|(April 19, 2017, 8:20 a.m.) -- As seen LIVE on LBREPORT.com, the City Council voted 5-3 (Supernaw, Price, Mungo dissenting, Richardson absent) on April 18 to change city law to let Councilmembers, the Mayor and other citywide electeds to use "officeholder" accounts, whose allowable totals a Council majority voted to triple in 2015, to support candidates flavored by the incumbents running for other LB, state or federal offices. The action came on a motion by Councilwoman Pearce, seconded by Andrews (who said nothing in a Council committee or any Council proceeding.
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The Council's April 18 vote follows Council majority action in early 2015 that tripled amounts Councilmembers, the Mayor and other citywide electeds can collect in their officeholder accounts. City documents (cited below) show multiple Council incumbents and Mayor Garcia took advantage of that change to collect significantly larger sums for their officeholder accounts in 2016, of which Mayor Garcia was the largest beneficiary.
Councilwoman Pearce, a member of Mayor Garcia's 2014 transition team and a self-described "progressive" elected in mid-2016, was Garcia's choice to chair the Council's "Elections Oversight Committee." On March 14, 2017, Pearce agendized a recommendation to have the City Manager study the feasibility of making the change, which passed 2-1, Supernaw dissenting). When the item reached the Council on April 4, Pearce made a key motion that went beyond the item's agendized title and beyond the Committee's voted recommendation and instead directed the City Attorney to prepare text to make the change, which became the basis for Council votes to do so on April 11 and 18.
The change that tripled collectable officeholder sums in 2015 was led by Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, who was an aide to then 1st Council Councilman/Vice Mayor Garcia, elected to the Council in mid-2014. Mayor Garcia then chose her to chair the Elections Oversight Committee, where she led efforts to triple officeholder collectable sums.
At the April 18 Council meeting, multiple public speakers testified against letting incumbents use their officeholder accounts to support candidates seeking other LB, state and federal offices. Neighborhoods First leader Joe Sopo said Council approval would reduce public confidence in the city's political system and deter public participation. 5th dist. resident Raman Visishth stated, and reiterated in various forms, that what the Council was doing serves the incumbents, not the public. 3rd dist. resident Steve Downing urged the Council to, at minimum, send the item back to Committee for discussion.
Only one public speaker testified in support: former Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga, spouse of Council incumbent Roberto Uranga, who said the change would "update" LB law to make LB consistent with state law. And Ms. Reyes-Uranga went further, recommending that the Council also look at changing LB's term limits law to allow three consecutive Council terms (without a write-in), have a "full time" Council and adopt a "strong Mayor" system (instead of its city manager form of government.
Prior to the Council vote, Mayor Garcia asked City Attorney Parkin questions posed in ways that would allow the City Attorney to amplify the City Attorney's position stated in a memo circulated by the City Attorney's office to the Mayor and Council hours before the Council meeting (details below.) However when Mayor Garcia asked City Attorney Parkin directly whether it was his recommendation that the Council make the change that night, City Attorney Parkin didn't say yes; he replied that "when" the Council chooses to do so was a Council policy decision.
In Council colloquy, Councilman Supernaw noted that he'd voted on three separate occasions (Committee Mar. 14, Council April 4 and 11) and would be voting again now (April 18), in opposition to change...and included in his reasons for voting "no" the 11th hour appearance of City Attorney's memo. Councilwoman Price, who'd voted against tripling officeholder accounts in 2015 (but voted for an alternative motion that would have doubled them, which failed) said [rough paraphrase] that she had long-standing misgivings about constant fundraising. Price said that while she doesn't believe Councilwoman Pearce had bad intent in bringing the item, Price would be voting against the proposed change. Councilwoman Mungo (who'd voted for the change on April 4 and 11) said nothing in joining Price and Supernaw in voting "no."
No other Councilmembers present said anything, with the exception of Councilwoman Pearce. who said the change would make LB "consistent" with state law, and Councilwoman Gonzalez who provided the one-word "second" to Pearce's motion.
LBREPORT.com learned that a few hours before the Council vote -- and without having raised the issue in a March 14 Council Committee proceeding or in two full Council proceedings on April 4 and 11 -- the City Attorney's office circulated a Deputy City Attorney memo to the issue to the Mayor and Councilmembers that suggested the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United (striking down certain limits on corporate political speech) and a 1992 federal court of appeal (9th circuit) ruling are pertinent on 1st Amendment grounds to LB's ordinance prohibiting LB electeds from using their officeholder accounts to support candidates in political campaigns.
LBREPORT.com learned of the development, flashed word of it on our front page, obtained the eleventh-hour memo and published it without comment on its substance. As of 10:00 p.m. when the Council meeting adjourned, the memo wasn't publicly available on the City's website.
LBREPORT.com has previously published city records showing how Long Beach Council incumbents in districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 and Mayor Garcia used changes that tripled their allowable officeholder accounts, including from whom they received money and where they spent it. Under the Council majority's approved change, Councilmembers and the Mayor can now use these sums to assist candidates running for other LB city, state and federal offices.
LBREPORT.com is interested in your reaction(s) to these developments. Let us know in comments via Facebook and Disqus. We're especially interested in hearing from residents in the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th districts...where your incumbents are expected to seek re-election a little less than a year from now.
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