Last Update: Thursday, May 16, 2013
|As the City Turns…|
|Written by Diana Martinez|
|Thursday, 14 March 2013 05:01|
"Now, the city doesn't have two reserve nickels to rub together." -- Council member Sylvia Ballin
The [new] San Fernando city council has had a bit of time to make good on their recall election promises to literally turn the city around and have found the problems at city hall daunting.
Realizing that for years, the city has put the foxes in charge of guarding the hen house, they booted out city administrator Al Hernandez and brought Don Penman who had some history with San Fernando, to sit in the hot seat and wade through the smoke and mirrors that have made up the city's budget.
Penman, as the interim city administrator, confirmed the suspicion. Previous administrations have robbed Peter to pay Paul drawing up an "on paper" tiger of a budget that could never hold up. For years, the practice of creatively moving money from one city fund to another and masking it as a "balanced" city's budget has been a tradition at city hall. The news doesn't come as a shock to anyone in the vicinity of city hall. The previous council's have hired underqualified administrators who were allowed to attempt to "train on the job," and way over their heads, mishandled contracts costing the city money when it could be saved.
This coupled with weak city council leadership going back at least to 2001, has allowed the problems to grow like mold. The city of San Fernando, like many small cities has been used as a training ground and a springboard for those on the council who want to seek higher office. Steve Veres moved on to the community college trustees, Nury Martinez to the Los Angeles school board and Cindy Montanez (sister of councilwoman Maribel De La Torre) went to the state assembly.
Montanez and Martinez, now opponents in the upcoming L.A. City council race to represent the southeast San Fernando Valley have relocated to that district so that they could run for the seat.
On paper they look good, proudly citing their experience as San Fernando council members, but they, along with the others who sat on the dais with them, are responsible for the financial disarray their hometown now finds itself in now to the tune of $4.4 million deficit.
They've moved on, leaving it for others to figure out. Council member Sylvia Ballin recalls that City Administrator Al Hernandez not long before he was sent packing was complimented by then,(now recalled) council member Mario Hernandez for 'doing great learning on the job'.
Ballin describing the fallout said, "Now, the city doesn't have two reserve nickels to rub together."
So closed door meetings at city hall have been aplenty to discuss how to make the frayed financial ends meet. The council will be asking residents to approve increasing the city's sales tax. It will be a tough sale, especially for residents who take issue with bailing out city hall for their poor decision making. Finding places to cut also brings the council back full circle to discuss possible staff layoffs and furloughs. With layoffs, the price again would be paid by those who didn't put the city in this condition. And of course, there's that white, all wet elephant of an aquatic center that touted as being a year round facility, isn't because the city just never could afford it.
Meanwhile, the new council must stop the hemorrhaging by considering that they have been paying out large sums money for city staff that doesn't come to work. For months, interim Police Chief Jeff Eley, Sgt. Alvaro Castellon and Sgt. Kevin Glasgow have been on paid administrative leave pending a sheriffs investigation.
The Los Angeles District Attorney's office recently concluded that Eley in fact had the discretion to excuse a traffic ticket to a member of Congressman Howard Berman's staff. That ticket traffic stop quite conveniently airing on YouTube was the flashpoint for placing Eley on leave as a power play at police headquarters.
Then there's the lawsuit filed by female police Sgt. Nicole Hanchett, who was terminated by the department. The city can fight the lawsuit in court, which will be even more costly or allow her to return to the job. There's concern her termination was so sloppy that it could cost the city even bigger settlement dollars.
While former city's administrators have gone merrily rolling along to their next gigs in other cities, and former San Fernando council members including those who now seek higher office smile, handled by political public relations specialists who put on their "spin" to help them climb the political totem poll, San Fernando residents are left exclaiming, "It's a fine mess you've got us all in!"
And so the city turns....
|Last Updated on Thursday, 14 March 2013 05:03|