On March 6 and 7, 2023, the City of Culver City held ‘work plan’ sessions as a prelude to the annual budgeting work that will take place later this month. Each city department made a presentation to the council, discussing matter of mission, staffing, resources and statistics of the last year”s work.
There was both good news and bad news from most departments, and tensions broke out in some exchanges between staff and council. With the financial successes of the previous council, most notably the property transfer tax and the business license tax, the city is in better fiscal shape than it has been in decades. But City Manager John Nachbar held that he was not going to be able to grant all requests for funds. “We are still looking at significant structural deficits… In case anyone thinks we just have all this money to spend, we don’t.”
Changes in leadership were also a factor, with both Interim Police Chief Jason Sims and new Transportation Officer Diana Chang – both of them long time employees of the departments they now head – stepping up to the presentation for the first time.
The first day of the sessions began with a presentation from the Police Department. Sims was pleased to report that the Special Enforcement Team, the officers-on-bicycles squad, was back on the road and that “In the few short weeks this team has been back, community response been enthusiastic.” Giving the ‘crossing guard’ program to Parks and Rec (PRCS) was also lauded as successful.
The long awaited Mobile Crisis Response Team was also a topic at many points, with the CCPD report offering that they would be “going out in support … to co-respond with the team…” Nachbar offered “The intention is to have the Mobile Crisis Response Team responding on its own.”
The fiscal projection that has been discussed at previous council meetings is to balance out expenditure towards the CCPD, and use some of those funds for the yet-to-be-launched Mobile Crisis Unit, taking tasks away from the police that could be better handled by other departments; giving the oversight of pedestrian crossing guards to PRCS as a prime example. This could result in significant savings across many departments, as well as increased efficiency.
Sims stated that the department was over budget for overtime, with ‘sick time’ policies being impacted by COVID policies. “We are over our budgeted overtime allotment; over the last few years we have been significantly over our allotment.” Citing vacant positions, Sims offered that they were short 18 people, but currently have 12 under consideration for hiring, split six for six between officers and civilians.
Historically, the police department is the city’s biggest expense. One expensive ‘ask’ from the upcoming police work plan; city-wide license plate reading software, categorized as ‘Alternative Apprehension Technology.’ This will be coming up on a future council agenda.
Chief Kenneth Powell of the CC Fire Department was able to report a full staff, with only one position in the process of being hired. The past fiscal year’s activities noted 16,522 unit responses, 7,309 emergency incidents, 4,793 medical incidents, and 2,975 patients transported. Only 219 of their responses were for fires. “There are still not enough ambulances to meet the demand, with the department being unable to fulfill a request an average for four times a day.” The department will be applying for grant funding to support more firefighter training.
Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Amando Abrego offered their departmental presentation, “We partner with a bunch of different departments, [and serve a wide demographic] from birth to old age…there’s a very high level of expectation, and we try to meet that for everyone.” PRCS is planning to create a new position that would oversee parks and facilities [to strengthen our relationship] with Public Works.” “Our programs use these buildings, but Public Works is taking care of them.” PCRS is currently looking to hire for seven positions. “It’s a long process, and it takes a lot of community engagement.” The department is also looking to expand their volunteer base, and streamline their parks and facilities rental procedures.
Editor’s Note – This article is the first in a series on the meetings, which covered more than ten hours over two days, and saw reports from all city departments. More reporting on these meetings will be posted later this week.