(Jan. 26, 2007) -- At the January 23 City Council meeting, Councilmembers agreed to a bundling of Charter Amendment ballot measures...in groupings not available for public review prior to the Council action.
Instead of a choice on individual City Hall-proposed Charter changes [which Councilmembers had], LB voters' choices will be limited to "yes" or "no" on seven Council-bundled packages (below) of proposed Charter changes.
Among the bundles: creating a proposed "Independent Salary Commission" (chosen by the Mayor, City Atty, City Prosecutor & City Auditor) the power to raise Councilmembers' pay that "takes into account the nature of the duties of the office and which is commensurate with salaries then being paid for other public positions having similar duties, responsibilities and obligations" alongside creation of an "Ethics Commission and Code of Ethics" and a "Redistricting Commission."
A separately bundled item would dilute Council term limits, letting Council incumbents seek election three times with their names printed on the ballot (instead of twice as present) alongside changing terms of office for Harbor and Water Commissioners.
The ballot bundlings were not available for public review online prior to the Council meeting. Using an item agendized by the City Attorney as "review proposed amendments to the City Charter," Mayor Bob Foster turned to Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal when the agenda item was called...and the Vice Mayor quoted from a document given to Councilmembers. To view the document [subsequently posted online, to which the Council made some modifications], click here.
In introducing the item, Vice Mayor Lowenthal noted her role as chair of the Council's Elections Oversight Committee...but to our knowledge that Committee hadn't agendized the ballot bundlings either.
As passed by the Council, the Charter Amendment ballot bundles will be:
- Role of the Mayor
- Mayoral veto or ordinances and resolutions with 2/3 Council override
- Mayoral line-item veto over budget items/increase time for budget consideration
- Joint authority over the appointment and removal of City Manager, Ass't City Manager and City Clerk
- Authority of Mayor and Council to remove Commissioners
- Establishment and definition of Commissions
- Council salary commission
- Ethics Commission and code of ethics
- Redistricting Commission
- Maximum terms of office
- Maximum of three terms for Councilmembers
- Maximum of three four-year terms for Harbor & Water Commissioners, two four-year terms for others
- Election requirements
- 30 day residency requirement measured from close of filing period
- Prohibit two candidacies for municipal office at the same time
- Allow write-in candidates to appear on the general election ballot
- City Hall version of "Parks in Perpetuity"
- Revise duties of City Prosecutor
During Council discussion, Councilman Gary DeLong indicated he couldn't support the "Role of Mayor" bundle if it included an item urged by Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske (and approved by a Council majority) to give explicit investigatory and subpoena authority to the Council. City Attorney Shannon indicated he believes the Council already has that implicit authority, and while stopping short of an absolute guarantee of such Council authority, he indicated that the City Attorney's office would defend the Council's authority in court. Councilwoman Schipske relented and agreed to remove her measure out of the Role of the Mayor ballot bundle.
The Council also voted to put an eighth measure on the special May 1 ballot, recommended by City Auditor Laura Doud, to increase Citry Hall revenue from each barrel of oil removed in the city. The Council also specified that the resulting revenue (which the City Auditor estimates at $3.8 million per year) be used for public safety purposes. Since the item appears on a special election ballot, a 2/3 vote is required for passage with or without a specified use of the money; Councilman Gary DeLong had proposed splitting the revenue between public safety and infrastructure, but ultimately joined his colleagues in supporting the public safety revenue destination.
As newsworthy as the items approved for the ballot are those that the Council ultimately declined to put before voters. These range from from proposals to give taxpayers a legal guarantee minimum per capita levels of police staffing [supported by LBReport.com's publisher], making Harbor Commissioners electable and recallable by the public...and a proposal from "Citizens for Better Long Beach" to create a number of citywide (not district) City Council positions.
A proposal by Councilmembers Rae Gabelich and Tonia Reyes Uranga to give Councilmembers the power to disapprove Port-area development projects approved by Harbor Commissioners (proposed for referral to the Charter Amendment Committee) was removed from discussion by Councilwoman Gabelich herself. She indicated that after speaking with Harbor Commission President James Hankla, the measure might send the wrong message...and she cited the need to build trust between LB's Harbor Commissioners and Councilmembers.
LB community advocate Bry Myown [who'd spent several years opposing a 2003 Harbor Commission vote on a proposed LNG facility, a project recently halted by Harbor Commissioners] spoke in favor of advacning the measure to give Councilmembers Port-development oversight power. Ms. Myown called it a modest step paralleling authority that L.A. City Councilmembers now have...and argued that the Council's failure to exercise that authority for their LB constituents clashed with Councilmembers' desire to raise their pay. Harbor-area Councilmembers Vice Mayor Lowenthal, and Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, remained silent during Council discussion of the item.
The Council also previously declined to advance a measure (supported by the Teachers Association of Long Beach) to create a position of Inspector General to oversee spending at the Long Beach Unified School District. Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal and Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal (both former School Board members) said they couldn't support the item as proposed.
Mayor Foster has called a special Council meeting for January 30 at 5:00 p.m to take a final vote on the items in a special citywide election scheduled to coincide with a 6th district election to fill the unexpired Council term of now-Assemblywoman Laura Richardson.
And in a timely discussion, Mayor Foster offers his views on the proposed Charter Amendments on Art Levine's Straight Talk TV show, available on demand worldwide via www.straighttalktv.com (scroll to link) and locally on LB Charter Cable channel 3 on Sunday @ 7 p.m.