Staff Reports and City Council Decisions
Council Members are constantly making decisions that affect the vital interest of the city, its residents and business. Those decisions often rely on staff reports, comments and recommendations. Sometimes those reports might be about issues familiar to a council member, however more often than not, council members rely on the comments and recommendations included in the staff reports, that they are fair, and impartial, having no information to the contrary. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and here is one clear example.
• At the 02/11/2014 Council meeting the director of finance presented a factual financial report that showed large expenditures for public safety. It was followed by a city Managers statement intended to put the Council and the public at ease. Scott Ochoa went on to say that “Public Safety by far is the largest expenditure in a large city like Glendale.”
The statement was clearly misleading and here is the reason why. If a large city is defined by its population and I have no doubt that’s what the city manager had in mind, then just a handful of cities in the area are comparable to Glendale, with respect to in population. In 2012 Glendale’s population was 193,000, Burbank’s 104,000, Rancho Cucamonga’s 170,000 and Long Beach’s 430,000. According to their Comprehensive Audited Financial Report (CAFR) on average 34% of expenditures went into public safety for the last three cities. To be more precise, the percentages spent in on public safety, by city were as follows: Burbank 33%, Long Beach 34%, and Rancho Cucamonga was just under 36%. Based on the foregoing, the City Managers statements about Glendale would appear not to be out of line.
However, looking at Glendale’s CAFR the percentage of expenditures that went into Public Safety was 47%, over 33% higher compared to the other cities., Consequently Glendale’s expenditures on public safety appear to be out of line compared to with comparable cities.
This is one reason why it is important to have public hearings and for the City Council to be more transparent to those citizens who take the time to analyze and critique those staff reports. Also, it this is just one more consideration to keep in mind when voting for a candidate to the city council. A candidate should not only be a qualified to be on the city council but he/she should be open-minded. In conclusion, it is very important for members of the council to be well prepared, and informed, independent of staffs reports and recommendations, prior to voting on issues that impact the City.