LONG BEACH — Newly elected Mayor Ernie Kell's campaign proposal to create two new municipal departments won approval in concept this week by separate City Council committees, despite concerns that they will cost more than $200,000 annually.
The council's three-member Public Safety Committee on Tuesday unanimously endorsed Kell's proposal for an Office of Education in City Hall. That recommendation goes next to the full nine-member council.
That same afternoon, the council's Quality of Life Committee agreed to a new Office of Neighborhood and Historical Preservation. But instead of forwarding the proposal to the council, committee members asked the city manager to better define the office's responsibilities and suggest different financing methods.
Point of Discussion
The focus of debate on both proposals is whether the city should spend more than $200,000 on new offices that would coordinate programs that are already in place. Several council members noted that earlier in the day they had approved a new budget that required cutting some city services and increasing various fees.
The Office of Education, which Kell proposed to coordinate various anti-drug and gang programs, would require hiring a manager and a secretary at an approximate cost of $113,000, according to City Manager James C. Hankla.
The Office of Neighborhood and Historical Preservation, would require hiring another full-time official and a secretary at a cost of between $104,500 to $113,300, according to Hankla. That office would also coordinate programs and its director would work as a liaison between city planners and the public.
To lower the costs, Hankla proposed hiring one person to oversee both new offices, should they be approved. But that suggestion drew a thumbs down from Kell, several council members and preservationists in the audience.
Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, the only member serving on both committees, said he was worried about dipping into the budget any further for the two offices.
Councilman Tom Clark, another member of the Quality of Life Committee, said he would like the city manager to find new financing sources to pay for the proposal. Clark also said several provisions appear to overlap with existing services. Councilman Clarence Smith said he, too, is worried about the cost of the preservation office, and would support making the job part time.
Facing about 40 preservationists urging the committee to not delay a vote, Braude, Clark and Smith agreed to the proposal in concept but asked Hankla to refine it.