(January 3, 2007) -- Faced with a successful referendum petition (20,000+ valid signatures collected by a group sponsored by WalMart and supported by leaders of the LB Area Chamber of Commerce) which suspended a Council-passed ordinance prohibiting certain "big box" operations (100,000+ sq. ft with over 10% of floor area dedicated to non-taxable merchandise) until the measure is approved by a vote of the people, the LB City Council voted 6-1 (DeLong dissenting, O'Donnell absent, 6th dist. vacant) to hold a special election in June 2008 in which voters will decide whether to reinstate the Council-approved measure.
The Jan. 2 action came after a substitute motion to repeal the ordinance (DeLong, seconded by Lerch) failed 2-5. City Clerk Larry Herrera estimated the taxpayer cost of holding a special election in June 2008 could be up to roughly $1.1 million and in April 2008 would be roughly $394,000. The Council can change the date of the election if it wishes.
There was pointed Council and public discussion on the matter. Councilmembers Gerrie Schipske, Suja Lowenthal, Tonia Reyes Uranga, Rae Gabelich and Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal.argued at some length in support of the Council-approved ordinance and the special election to reinstate it...and some Councilmembers said taxpayers should blame proponents of the referendum for the election's cost, not to the Council (see/hear discussion via video link below).
In support of a substitute motion to repeal the ordinance and avoid the election, Councilmembers Gary DeLong and Val Lerch argued that the money required to hold the election would be better spent by hiring police.
LB Chamber of Commerce board chair Bryan Byron Schweigert (Memorial Care Health Services) also urged the Council to repeal the ordinance. "The citizens want to be able to shop where they want to shop and they want to be able to save money if it gives them an opportunity to save money on the items that they purchase. The ordinance as it's written will not accomplish those goals that are in the best interests of the citizens of Long Beach," Mr. Schweigert said.
But Mark Bowen, a member of LB's Community College Board of Trustees (elected April 06) argued in support of the ordinance and the special election to reinstitute it. "I wanted to start by thanking the Council for their leadership in taking the intiiative in protecting high paying jobs in this city...I would encourage this Council to [have] a special election despite the cost. It is very regrettable that we would have to spend that additional cost on this rather than on public safety but you know, that's not your fault. That is the cost of the special interest group that went out and paid people to collect signatrues to put this on the ballot, to get 20,000 people which they actually had the nerve to say is 'the people have spoken.'...the same percentage roughly [of the city's population] who will sign anything just to get you out of their face..."
Meanwhile, South Wrigley community advocate Annie Greenfeld-Wisner argued that it's "not the Council's responsibility to tell people where they can and cannot shop...Can we focus on getting more police? Can we focus on fixing our infrastructure?...I don't want to spend money on a special election. I want to spend money on more police."
To view Council's full discussion on the item, do the following:
- Click Council archive page
- Then click "City Council, Jan. 2, View Video."
- When the video link opens, click the pulldown "Jump To" menu and click on "Item 10" which will take you directly to the "big box" agenda item.
After the vote, Councilman DeLong emailed LBReport.com:
"I am disappointed that the City Council approved a motion to place on the June 2008 ballot the Anti-WalMart ordinance. It will cost the residents of the City of Long Beach $1.1 million dollars for this election. While there may be valid arguments for and against WalMart type businesses, I do not believe that spending $1.1 million dollars on this item is a higher priority than funding more cops or repairing our streets and sidewalks. For this reason, I voted No."