City Moves to Hire Homeless Czar

Plans to Pay $100K Despite City's Fiscal Emergency

The Culver City Council voted Monday night to hire a Homeless Czar at the pay rate of $195,000 per year to address the city's homeless problem.

Despite the fiscal emergency the city declared recently, City Manager John Nachbar requested the additional funds to deal with the growing problem.

"In a poll conducted a few weeks ago, homelessness was cited by our residents as one of the top issues facing the city," said Nachbar. "This issue is incredibly complex."

Vice Mayor Goran Eriksson asked Nachbar: "How long will it take before we have someone hired and how fast will it take them to get up to speed?" The city manager responded that the fastest someone could be on board was probably 90 days. The position requires "an extensive skill set," he added.

Local residents were visibly upset, angry and frustrated at the meeting.

Katherine McKinney called out the council members on numerous issues. "This council is not going to listen; they have their own thoughts on each and every one of these issues which have nothing to do with what's best for the citizens of Culver City," she said "This is the least responsive City Council in the last 20 years that I have lived here."

Resident Nupur Tustin asked the Council several questions: "What part of having vagrants live right next to us is good for the children? Is there some life lesson in seeing drug fiend shoot dope in the open? Are there some unheard benefits that our children will gain by stumbling upon human feces and used needles?" She continued: "Where is the compassion for the hard-working citizens that pay the city's bills and where is the compassion for our children?"

Resident Ron Bassilian also expressed his concerns to the Council. "Criminal vagrancy, it implies a certain moral vision; we have drug dealers camping out on our streets but we can't prosecute them for some reason," he said. "We have a petition circulating to declare criminal vagrancy. I find that we're discussing this as a housing issue is fraudulent. It's a lie.... We need the moral clarity to discuss this as a crime issue."

Residents on Globe Avenue told the council they have been threatened by the homeless and the police were prohibited by the City Council from protecting the residents.

While stating he fully supports the move to hire someone to head up the effort, Councilman Daniel Lee chastised residents for not coming to the earlier special meeting where issues were discussed. He told residents to read the agenda "more thoroughly."

Another issue discussed at Monday's meeting was the "hot potato" issue of the next Mayoral rotation. With the moving of the council election to coincide with the November general election, the rotation of the Mayor and Vice Mayor drew a lot of resident comments.

An angry Jamie Wallace said: "The mayor rotation was thrown asunder. There is no guarantee of fairness. When you pass somebody over like you did to Mr. Eriksson. You disenfranchise the voters. This is not what Culver City is."

Councilman Alex Fisch claimed the previous councils only adhered to the policy less than 40% of the time. Most of the councilmembers missed the point that everyone serves as mayor once before anyone becomes mayor a second time.

Vice Mayor Goran Eriksson argued for a policy. He noted that cities that allow direct election of the mayor by the voters do not have the same problem that Culver City has.

The passing over of Eriksson last year was the "worst keep secret in the city" and launched protests from members of the community as Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells became mayor for a second term before Eriksson serves as mayor a first time.

Council member addressed the issue with a conciliatory tone with the election of a new mayor to take place in April.

The motion was passed by a vote of 4-1 with councilmember Eriksson voting no. The policy will need to be brought back to council for a final vote.


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