TOP 5 LOCAL STORIES OF 2019
January 9, 2020
Council Declare Fiscal Emergency
Buoyed by the words of Culver City's Chief Financial Officer Onyx Jones who said that "our fiscal emergency is today," the City Council voted 5-0 to declare -- without consulting the Financial Advisory Committee -- a state of fiscal emergency so a special election could be called to extend the 1/2% sales tax increase approved by the voters in 2012. Measure Y, as it was called, was set to sunset (expire) in 2020.
In 2012, the Council promised in its statement on the sample ballot that "all tax funds from Measure Y will stay in Culver City and cannot be taken by the State. The 1/2 cent tax will end in 10 years and a Public Advisory Committee will ensure full accountability and transparency." Mayor Megan Sahli-Wells is the only remaining councilmember who made that pledge.
The primary reason to have a special election is the Council apparently intends to place an additional ¼ cent sales tax on the November 2020 ballot. City Manager John Nachbar told the Council that the polling indicated that voters would not support two tax increases on the same ballot.
Should both tax measures pass, the city would be at the maximum sales tax allowed under state law. Culver City would have the distinction of joining 19 other California Cities with the highest sales tax rate.
Longtime Culver City resident Paul Ehrlich took the Council to task for its recent financial decisions. In a commentary published in the Culver City Observer, he cited numerous proposals approved by the Council this year which he called unnecessary expenditures:
Replace acceptable landscaping with "Acceptable Landscaping" --$500,000
Pay Loyola Marymount University to "Study" local coyote behavior--$200,000
Install solar electrical panels at Vets Auditorium and Senior Center and heat the water in the plunge --$100,000
Hire yet another unneeded Animal Control Officer, and equipment -- $200,000
And another strange "Amortization Study" items related to the Inglewood Oil Field -- $400,000.
Eliminating these projects would save the city $1.4 million, he said, and would ease the tax burden on local residents. Ehrlich also admonished the Council: "One last thought, in a short period of time, Culver City voters will be asked to make the "temporary" sales tax permanent. The City Council must step up to the plate and act prudently or else the voters could rebel...Do the right thing City Council!"
Police and Fire Deploy Drones
One of the more controversial subjects was the use of drones to respond to crime and fires in the city. The police department currently has 8 drones. In order to allay the concerns of citizens, the department has initiated strict policies for deployment and use of the drones.
The use of the drones is clearly restricted to legitimate police and fire department needs. Requests to deploy the UAV must be approved by the on‐duty watch commander, supervisor on the scene, or the UAV Manager prior to accepting the mission in order to insure the correct use and the privacy of residents.
With the City of Los Angeles crying foul that nearby cities are pushing their homeless into Los Angeles, the homeless have begun setting up camps in Culver City. In November the Culver City Council voted to hire a Homeless Czar to address the city's homeless 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 City Manager John Nachbar. "This issue is incredibly complex."
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.
California Brush Fires
Out of sight of residents is the call for firefighters throughout the state to assist with the devastating wildfires in California.
Strike team XLA1075A is made up of firefighters from Culver City, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills Fire Departments and include five engines and one battalion chief.
Among the many fires the strike team was deployed to were the fires in the Palisades, San Fernando Valley, Tick Fire, Kincade Fire, SaddleRidge in addition to covering fires, accidents, medical responses and other emergencies within the city.
99 Cents Only Store Fire
Probably the most spectacular fire in recent years was the fire that destroyed the 99 cents only store on West Washington on Culver City's westside. Firefighters from Culver City, backed up by Los Angeles City firefighters, battled the blaze for hours before bringing it under control. The building was reduced to rubble.
While there are many other important events that happened in Culver City, this year our editors picked these as the top five.