DOWNEY - Citing continuing hard times and the grim prospect of layoffs as well as the real possibility of reductions in programs and services starting next fiscal year, with hardly any relief to speak of in sight, the City Council Tuesday grudgingly voted to grant the Downey Chamber of Commerce a $33,000 subsidy out of its general fund.The money, according to community development director Brian Saeki, will assist the chamber if their efforts to "provide various services to the Downey business community," most notably the annual Street Faire and Downey Christmas Parade. In the past, the $33,000 funding came from the redevelopment agency, but inasmuch as it will cease to exist by Feb. 1, it took the combined voices of both chamber officials and concerned private citizens to sway the members of the council to assist. "But," said the council members, practically to a man, "only for this year. We will have to re-evaluate this arrangement next year. These are tough, tough times. We'll have to conduct more intense cost-benefit analyses of various operations. For instance, we cannot support a private activity at the expense of laid-off personnel." Councilman Mario Guerra said: "I for one will insist that the Council be given a say in the programs subsidized by us." City manager Gilbert Livas added that had it not been for the dissolution of the redevelopment agency, the city was even planning of providing the chamber technical help. An awkward moment came when Mayor Roger Brossmer asked chamber executive director Sue Nordin for the percentage figures of a few selected chamber budget elements, such as the size of salaries and commissions. Without an answer, Brossmer pounced on her: "I fault you for coming here unprepared. You expect us to help you, but you have to be prepared to back up your requests with relevant facts." Bottom line: the chamber is getting its subsidy, to be formalized in a revised contract with the city, and the appropriation from the general fund to be approved - at the next council meeting. But come next year, it'll be an entirely different ballgame.
********** Published: January 26, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 41