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By Brian Hews and Randy Economy
An analysis of city documents show that current Councilwoman Carol Chen’s campaign mailer claim of cutting $40 million from the budget during her term, which started in 2008, is a “cumulative numbers game” maneuver meant to mislead voters.
In actuality the cuts were much less.
In his City Manager Budget Message of May 25, 2012, longtime Cerritos City Manager Art Gallucci said “in fact from the beginning of fiscal year 2008-2009 to mid year 2011-2012, it is estimated the city has reduced expenditures by approximately $9,218,000.”
During 2007-2008, city revenues were well over $95 million; as of mid-year 2012 they were around $83 million.
“Given those revenue figures a $40 million budget cut would be next to impossible to attain,” said Dave Rass, a CPA from Tustin. “Average revenue for 2008-2012 was $88 million. Cutting $40 million in expenses is 45% of revenue, that is unheard of.”
In questioning the cuts, the city indicated the cuts were “cumulative” and started in 2008.
“The city cut over $6 million from the 2008 budget (6%), that reached $9 million in 2012,” city personnel said.
In a questionable maneuver, Chen added the $6 million cut in 2008 to each consecutive year to get her $40 million total.
Cerritos resident Jay Gray commented, “This reminds me of stereotypical cheesy used car salesman gimmick. They will tell you whatever they need to in order to make a sale, which means you don’t always get the whole truth. We saw that in the last debate when she got caught trying to manipulate the number of burglaries in Cerritos.”
The revelation calls into question Chen’s entire campaign mailer content that has been circulating around Cerritos for the past few weeks.
The brightly colored mailer and a letter state that Chen has “proven leadership with experience you can trust,” and lists Chen’s “accomplishments.”
The first on the list of accomplishments, indicating the importance to Chen, is a “$40 million claim of expenditure cuts.”
Travel Cuts Questioned
In questioning the letter sent to Cerritos voters by Chen that claimed Chen she saved “$50,000 in the council travel budget”, LCCN has confirmed that the actual vote was taken 32 months ago in June of 2010.
In addition, the document shows Councilman Bruce Barrows calling a “substitution motion” attempting to raise the budget by $10,000, which was seconded by Councilman Jim Edwards.
That motion did not carry.
In asking for clarification of the $50,000 claim in the letter, Chen replied to LCCN, “the vote is attached.” Chen went on to say, “the information you uncovered, once again, you distorted the facts. I’m continually surprised at your lack of accuracy and honesty. I request a correction.”
Chen was referring to the expose by LCCN in last week’s paper disclosing Chen, Barrows, and Edwards taking expensive trips and dining on $65 steaks and Foie Gras, going on as many as ten trips in one year.
All supporting expense documents are online loscerritosnews.net and refute Chen’s claim of accuracy.
“Apparently her travel budget cut vote was window dressing,” said one Cerritos resident.
“Dining on $65 steaks and Foie Gras does not sound like cutting costs to me.”
“Chen’s claim of fiscal responsibility, by voting to reduce the “part-time” city council’s travel expense down $66,000, is laughable at best. With all that’s come to light on spending, no one should take anything she has to say seriously, “ said Gray.
Gray went on to say, “It’s blatantly obvious that the reduction has done absolutely nothing to stop the city council’s unnecessary globetrotting or the over indulgence of expensive meals. Furthermore, in the 4-years since Carol Chen has been on the city council she has lost over $30 Million, in taxpayer money, on the Performing Arts Center and the Magnolia Power Plant. It’s clear what speaks for itself and that’s her fiscal irresponsibility with what the city manager calls OPM (Other People’s Money).”
Los Cerritos Community Newspaper will be releasing more expenditures Chen reported during her over four-year career on the Cerritos City Council during the next few weeks before the election.
One Washington DC trip cost $12,000 in hotel expenses alone. On another trip, Chen, Barrows, and Edwards took the entire Fine Art and Historical Commission staff to a trip to Colorado.
One of the current Fine Arts and Historical commissioners at the time, who attended the Colorado trip, berated LCCN over the weekend about the “accuracy” of the article. She said: “The Italian sculpture claim was not true; we looked for a Spanish sculpture.” The commission member, whom LCCN has chosen not to identify, said nothing about the expenses of the trip which cost taxpayers nearly $10,000.
Another Cerritos resident told LCCN: “Obviously, these chosen few are flying high, eating like hogs and sleeping in the finest five star hotels. We the stupid tax payers need to wake up; it’s time to say enough is enough!”
Another voter wrote a letter to LCCN who said, “be careful who you vote for in this March election.”
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