Garcia Hiding From Med Pot Hot Potato, Evading Council Meeting Accountability For Costs & Impacts His Policies Helped Create
|(June 19, 2012) -- Councilman Robert Garcia won't just be "absent" at tonight's Council meeting. As best we can tell, he has chosen to wilfully and deliberately absent himself from tonight's
LBReport.com has learned that the 1st district Councilman is in Florida. It's not listed on his website and as of Council meeting day this morning (June 19), to our knowledge he hasn't Facebooked about it. Garcia's legislative director told us simply "he's out of state on business for his work" [leaving the where, what, why of the story out]. That required a separate email to LBCC's Director of College Advancement, Public Affairs, & Governmental Relations, Mark Taylor, who replied:
"Robert and I are both in Miami today [Monday] and tomorrow [Tuesday Council meeting day] visiting Miami-Dade college. The visit has been planned for some time to learn about their foundation, public and media relations practices."
For the record, under CA law, every Councilmember has the legal right to participate in Council proceedings -- including voting -- by simply using a teleconference. Councilman Gary DeLong was the first to invoke the procedure (although the agenda item was subsequently rescheduled) from another country. Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal was the first LB Councilperson to use the teleconference procedure and did so successfully from India, literally on the other side of the world.
Councilman Garcia, whose PR machinery frequently portrays him as an internet Superman, is apparently incapable of using Skype or any other teleconference procedure from Florida.
When we asked his office legislative director why Councilman Garcia chose not to use the teleconference procedure, the staffer told us to direct that question to his boss. We emailed Councilman Garcia on Monday evening and as of noon east coast time Tuesday (June 19) haven't heard back from the internet connected incumbent (which is honestly odd behavior for him).
In our view, this isn't a medpot issue. In our opinion, this is an accountability and transparency issue for Garcia alone.
Councilman Garcia was among the Council majority that was were responsible for leading the City of Long Beach into a costly, avoidable legal quagmire that has made Long Beach taxpayers and neighborhoods guinea pigs for consequences that other cities chose to avoid. They will be present. He won't.
Of course the collectives, some of whom are paying one of the best lobbyist/advocates in town, will blame City Attorney, city management, the police department and others but that's a diversion from the threshold point. If the Council had voted as City Attorney Shannon recommended (who accurately forewarned that federal law and state law were on a collision course) and heeded the advice of the city's Police Chief, Long Beach taxpayers wouldn't be spending major amounts of staff resources and facing a tsunami of legal summonses it's already received and will likely receive. (Yes, it might be receiving other legal summonses, but only LB has landed itself in the CA Supreme Court on this.)
Tonight's agendized item is a report for "receive and file" purposes. If the Council does nothing tonight or in the coming weeks, LB's six month extension will end in August. Councilman Garcia claimed some previous med pot votes were so important that they should be postponed until Vice Mayor Lowenthal could be present, and she did likewise for him on previous votes.
So why do you suppose Councilman Garcia is hiding now? We suppose that it's in part because Mayor Foster, who from the outset was more circumspect in his approach toward regulating/permiting the outlets, has on several recent occasions said he favors letting the six month extension expire. Garcia's previous record of cheerleading for the outlets is on a collision course with the Mayor. (Don't be surprised if the Mayor publicly denies the politics in this tonight.)
Other Councilmembers who were part of the majority that led LB where it is now will deal with it tonight. They will be heard and seen and can make motions that could involve voted actions (the City Attorney will decide this). Councilman Garcia has chosen not to be part of any of this. That means his name and face and quotes and photos won't pop up in future Google searches or Minutes records. What a profile in courage.
And to make sure he'll be invisible tonight, Councilman Garcia conveniently let the Brown Act deadlines pass (that Vice Mayor Lowenthal complied with) to meet state law (Brown Act) notice requirements for a teleconference. That notice would have required Garcia to divulge days ago where he actually is...which in our opinion raises other questions.
LBCC's administration and its governing Trustees have been pleading budget shortages to justify worker layoffs, program cuts and student fee increases for fewer educational options. Exactly who approved paying to send anyone (much less TWO people) jetting across the country for the purpose we've been told?
And yes, LBReport.com will be looking into that too.
And yes, LBReport.com will bring you tonight's City Council proceedings (absent Garcia) LIVE on our front page: www.LBReport.com.
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Contact us: mail@LBReport.com