Inglewood Mayor James Butts sold the opening of an NFL stadium, to the city’s 100,000 residents, as the savior of the city’s finances. Butts constantly regurgitates the city was on the brink of fiscal insolvency when he was elected in 2011, and because of his experience, leadership, and vast knowledge, he single handedly turned the city around by amassing a “record” city reserves, despite six of the last city budgets being in the red.
During the August 3 city council meeting the city will declare a Fiscal Emergency and call for a special election in November of this year.
The City held a special city council meeting July 30 where they awarded a one-year, $5 million contract to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department for law enforcement services related to events taking place at SoFi Stadium. The $5 million was taken out of the city’s reserves. Two weeks prior, on July 14, the city took $1.1 million from the reserves to pay outstanding invoices to the Sheriff’s department, for stadium services dating back to September 2020, and awarding a $1 million one-year contract to the Hawthorne Police Department, for event services too.
Both meetings occurred between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. to ensure Inglewood residents were unable to voice their concerns over how much taxpayer’s money was going towards a project that was allegedly self-financed by Stan Kroenke.
“You’re having a development that is being paid for, 100-percent capitalized by the developers,” said Butts. “They’re willing to pay up to $8 million per year to provide for increased public safety, park staff, maintenance of the parks, maintenance of the roads out of their pocket. The only things that’s required is that at some point when we make in excess of $25 million in a given year, that we begin to pay back those costs that they have front-loaded for us that, ordinarily, a developer would not have to touch.”
The City has refused to provide details under a Freedom of Information Act/CA Public Records Act request for all invoices submitted for reimbursement to SoFi Stadium for events held during the 2020-2021 NFL season, despite fans not being able to attend due to COVID restrictions.
Newly elected City Clerk Aisha Thompson has been dispatched to community events to register voters for a “November” election, and when asked what election was taking place, she has routinely declined to answer.
The Inglewood Airport Area Chamber of Commerce (IAACC) has posted a new #InglewoodVotersMatter initiative, on social media, pledging to go door-to-door speaking to Inglewood residents, to register them to vote as well.
Both Thompson and the IAACC executive director are in their respective positions because of Butts.
The August 3 staff report details the 2020-2021 budget shortfall has swelled from $9.7 million to $12.09 million “allegedly” due to the pandemic and as a direct result the city wants voters to increasing taxes in two areas.
Voters will be asked to increase the property transfer tax, to a sliding scale, to pay for emergency services (police and fire), ease traffic, address homelessness (the city has zero homeless shelters), and provide general services.
Voters will also be asked to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) from 14% to 15.5%, to keep the city clean, address affordable housing, maintain (non-existent) anti-gang programs, senior services, and other city general services.
This is problematic because the City has a pattern of spending money as if there is plenty of it in the bank.
Taxpayers have pledged millions to a first-time homebuyers program, bonuses to executive staff, upgraded the city’s fleet, attempted to remodel the Inglewood Police Department’s locker room, and outsourcing law enforcement services due to a severe staffing shortage in our police department.
The shortage is due in part to lackluster recruiting, and a mass exodus of senior officers. Taxpayers are also paying for signage for a citywide permit parking program that the developer was supposed to pay for.
When exactly are the “benefits” from the stadium suppose to kick in?
Taxpayers are entangled in multiple lawsuits related to the mayor’s reckless behavior: sleeping with a subordinate, allegedly sexually assaulting a city consultant, and nearly killing an LAPD motor officer, a mother and her child when he made an illegal turn on a red light while driving a car registered to the police department.
Taxpayers provide the mayor with an auto allowance he declines to use, making residents liable for the gas, insurance and liability.
To our knowledge, the City has yet to formally accept nearly $35 million in funds from President Joe Biden’s recovery plan.
Former Budget and Accounting Manager Barbara Ohno said the city was “painting a fraudulent picture of the City’s finances” to lure the NFL to Inglewood. It appears she was right.
Treasurer Wanda Brown also discusses the city’s overzealous spending, and when she warned the council publicly, she got her mic cut off and removed from participating in council meetings altogether. Butts and the council also reduced her salary.
The last time the city declared a fiscal emergency was in 2010 which led to city employees being placed on involuntary furlough, reduced services, including the closure of a fire station.
Inglewood voters will go to the polls in 2022 to elect representatives for District 1 (George Dotson), District 2 (Alex Padilla), and mayor (James Butts).
Voters will have to ask themselves how has the city actually prospered, under Butts, when we are right back in the same position we started in, when he was elected nearly a decade ago.