The city of Compton
Compton Vows to Overcome Fiscal Challenges
The status of Compton’s financial woes is not an isolated incident in the current economic environment, but there is a light at the end of the “fiscal tunnel” for the city
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Assistant Managing Editor
Reportedly, there was a vote last week Tuesday at Compton City Council’s meeting to authorize worker layoffs as a way to address part of the city’s fiscal crisis, and a resolution was passed apparently to the city manager to issue layoff notices to help ease the pending fiscal burden. Also no further council approval was needed.
Like many other municipalities in the state and indeed throughout the country, Compton is undergoing some financial challenges, but the mayor and other elected officials are bending over backwards to minimize the impact of the city employees, it services to the residents on city and the overall quality of life in this suburb of metropolitan Los Angeles, known as the Hub City.
In order to get an accurate picture of the city, the Sentinel spoke with Mayor Perrodin and some of the city council members.
Mayor Perrodin, who is presently in his third consecutive term, said, “We found out that we’ve been going into our reserve fund for the last few years and as a result, we’re going to have to make some painful decisions dealing with our workforce, so what we’re doing now is to make sure we’re not decreasing or neglecting the vital services to our citizens. And we feel very confident that we’ll be able to achieve this” – continuing to providing quality services to the citizens of the city.
The Mayor seemed painfully aware of the obvious sacrifices some may have to make so that the entire city will benefit and he wants to lessen/minimize that burden to the extent that his office can accommodate. He continued, “Whenever you have to lay somebody off, it’s going to impact the family and that is of grave concern to me, but the city itself is going to be okay.”
In addition to the Mayor, the Sentinel also spoke with Councilwomen Barbara Calhoun and Yvonne Arceneaux. Though they recognized that there were some rough times ahead (fiscally) and some bumps in the road before the city returns to a solid financial footing, they both seem somewhat optimistic that there are brighter days ahead.
After outlining some of her accomplishments and her vote relative to the police department, Calhoun explained, “There is no way that we can have a police department (in this fiscal climate) and that’s why I changed my vote, once the city manager affirmed it (the non-feasibility of re-establishing the Compton Police Department). I asked and found out that we’re heading for a budget deficit.”
In her role as gate-keeper of the city’s well-being and wanting to do right by her constituents, Calhoun also said, “I voted for no staff reduction; I told the (city) employees that we requested that the city manager work with their unions to see if they can come up with a plan … because it’s the employees that do the work.”
Then turning her attention to some of the causes of Compton’s fiscal woes, Calhoun continued, “Compton is not the only city that has a budget deficit, and that is throughout the state. And the public needs to know that the State of California “raided” every city of millions of dollars that could have been used to help cities offset their deficit. And when the state took that money, it (the state) still did not balance its budget. So, we have our assembly people and the state Senate to thank for taking millions of dollars from every city. And that money could have helped every city with a budget deficit to close that gap a little better.”
Finally, Arceneaux echoing similar sentiments as her colleagues said, “Like every other city at this time, we have a deficit and it’s a significant deficit. However, we are addressing it and we are looking at some layoffs, starting with our temporary and part-time employees first. All employees have received their letter, Thursday or Friday, I think, that there is going to be a layoff coming. Now as far as the categories of employment, I’m not sure at this time; but I do know that the first will be the temporary and the part-time (employees).”
Also like her colleagues, Arceneaux believes that the media is unfairly focusing on Compton’s fiscal problems and that may be because the city has gained a negative reputation that has nothing to do with the current elected officials or the current residents, but they both have learned to live with it, and they all are doing their best to overcome it, and to move on to “Birthing a New Compton,” as the Mayor and the city council have articulated by words and deeds in recent years.
Arceneaux added, “I’m not one of those who opposes bringing back the police department, but we just don’t have the money to do it at this time.
Some of the city employees have voiced their concern, here’s a sampling:
Carol Francis, a maintenance worker said that it’s looking like her union might not be able to save her job because, “It’s not based on seniority, it’s based on position and that’s where it really hurts; some people have spent a lifetime working here in Compton.”
Another worker said, “It’s so sad, there’s not much that we can do at this time.”
And Daniel Gomez, a fire captain said, “It’s amazing to me what happened … what went wrong.”
It may not be comforting, to Compton, but the city of Vallejo, California, has filed for bankruptcy, and according to reports, 46 of the nation’s 50 states are in fiscal trouble. Compton is the tip of the iceberg.