Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. will be up for re-election next year, and Inglewood residents have to ask themselves if they can “trust” his leadership. He has commandeered total control of City Hall, the police department, and social media groups, all in an effort to suppress residents concerns as he continues to “reimagine” the city, in an effort to eliminate “blight”.
A series of missteps, and what can be construed as either “material falsehoods of the truth” or “willful omissions” will be of severe importance when residents cast their votes in the upcoming November 2 special election to raise taxes, and in 2022 when Butts, and Councilmen George Dotson and Alex Padilla ask residents for another term.
The mistrust began with the mayor gaining control over a popular social media group. Something as small as the inability to post critical articles of either the City or mayor, are denied by the groups creator and moderator, former Parks and Recreation Commissioner Halimah Ginyard.
Ginyard’s group put the Inglewood Park Cemetery on blast for being used as an overflow parking lot for the Forum, which Butts then seized the opportunity to ingratiate himself into her good graces by becoming a prominent member of the group. He then installed her as the Executive Director of the Inglewood Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, and uses her group as a means to monitor residents dissent. Residents continue to complain about their inability to post issues in her group, especially on issues surrounding eminent domain.
“How come they don’t allow these posts in Eye on Inglewood?” asked Daylan Williams. “I tried to post a couple things…denied.”
The city also misrepresented the City’s finances, which prompted the council to vote unanimously in favor of declaring a fiscal emergency, and calling for a special election this November, despite not sharing with the public the first installment of funds under the American Rescue Plan Act. In normal circumstances, a department head would face reprimand for this action, but it is welcome in Inglewood, in order for the city to raise taxes.
When Butts was presented with evidence from the CA State Auditor’s office, that the city’s declaration of a fiscal emergency was “overblown”, he said they were wrong.
In emails, to Daily Breeze Mayor James T. Butts Jr. scoffed at the auditor’s projections, saying the figures for Inglewood relied on a single year’s audited budget and failed to exclude one-time revenues the city did not have in subsequent years.
“We will use a combination of cost cutting and reserve allocation if necessary to close a deficit at the close of the 2020-2021 books,” he wrote. He could not say if the city will have another deficit next year as city staff has not yet projected the revenues for 2021-22.
The August 3 staff report, calling for the fiscal emergency declaration, said the City anticipated a revenue shortfall for the next five years.
Keep in mind, this mayor removed treasurer Wanda Brown from the dais, due to her “misrepresentations” to the public, and alleged to have fired his former aide for committing “fraud”, meanwhile both Finance Director David Esparza and his assistant director, Sharon Koike, are still on the payroll.
Next up is the year long project to upgrade Centinela Ave. as they begin massive curb and street repairs that will last two years. The city will use funds from SB1 to resurface Centinela from LaCienega to Florence. This will have HUGE impacts on drivers daily commute and small businesses still recovering from the pandemic.
“There will be no public dollars, no taxpayer dollars used for this [NFL] project,” Chris Meaney said. “The entire project has been privately capitalized and is being privately funded.”
Residents were told that the project was being privately financed, and no public money would be used on the project, which isn’t the case.
Residents are still fuming over the citywide parking permit program that continues to allow visitors to the Forum and SoFi stadium to park penalty free, in residential neighborhoods, until October 1. Councilwoman Dionne Faulk held a Town Hall on September 2, where residents openly complained about the traffic, and the presenters told residents to “stay home” on game days.
The Parking Authority borrowed a couple of million from the general fund, to pay for signage and parking related to implementing the parking program, despite the City entering into an executed contract stating the developer would pay those costs.
Residents are subsidizing police costs after the City awarded $14 million for outside law enforcement services related to events at the Forum and SoFi stadium. These costs were not factored into the FY 2020-2021 which ends September 30.
The City released invoices related to seeking reimbursement from Hollywood Park Management Co, detailing invoices are being submitted 4-5 months after the event date. The City didn’t receive reimbursement nearly a year after the events took place, because they pulled funds from the reserves to pay outstanding bills owed to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The City has refused to release a copy of the contract between the Hollywood Park Management Company and the City , under the Freedom of Information and CA Public Records Act, which lists contract terms related to reimbursement of traffic, police, and public works services, and the agreed reimbursement rates.
The contract would also delineate the important taxes derived from SoFi stadium: Admissions and Parking Taxes. Residents are being asked to increase transient occupancy taxes and real estate transfer taxes, to “realize the benefits of visitors to the city”, but we should also be increasing the taxes on admissions and parking if we are truly seeking to realize these alleged “benefits” of Inglewood becoming the sports capital of the world.
In the past, the Forum received “sweeteners” of reduced admission taxes and the freezing of rate increases to align with the Consumer Price Index (inflation), meanwhile, residents receive annual rate increases on trash pickups. Where are those savings going?
“This is ALL Butts, and lining his pockets,” said William Bell.
Finally, residents are seeing the profound impacts of bringing the NFL to the City will have on small businesses that have been in operation for decades.
In the case of City of Inglewood v CENTINGLEWOOD, LLC the city is acquiring parcels, along Century Blvd. for street widening and for the Clippers arena. The city quietly closed the Clippers deal, with the mayor making an announcement during an Inglewood Chamber mixer. The Development and Disposition Agreement called for the deal to close by August 31, otherwise the purchase price would increase from $66 million to $68 million. Murphy’s Bowl will receive price adjustments related to remediation efforts.
The city used taxpayer funds to acquire the Rodeway Inn, and are paying for storage of equipment from the shuttered Church’s Chicken on Century and Prairie, despite numerous public offerings that NO taxpayer funds would be used on these billion dollar projects. Residents believe the street projects are a way to increase parking availability, which the city is short on.
“Kicking people out for parking…smh,” said Norm Boseman.
The funds from the Clippers transaction, along with the 1st installment of the ARPA funds, and the city’s final $15.5 million installment being received by July 2022, should be factored into the forthcoming budget presentation for FY 2021-2022.
The Clippers have pledged a robust Community Benefits package totaling $100 million. Residents have NEVER heard of a benefits package related to SoFi Stadium. Access to parks on the Hollywood Park site (that we pay for), backpack giveaways, flag football, and select intern opportunities don’t count. Did the mayor have the foresight to have them invest in football fields for our two high school football teams? Invest in the parks? We have a multi-billion football stadium, in the center of the city, and we declared a fiscal emergency? Our school district is still in receivership? Does that make sense?
Can residents ever expect to hear the truth from this mayor and council? Butts is right about one thing.
“The only thing that has changed in Inglewood, is everything.”