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LBReport.com

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Kell Kills Any Chance Of Her Own Park Charter Amendment Appearing On Nov. 2002 Ballot, Requests Council Postpone Discussion For Months, Still Hasn't Disclosed Text, Cites Open Space & Rec. Element to Gen'l Plan

Council votes to put Recreation Commission favored measure on Nov. 2002 ballot, would give appointed Commissioners authority over leisure activities in parks


(June 19, 2002) -- For the second time since last July, Councilwoman Jackie Kell reached the brink of discussing an item on parks she had personally agendized, only to back away at the last minute and ask the Council not to discuss it.

At the June 18 Council meeting, Kell asked her Council colleagues to postpone discussion of an item she had scheduled item "for probably a couple of months" that requested a hearing before the Council's Charter Amendment Committee to discuss the issue of construction in city parks.

Kell's reversal effectively kills any chance that her proposal might appear on the November, 2002 ballot. No specific text was included in Kell's agendizing materials.

Councilwoman Kell explained her reasoning as follows:

"We have a new Open Space Plan [sic., actually the Open Space & Recreation Element to the General Plan] for the City of Long Beach. It's been developed by Parks and Recreation and the Dept. of Planning and Building. Now this Open Space Plan took a lot longer than we thought it would to develop it, and so before this Open Space Plan comes to the City Council, it has to go before the Planning Commission [on July 18]...

...Then the Open Space Plan will come before the City Council for review and discussion and adoption and that cannot occur based on our present schedule before the end of July or the beginning of August.

Now a lot of citizens have asked us over many months when we were going to bring this before the City Council...and then some of course would like to see us [send to] the Charter Amendment Committee...and that all has to occur before we can do what many citizens would like to see, and that is to put it on the ballot. The ballot proposition could be written, laying out what can be built in parks and what are recreational uses in a park, because people don't even agree on what is a recreational use.

So I am asking the Council to lay this over until we have dealt with the Open [Space] Plan before the Planning Commission and before we have hearings before the City Council, and then at that point we can send it to the Charter Amendment Committee."

After the Council agreed to Kell's request and postponed her item for several months (7-0, Baker & Grabinski absent), Kell then voted with the rest of the Council (6-0, Baker, Carroll & Grabinski absent) to put a Charter Amendment proposed by City Hall's Recreation Commission on the November, 2002 ballot (to give the appointed body authority over leisure activities in parks).

After that vote, Councilwoman Kell voted with the Council in reappointing incumbent Recreation Commissioners Bea Antenore and Harry Saltzgaver (7-0, Baker & Grabinski absent).

During the March 21, 2002 Recreation Commission meeting, incumbent Commissioner Antenore indicated she opposed putting a grassroots backed park protective Charter Amendment (preventing non-recreational uses on park land) on the November, 2002 ballot (excerpt of Commission minutes, below).

Councilwoman Kell's reversal on her own proposal comes a week after she tried and failed to discuss her plan in the Council's Charter Amendment Committee while it was meeting to discuss the Recreation Commission favored measure. When Kell tried to bring up a different Charter Amendment, City Attorney Bob Shannon indicated [accurately, we believe] that this was not in order because Kell's proposal was not properly before the Committee, not having been referred to the Committee by the City Council.

Kell then agendized her item for the June 18 Council meeting, citing as a justification for her proposal that a "new Open Space Plan for the City of Long Beach is being circulated through City Departments and will be reviewed by the Planning Commission on July 18, 2002. One of the recommendations in that plan is for a ballot measure on construction in city parks."

But when her item was called, Kell cited the Open Space Element to somehow justify postponing discussion of the item for at least two more months.

There is no legal requirement that Kell's proposal be tied to the draft Open Space Element proposes or what the Planning Commission may or may not do with it. The Council has control over what it chooses to put on the ballot as well as what the final Open Space Element ultimately says...and the Council can overrule whatever the Planning Commission recommends on the issue.

Delaying the matter for two months effectively kills any chance of it appearing on the November, 2002 ballot. It also means over a year will have elapsed from the time Kell first agendized the issue, only to pull it off the ballot the night it came up.

In July, 2001 Kell voted with an 8-1 Council majority (Grabinski dissenting) to rezone 2.5 acres of Scherer park land as "institutional" to accommodate the expanded police facility. Before casting her vote, Kell vowed to agendize discussion at the next Council meeting of a ballot measure to ensure this was the last time park land was taken for non-recreational purposes.

