledegook at the CC meeting tonight will keep us all there until shabbos a fortnight as they say in North London. Stay. No matter how you feel, look or think - stay. Don't leave. Do not allow the Gang of Five and Mao to wear you out and down. Nap if you must - discreetly - but stay in that chamber because an agenda like this is gonna burn some midnight oil. Suggest you also bone up on the Brown Act which allows the Gang to ignore your comments and I am not sure it actually does.
Daisy S June 18, 2012 at 07:17 PM
.... items on tonight's City Council agenda that affect ALL of us… (1) Fees — FEES are being RAISED — of particular interest is Residential Permit Parking, which is being increased by 50%. (2) The City's budget — more consultants' fees?, a new City Hall?, INCREASES TO EMPLOYEE PAY/BENEFITS?....SERIOUSLY?? --- HOW ABOUT A NEW CITY MANAGER WHO CAN MANAGE??
Rudolf Martin June 18, 2012 at 08:01 PM
raising more money from the residents via Residential Parking Permits (including those with extremely limited resources) for the city to spend on nonsensical projects (as detailed ad nauseum by many residents in these blogs) would really be a new low. i ask (rhetorically): If the City is really 'in the black' why do we need to bleed the residents for even more revenue?

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