For the most part, the five meetings held so far, which began in March, were well attended, although less so during the summer months (a meeting in Lido Beach in June attracted less than 10 people). Residents raised concerns about the city’s fiscal difficulties as well as parking, traffic and quality-of-life issues. At times they criticized the City Council and administration, most notably during a meeting at the Martin Luther King Center in April, which grew contentious when residents claimed that the administration did not stick to its campaign promise to hire more minorities.
Councilman Mike Fagen said he has not heard about any plans to schedule more community meetings, and added that city officials have not addressed many issues that have been raised thus far, including increased taxes.
“Any time the taxpayers in Long Beach have a chance to voice their outrage about the increasing taxes, I believe those are valuable forums,” Fagen said. “My only disappointment was that more residents didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to voice their displeasure with this administration. Since the Long Beach Listens tour, the only constants have been higher taxes, higher fees and an administration that has continued to hire their friends and family — it’s as if the taxpayers’ wishes and needs continue to be ignored.”
Torres disagreed, saying that as the city grappled with a projected $10.25 million deficit inherited from the previous administration, officials were forced to make tough decisions, including making a number of layoffs. “In general, the administration is costing less,” he said.
Torres added that he was disappointed that the State Senate killed legislation that would have allowed the city to pay its deficit over 10 years instead of three, saying that the move would have reduced taxes. As a result, the city may have to consider additional cuts.