|(April 15, 2017, 6:55 p.m.) -- LBREPORT.com comments below on an upcoming April 17 City Council item that we've previously reported in detail (here and here.)
We doing so because it could affect the way the City of Long Beach is governed and by whom and that's newsworthy and a big deal to us.
On Tuesday April 18, LB City Councilmembers are poised to change LB city law to let themselves, the Mayor and all citywide electeds, use sums from their contributor-funded "officeholder accounts" (that Councilmembers tripled in 2015 saying it would them better support neighborhood and community events) to transfer, loan or contribute "to any other candidate for local, State or federal elective office." The action would erase a provision of current LB's city law that says such funds "may not be used as a transfer, loan or contribution to any other candidate for local, State or federal elective office."
This would effectively create a City Hall-centered incumbent-perpetuating money machine letting LB electeds use officeholder "contributions" (collected from friendly interests that may have interests in friendly Council outcomes) to go beyond funding neighborhood events and now apply in politically weaponized ways to advance their friends running for various offices.
Who's doing this? Connect the dots, which are public record.
Following the 2014 election cycle, tripling Council/Mayor/Citywide officeholder accounts was suddenly a priority for the Council's "Elections Oversight Committee," with new members picked by newly-elected Mayor Garcia who chose as chair his former district office aide, newly-elected Councilwoman Gonzalez. In early 2015, Gonzalez's Committee recommended, and the Council approved (5-3, Austin, Price, Mungo dissenting, 4th dist. vacant) tripling total sums incumbents could amass. The biggest beneficiaries were citywide electeds including Mayor Garcia, who with other citywide electeds gained the ability to amass up to $75,000 annually in "officeholder contributions" outside of the normal election campaign cycle.
After the 2016 election cycle, Mayor Garcia named Councilwoman Pearce (a member of his 2014 Mayoral "Transition Team") to chair the "Elections Oversight Committee." Just weeks after state Senator Ricardo Lara filed paperwork indicating he's running for state Insurance Commissioner in 2018 (and Mayor Garcia later endorsed him), an item appeared on the Committee's March 14 agenda proposing to "request City Manager to study the feasibility of aligning candidate officeholder accounts to those of state/FPPC regulations." The item didn't provide the public with any written explanatory materials and its title fogged its substantive effect: to let LB incumbents transfer, loan or contribute their "officeholder" account sums to any other candidate for local, State or federal elective office. It advanced from the Committee on a 2-1 vote (Supernaw dissenting), sending it to the City Council.
On April 4, the item as agendized at the City Council was "Recommendation to request City Manager to study the feasibility of aligning councilmember and other elected officials officeholder accounts to those of state/FPPC regulations." The Council agenda attributed the item to Councilwoman Pearce as chair of the Elections Oversight Committee. A one page written statement accompanied the item, reciting that: "It is the recommendation of the Elections Oversight Committee to the City Council to request the City Manager to study the feasibility of aligning councilmember and other elected officials officeholder accounts to those of state/FPPC regulations."
After the clerk read the agendized title, the Mayor gave Councilwoman Pearce the floor. Pearce stated that the Committee had "looked at this," described present LB law, then stated: "We'd like to make a motion to have the City Attorney amend" the current LB law. In other words, Pearce moved to make the changes without any city manager "study" of the action's "feasibility" that she and her Committee had voted (2-1) as its recommendation to Council.
Councilman Supernaw initially missed the switch. He explained why he'd dissented on the Council committee vote and remarked, mistakenly, that the item "is just looking for a study, not that absolute decision." Mayor Garcia corrected him, noting that Pearce's motion wasn't to seek a "study" but was in fact to move for a change in the municipal code. City Attorney Charles Parkin confirmed this. In response, Councilman Supernaw thanked them for their clarification and said nothing further. Neither did any other Councilmembers.
The Pearce-Gonzalez motion carried on a
A week later on April 11, the City Attorney-drafted text arrived (with no accompanying explanatory materials) for its first of two enacting votes. Mayor Garcia took the item out of order near start of the meeting. One public speaker, frequent Council communicator Larry Goodhue, said the measure "doesn't pass the smell test." The Council approved the item with no substantive discussion on a
On April 18, a second Council vote could create the officeholder perpetuating/political money machine. Four Councilmembers could stop it, if they join with Supernaw who's voted twice against the measure.
The April 18 item is a big deal. Consider its monied impacts in potential LB scenarios. If Sen. Lara is elected Insurance Commissioner [his most recent endorsers include US Sen. Kamala Harris], it would free up a state Senate seat that we've speculated Mayor Garcia might seek (or he might wait for Congressman Alan Lowenthal to exit and Councilmembers Gonzalez or Uranga might seek Sen. Lara's seat.) If a LB Councilmember were to win Lara's state Senate seat, it would free up a Council seat, triggering a no-runoff taxpayer-paid special election, and if Garcia headed to Sac'to or DC, it would free up the Mayor's seat, triggering a citywide taxpayer-paid special election. Meanwhile, the Mayor's chair would be filled by Vice Mayor Richardson [and we speculate with no inside information that he would run for Mayor in a no-runoff special election and he probably wouldn't be alone. If a Councilmember ultimately fills the Mayor's seat, it will trigger another taxpayer-paid special election to fill that Council vacancy.
This self-serving (not public serving) conduct could begin shortly after some or all of the same incumbents seek re-election in 2018 in Council districts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and citywide offices including Mayor. LB's incumbents either know or should know that fiscal time bombs will detonate after the 2018 election cycle. These include the profligate Civic Center transaction's annual escalating rent payments (scheduled to begin mid-2019); police, fire and city management pay raises with no details on how to pay for them (proposed for approval at the April 18 Council meeting); increased PERS pension costs; $200+ million needed to keep the Queen Mary afloat which a glitzy adjacent land development probably can't deliver; increased density requiring increased police with no plan in place to restore nearly 200 citywide deployable budgeted officers LB taxpayers had but no longer have; and Fire Stations 17 and 1 without Engines 17 and 101 that LB taxpayers had but no longer have.
So...despite paying higher taxes than ever (and higher than neighboring cities), are you better off now than you were four years ago, or eight years, or twelve years ago?
With this record, do you want incumbent LB Councilmembers and the Mayor to use their "officeholder" accounts to tilt the outcomes of future elections as they wish?
That's why what's happening on April 18 matters. That's why LBREPORT.com prominently reported it twice before now. As George Orwell put it: "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations."
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