Saying that recreation provides an alternative to drugs and gangs, Councilman Clarence Smith has won approval from the City Council for further study of his proposal to raise taxes to support after-school and weekend recreation in Long Beach parks and school grounds.
Under the proposal, homeowners with a single parcel would pay an additional $60 to $70 a year and commercial-industrial property owners would pay $160 more a year to fund the $5.8-million program.
The matter was sent to the Recreation Commission and the city manager for further review and is expected to be returned to the council by Dec. 13.
Smith believes the city has limited recreational opportunities for so-called "latch-key kids," the children of working parents who go home to empty houses after school. By increasing the recreation staff, children would have a safe, supervised atmosphere after school that would deter them from hanging out with gangs and getting involved with drugs, the councilman said.
While council members agreed that the additional recreation staff is needed, they said they want to see the proposal hammered into a form that will win voter approval.
Smith said he would like to put the issue before voters on a mail-in ballot. The next regularly scheduled city election is more than a year away. Although a proposal to increase the city police force also is being proposed for a special election, Smith said he believes his tax-raising proposal is compatible because more recreation helps prevent youngsters from turning to crime.
"You have to do suppression and prevention," he said. If the city has more recreation, there will be less crime and consequently fewer additions to the police force required in the future.