LOCAL NORM: GRANTING LB SERENITY TO ACCEPT WHAT IT CAN’T CHANGEBy Norm de Ploom
Contentious budget battles in Long Beach are no more. City officials assured attendees at last week’s City Council meeting that all their dreams will now come true.
City Manager Pat West congratulated the city’s new Budget Serenity Office, which he oversees, for spearheading efforts to increase turbidity and obfuscation in the expenditure of public funds.
“We’re pioneering new ways to keep our citizens blissfully ignorant and thereby assure their absolute and total happiness, which is our only concern,” West said.
Central to those efforts, West said, was his wholesale use of the rule allowing him to enter spending agreements of up to $100,000 without authorization from the Council.
“That means no more pointless debates about stuff that the Mayor has already decided to let a council member do,” West said. “Now, Council meetings can be vibrant theatre that has no relation to how decisions actually get made in Long Beach. Everyone can go home feeling good about themselves. Activists can finally be actors pretending to make a difference, instead of hopeless dreamers without a clue about how venal their city’s leadership is.”
To prove the point, West announced that the 2012-13 budget has already been approved, despite widespread belief to the contrary, completely in unreviewed $100,000 increments. Beginning in 2013-14, West hopes to be able to pass the budget in $250,000 lumps of hidden expenditures without asking permission in a public forum.
“Public meetings will go on as before, but now we’ve made it explicit that they are just for show,” West said. “People can still get up to address the council at a meeting, but now council members can concentrate on looking into the speaker’s eyes and witnessing that moment when their hope dies. It’s such a rush, every single time, believe me.”
Key provisions of the city’s Stealth Serenity Budget for the upcoming year are:
• Police Staffing Increased—Under a pilot program with the Los Angeles County morgue, anyone found deceased on City of Long Beach property now will be assumed to have applied for a job with the Long Beach Police Department. “Zombies often just stare at you when you try to point out their mistakes, which is a huge advantage in police work,” West said. “Also, they’ll work around the clock, show no interest in retiring at age 50 with nearly full pay and benefits, and have no appetite for lobster.”
• Dog Parks Approved—City officials noticed that canine-exercise advocates usually seem more upbeat than poor people with limited recreational opportunities for their children, so all Long Beach parks have now been converted into dog parks. “It cuts our maintenance costs dramatically,” West said. “Dog owners habitually pick up after themselves, which is more than you can say about some people around here.”
• Bike Trails Expanded—In line with Long Beach’s aspiration to become the most bike-friendly locale in the cosmos, the City’s system of bike paths and trails has been expanded by 14,837 miles. This was accomplished by converting all sidewalks in Long Beach into two-way, bikes-only thoroughfares. “No more complaints about bikes on the sidewalk,” West said. “Now, if a bike hits somebody, well, they had it coming.”
• Parklets Required—Responding to the growing popularity of these alternative-seating areas placed on city streets, Long Beach now requires all commercial, industrial and residential property owners to fill the pavement in front of their place with a parklet. “This means we’re getting rid of auto accidents and drunk drivers, too,” West said. “Who doesn’t want that?”
• Rolling Fire Department Blackouts—The Long Beach Fire Department will deal with sharp budget reductions by scheduling one section of the city each week to go entirely without fire and paramedic protection. “Eventually, enough of the city will be reduced to charcoal, and then we can once again fully protect lives and property anywhere in the city,” West said. “It’s an idea we got from the Mayor when he worked for Edison.”
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