The adoption of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on unreliable internet access that has long affected La Cañada Flintridge, and the City Council is working with Spectrum to address the issue.
During the panel’s virtual meeting on Tuesday, Councilman Keith Eich told colleagues that he and other members of a subcommittee have been working with the internet service provider, which he said has taken steps to ease its system’s congestion
Residents who have reported their broadband problems to Spectrum and the council include the Rajagopalan family, which voiced its dissatisfaction with the company in a letter posted on the city’s website.
“We humbly request the city to authorize the study of issues related to Spectrum services that were contemplated during budget deliberations,” Sampath and Nandini Rajagopalan wrote. “The quality of internet service is unacceptable in these times when so many of us are distance learning or teaching hundreds of students or working from home.”
The company has seen high internet usage from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. in the last four months and has increased its capacity by as much as 40% to deal with the spike, according to Eich.
“They let us know that so far in September, they’ve mitigated, as of last week, about 25% of the issues with congestion of their network,” Eich said. “They have a few more percent in the rest of this month, but in October there should be good strides. The first half of October will get another 20% and the second half of October will get the remaining 50% of their network congestion issues.”
Eich added that the city will do its part to accelerate the process but that Spectrum is sometimes hampered by the procedure of acquiring permits from Los Angeles County and Southern California Edison.
The city and Spectrum “saw eye to eye in helping our residents have the best experience,” Eich said.
PUBLIC SAFETY REPORT UNDER REVIEW
The city has received a report from a Public Safety Commission subcommittee that addressed the concerns over the city’s contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The subcommittee, consisting of chair Marilyn Smith and Maureen Siegel-Sprowles, spoke with representatives from La Cañada BLM, Save Our Sheriff and Sheriffs Appreciated, Friendly and Engaged, as well as with Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Todd Deeds, and presented its findings in an 11-page document during a telephone meeting on Sept. 1.
LCF Mayor Michael Davitt confirmed that he and the rest of the council will review what he described as a “lengthy” report.
“I know some of the comments that have been on the item surrounding La Cañada Black Lives Matter and their interaction with our Public Safety Commission,” Davitt said, “and I did want to let people know that we did receive a report from the Public Safety Commission and from city staff, which was a summary of those discussions and investigations that took place. That’s following a process. This is kind of standard with a city like ours.”
Smith and Siegel-Sprowles formed the subcommittee after commissioners responded to a petition submitted by LCBLM in June that demanded that the city defund its portion of Crescenta Valley station activity, terminate its contract with the Sheriff’s Department and invest in equitable alternatives. The commission advised against the termination of the city’s contract with the department.
Three of the seven public comments received by the City Council on Tuesday supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Distinguished members of La Cañada City Council, I urge you to give further consideration to the demands posed in the petition by La Cañada Black Lives Matter,” wrote Ethan Angold. “Assessing our community’s current relations to law enforcement is absolutely necessary, and deserves your earnest attention.”
Erin Lust expressed her disappointment in the commission’s recommendation.
“If you choose to ignore the cries for help in your own community, you will fail at the one job asked of you by your people,” she said. “You have a chance to make a real, lasting, positive change in the lives of those suffering the most here. By doing nothing you admit to a blatant disregard for the safety of Black lives in your city, and that is unacceptable.”
AUGUST SEES DECLINE
IN REPORTS OF CRIME
Deeds reported to the council that crime statistics improved after an uptick in June.
There were reports of 16 theft and larceny in August, compared with 37 in June and 29 in July. Most of the cases involved unlocked vehicles and mail or package theft.
Deeds said he was happy to report that deputies arrested six people in four July incidents.
There was one case of grand theft auto, one residential burglary, two burglaries, three acts of vandalism, four identity theft and fraud incidents and one narcotics offense.
GIFT CARD PILOT PROGRAM
The city continued to move forward with its plan for a gift card program that would encourage the public to spend locally.
Lisa Brancheau, senior management analyst, said a subcommittee decided to sign with Yiftee, a company that provides electronic gift card services for local businesses. Customers can buy gift cards online and upload them onto their phones and use their devices to pay at participating businesses.
Any fees incurred by merchants will be covered by the city, and gift card denominations will start at $40 There will be an offer that gives an additional $15, giving customers a total of $55. There will be a limit of nine gift cards per customer.
The pilot program is set to roll out and be marketed within the next few weeks.
CITY CALLED FINANCIALLY HEALTHY
City Treasurer Jeff Wang presented the city’s monthly yields in investments from the past two months and assured the council that the municipality is in solid shape financially despite the pandemic.
“I can tell you that the city remains very, very healthy from a financial standpoint,” Wang said.
City Manager Mark Alexander echoed Wang’s statement and reminded council members and viewers of the meeting that LCF’s revenue comes mostly from property taxes.
“Like most cities, we did feel the effects of COVID-19, and in particular the loss of sales tax as a result of some of the business closures that were necessary in order to prevent the spread of the virus,” Alexander said. “However, even despite some of those impacts, we’re fortunate in the sense that our budget is not heavily dependent on sales tax as the primary source of revenue”
According to Alexander, approximately 6-7 cents of what residents pay in property tax comes back to the city, totaling more than $5 million. LCF also receives a significant amount from the state’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.