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Opinion: Shooting the Messenger

BARROWS (& COUNCIL) PAYBACK SCHEME STYMIES FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.

By Brian Hews

During the Cerritos City Council meeting June 28, the council debated the $119 million city budget. Councilman Pulido led off, talked about tree cutting, and mentioned how he wanted to restore funding to keep Sky Knight, which was cut out of the budget.

 

Sky Knight is the helicopter service that assists our Cerritos Sheriffs. Only Cerritos and Hawaiian Gardens use this service, Lakewood is deciding. No other cities in the area use this service; they use the free LA Sheriff’s helicopter service.

 

Fast forward to closing comments. Barrows led off (unusually out of turn) and reviewed big picture expenses, those “they can address easily”: the Water subsidy ($1.5 million); Sheriff’s budget ($11.5 million); the Power-plant ($3 million expense). This can be seen on the Cerritos website under Council Meetings, June 28, time stamp 1:04:15

It was then that Barrows initiated his calculated and orchestrated (with the council) political payback scheme to intentionally inflict financial damage on LCCN. The reason, Shoot the Messenger: LCCN writing about his battery charge (P.C. 242) against Jay Gray, a story Barrows called a complete lie but one we all now know is true. Following is a chronological order of the meeting with timestamps in parentheses. You can view the meeting online at the city’s website and judge for yourself.

Barrows talked about $16 million in expenses (at 1:06:40) and suddenly began talking about the $250,000 city print advertising budget (which is .0025% of the overall budget). He talked about “how it is duplicated, how there is no evidence of benefits to the city”. One high-ranking staffer at the meeting told LCCN, “that came out of left field we did not know where he (Barrows) was coming from.”

Barrows then pointed to Pulido and said “…Mark this is to address your Sky Knight issue…. I would like to have the council eliminate the city print advertising from the budget.” At (1:08:05) Barrows said if you (Council) do not vote to eliminate the city’s print advertising budget, I will not vote for Sky Knight, his direct quote,  “ if we do that (cut advertising) I will vote to restore funding for Sky Night because that is where the money should come from.”

Next to speak was Councilwomen Chen (1:14:35). Chen spoke for eight minutes about how Cerritos staff did a great job of streamlining the budget, and needing to find new revenue streams. At 1:22: 11, like Barrows and Pulido, she abruptly started talking about the  .0025 % advertising budget and how we should “cut print advertising and move to online sources.”

After Chen finished, Pulido talked about $2.5 million employees cost and (at 1:25:15) again abruptly asked about the print advertising budget and “thanked Cho and Barrows for bringing up the print advertising cut to cover Sky Knight.”

Pulido asked (at 1:29:00) what the impact of the print advertising cut would be on the CCPA ticket sales.

CCPA Executive Director Dianne Cheney  (at 1:32:42) said, “we used to get 60-70% of our ticket sales from the first two brochures, but that has changed substantially. People are buying tickets closer to the event date. We also get advanced coverage in newspapers with previews and interviews, that helps too”. Pulido thanked Ms. Cheney (at 1:39:25) and inexplicably said,  “….it sounds like the brochure is the main vehicle for ticket sales, all additional advertising is a bonus.”  This is minutes after Ms. Cheney told Pulido that brochure sales have dropped “significantly”.  Selective hearing on Pulido’s part.

Pulido went on to say “I would rather support the pleasure of my colleagues and restore Sky Knight…like to make the motion to reinstate the budget…if it comes specifically from print advertising I am favorable to that”.

Barrows again chimed in and for the second time (at 1:42:05) said, “ if we don’t do it (cut the print advertising budget) I won’t vote to reinstate Sky Knight. Pulido then (at 1:44:34) made a motion, “…to restore $220,000 to fund Sky Knight with $220,000 coming out of city advertising funds inclusive of the CCPA”. Barrows is heard correcting Mark to “make sure it was from city advertising”. Pulido went on, “I am open to cut advertising dollars to restore Sky Knight”.

Immediately after that Mayor Edwards (who never debated the topic but voted yes anyway) brought the motion to the floor. Barrows did not let Edwards get the word second out before he seconded it, and the council voted 5-0.

This is shameless political payback of the worst kind, trying to stamp out freedom of the press. The $220,000 is .0025% of the budget; yet the entire council singled out that part of the budget, debated it for 20 minutes (out of 90 minutes), and voted to specifically cut city print advertising.  Even if it hurt ticket sales of the CCPA. Barrows, the obvious ringleader, said three times that I will not pass the budget unless we cut the city print advertising budget, that is verbatim.

So loyal LCCN readers, here is a councilperson who committed battery on a resident, who called this paper a liar (when it was true), who then orchestrated a payback scheme to injure the paper financially, and proceeded to hold the budget hostage until the entire council voted to “cut print advertising” (in his own words). Councilman Cho commented at the meeting “why are we talking about such small items when we have bigger things to talk about.” Wonder indeed.

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