A week later, she agendized an item asking the City Attorney to prepare a ballot measure for the next citywide election to decide if all future building on City park property will be limited to recreational use. She requested Council support "for a motion to request the City Attorney's office prepare a ballot measure for the next citywide election...to decide if all future building on City park property only be allowed if it were deemed to be for recreational use."

But on the night of the July 24th Council meeting, the item was pulled off the agenda. Reached later that evening by LBReport.com, Councilwoman Kell indicated several Council members (whom she declined to name) asked her to "pull" (i.e. remove) the item from discussion. Councilwoman Kell also cited Councilmembers' upcoming vacations that could prevent some from taking part in coming meetings [note: all were present on July 24], uncertainty over whether her item would be sent to the Charter Amendment Committee or to the Housing and Neighborhoods Committee, a pending report on Open Space by Parks and Rec Director Phil Hester and Grabinski's so-called "parks in perpetuity" measure.

Councilwoman Kell told LBReport.com she expected it would return in late summer, perhaps sometime in late August. When asked if she still meant to ban future building in parks for non recreational purposes, Councilwoman Kell replied, "Absolutely."

The measure didn't return as the city hurtled toward the 2002 primary Council and Mayoral elections, although the park issue continued to simmer.

In February, 2002, as reported by LBReport.com, Councilwoman Kell told a televised candidate forum, "We may be looking at a Charter Amendment when it comes to parks in perpetuity, and I do believe that we will possibly be doing that parks in perpetuity Charter change in that the voters would want us, I believe, to say that we would not put any non-recreational usage in any of the parks in the city."

Meanwhile, a separate measure favored by City Hall's appointed Recreation Commission moved forward. It likewise had its genesis in the Scherer Park controversy but doesn't explicitly prevent park land from being taken for non park uses. Instead, it focuses on the Recreation Commissioners' jurisdiction.

During the Scherer Park controversy, the Recreation Commissioners were stung by a City Attorney opinion that they could not as a Commission communicate their displeasure with consuming part of Scherer Park to expand the police facility because this wasn't within the Commission's Charter jurisdiction.

As reported at the time by LBReport.com, Commissioners responded by preparing a jointly signed personal letter, communicating to their views to the Council as individuals, not as the Recreation Commission. (LBReport.com posted the Commissioners' jointly signed letter verbatim.)

After the dust settled, the Recreation Commissioners sought to gain the authority the City Attorney had said they lacked. On March 21, 2002, they voted to send their proposal to the Mayor and City Council, seeking a hearing before the Charter Amendment Committee in sufficient time to get their measure on the November, 2002 ballot.

At the same March 21 Recreation Commission meeting, grassroots activists urged the Recreation Commissioners to support a measure to protect park land from non-recreational uses. Here's how the Recreation Commission's official minutes recorded it:

Ms. Gigi Fast Elk Bannister presented a park preservation initiative. She said that this is for the Recreation Commissionís review and comments. She discussed Section 110.5, which is the restriction of building in any park or beach a facility over 1,500 square feet, unless authorized by a public vote. She explained that she believed that a vote by the public would have more power to protect the parks in perpetuity. She stated that this initiative is a work in progress and that they have requested input by lawyers and the community.

President Marmion stated that the Recreation Commissioners would study the document.

Mr. Hester responded that this issue came up about two or three years ago and was discussed at that time. He stated that he also discussed this issue with staff from Huntington Beach, where this has been initiated, and how this has cost that city a lot of money through the process. Mr. Hester mentioned that this initiative mentions that sports complexes cannot be added, which could be interpreted to mean soccer fields and softball fields, without a vote. He mentioned that staff would like to work with Ms. Bannister on a document that the City could potentially support.

Vice President Antenore stated that she is very opposed to putting this initiative on the ballot, as it would be too cumbersome.

At the June 18, 2002 Council meeting, Councilmembers voted 7-0 (Baker & Grabinski absent) to go along with Kell's request and postpone discussion of her item until the Open Space Plan had been adopted by the Council, thus killing any chance it would appear on the November, 2002 ballot.

However, ), the Council voted to put the Recreation Commission favored measure on the November ballot...with Kell voting yes. (6-0, Baker, Carroll and Grabinski absent).

Councilmembers also voted unanimously to reappoint incumbent Recreation Commissioners Bea Antenore and Harry Saltzgaver, without any public opposition or Council dissent. (7-0, Baker and Grabinski absent).

In the April election, Councilwoman Kell won re-election to her 5th district Council seat with roughly 70% of the vote.


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