|(Feb. 6, 2018, 9:25 a.m.) -- Government bodies at many levels practice the "mushroom treatment": trying to keep the public in the dark and fed manure. As dawn breaks today (Feb. 6), the City of Long Beach is practicing the "mushroom treatment" by preventing LBREPORT.com and others from reporting what measures LB taxpayers now face because LB's current Mayor and Council are spending beyond revenue in FY19, FY20 and FY21.
Those spending actions included generous pay raises for six figure city management, taxpayer revenue giveaways (corporate welfare) for favored projects and a lavish and needless new Civic Center without seeking bids for a City Hall seismic retrofit while leaving LB taxpayers (now paying the highest sales tax rate in CA, shared with only a few other cities) without nearly 200 police officers and two key fire engines that taxpayers previously had.
Later today, the City Council is scheduled to hear a city management report updating the extent of Mayor/Council overspending (mislabeled a "shortfall") and offer recommendations on what to do about it. The "mushroom treatment" is evident in city management's concealment of its report, failing to attach it for the public and the press to access as part of the Council agenda item...until after it's called and presented.
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This doesn't happen with most LB Council agenda items. It's happening on this item because the Mayor and Council let city management get away with doing the same thing on the same subject just weeks ago.
On December 19, 2017 (during the low-visibility holiday period and scheduled for non-prime-time afternoon study session), city staff revealed the magnitude of multi-million gaps between City Hall spending and revenue for the next three years. It did so without providing respectful, businesslike, written materials for taxpayers and Councilmembers to study before the study session.
Prior to the December 19 item, LBREPORT.com cited the Brown (open meetings) act to seek access to whatever memo or other writing(s) had been or would be distributed to Councilmembers on the item. CA Government Code section 54957.5(a) provides in pertinent part:
"(a) Notwithstanding Section 6255 or any other provisions of law, agendas of public meetings and any other writings, when distributed to all, or a majority of all, of the members of a legislative body of a local agency by any person in connection with a matter subject to discussion or consideration at a public meeting of the body, are disclosable public records under the California Public Records Act...and shall be made available upon request without delay."
City staff circumvented this by replying that it hadn't provided and wouldn't provide materials on this item to the Mayor or Council before the study session and would provide such materials at the Council meeting and afterward online.
LBREPORT.com tried again in connection with tonight's Feb. 6 agenda item. We made the same request and we got the same response.
That means what the public will hear tonight will amount to an orchestrated management Power Point presentation and or narrative followed by likely self-serving statements by LB's Mayor and Councilmembers without serious scrutiny by taxpayers (or the press.)
That scrutiny will come later, but a well governed city wouldn't fear hearing it as the item approaches or at the Council Chamber podium tonight.
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