NORWALK – At Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled Norwalk City Council meeting, all members voted to accept the recommendation of the city attorney, Roxanne Diaz, to approve the hiring of Jesus Gomez as the new city manager.
After a statement from the city attorney touting the achievements and qualifications of Gomez, the council voted with no comment or discussion to approve his hiring.
In addition to Diaz’s statement, the city of El Monte had a statement which listed his accomplishments including “The approval and construction of over a billion dollars of private and public investments.”
Gomez’s yearly salary in Norwalk starts at $260,000 with annual costs of living adjustments after the second year.
He is also entitled to other benefits commensurate with his level of employee status.
If he indeed takes the helm of the city on or before February 1, 2018, he will also receive a one-time lump sum payment of $20,000.
A copy of Mr. Gomez’s contract with the city of Norwalk is available on the city’s website.
HOMELESS: Also Tuesday, The Norwalk City Council began hearing suggestions and direction for the current homeless situation within the city limits at a special meeting of the normally five-member board Tuesday at 4:30 PM in the council’s chamber.
Absent from the first of a multi-faceted process was Vice Mayor Leonard Shryock. No explanation was given for his absence.
Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, with Lesar Development Consultants, was the afternoon’s first Presenter regarding the process.
Lesar Consultants was awarded up to $49,000 on December 19, 2017, to “Develop the City’s (Norwalk) homeless plan.”
Tuesday’s special meeting was the council’s opportunity to discuss such a plan.
Kuntz, opened with questions regarding the definition of homelessness and how a person became homeless.
He presented the “Housing First,” idea as a possible solution.
According to the United States Council on Homelessness, “Housing First is a proven approach in which people experiencing homelessness are offered permanent housing with few to no treatment preconditions, behavioral contingencies, or barriers.”
While not the only model available to today’s homeless situation, it was the methodology that Kuntz presented Tuesday afternoon.
His presentation to the council was followed up with a more in-depth initial presentation to the department heads or representatives from the various city departments at a city staff input session held the next day at the Social Service Center on Alondra Blvd.
Both presentations seemed to highlight some of the questions regarding homelessness including; potential causes, responses and successes with the “Housing First models.”
After an initial briefing on the idea and a retort by Mayor Luigi Vernola, he asked, “Who’s going to pay for this?”
Vernola also questioned the use of the phrase, “Human right of housing,” which was expressed as an opinion of Kuntz early in his PowerPoint presentation.
Vernola’s concerns were also addressed about those individuals with mental health and other issues.
Addressing some of the financial questions was Los Angeles County official Michael Castillo who gave highlights of current county and other agency-level funding which is currently being exercised.
With an approval of over 69% of the voters last March, Measure H was approved which provides funding for homeless programs in the county.
According to LACounty.gov, “Measure H is expected to generate an estimated $355 Million annually for services to combat homelessness.
Speaking in terms of financing, Vernola stated, “I’m a business person.”
Continuing, he pressed on regarding the homeless individuals part in a Housing First scenario, “They’re not giving up nothing.”
Council member Margarita Rios explained resources as a “Trickle down,” effort at distributing resources reminding everyone that, “There’s a lot of layers here.”
Adding her concern for the people of Norwalk, Council Member Jennifer Perez asked (about the homeless), “Where do we put them?”
Rios added her concern regarding,” First responder training.”
Council Member Tony Ayala may have said it best when he shared perhaps his and everyone’s sentiment, “We are struggling to understand this.”
Ayala himself was on the lines last year during the “Count the Homeless,” event held to better assess the number in each area.
This year’s homeless count is scheduled for Wednesday, January 24. Meet at the Social Service Center at 7 p.m. To volunteer, go to www.theycountwillyou.org/.
The meeting adjourned with the understanding that this is the first in a multi-step process where the next steps would be several meetings with city staff, citizens, faith-based groups and others to continue the process.
The next Homeless Agency and Provider input is scheduled for Tuesday, January 30, 2 p.m. at the Social Service Center at 11929 Alondra Blvd.
For more information regarding the meeting schedule, call (562) 929-5544.
By Raul Samaniego