Despite Muni Code Requiring Yes Or No Vote Unless Abstention Legally Required, Or Failure To Vote Is Excused by Council, Councilman Dennis Carroll Abstains Three Times On Votes Re LB's State Legislative Agenda
Carroll Makes Short Statement Before Abstaining On Votes (transcript, below); Councilmembers and Mayor Say Nothing In Response
(November 28, 2000) Despite a LB Municipal Code section requiring all Councilmembers present at a Council meeting to vote yes or no unless an abstention is required by state law, or the Councilmember's failure to vote yes or no is excused by the Council, 4th district Councilmember Dennis Carroll voted "abstain" three times on votes concerning LB's state legislative agenda, the list of policy items which City Hall will support or oppose in Sacramento using taxpayer dollars.
Section 2.03.050 of the LB Municipal Code provides in pertinent part:
B. Except when a conflict of interest exists and abstention is required by State law, every member of the Council who is present when a roll is called shall vote for or against the question, unless excused by a majority of the members present, prior to the calling of the roll on such question.
No legal conflict of interest on Carroll's part was announced and Councilmembers did not explicitly excuse Carroll's "abstain" vote. However, not one Councilmember objected. Councilmembers said nothing in response to a statement (transcribed verbatim, below) by Mr. Carroll before the vote.
During Council discussion at the November 21 meeting, Councilmember (now Assemblymember-elect) Jenny Oropeza, whose committee developed the list of advocacy items, explained the significance of the vote:
"Once this document is adopted, it is a blueprint for us and a guide for this City, relative to how we will advocate in Sacramento on behalf of the residents of the City. And so it is a very important document because it gives that direction. If it is not included in here, then it's not something we've taken a position on, and if it is, then this is the position that we must advocate."
Oropeza indicated that 9th district Councilman Jerry Shultz objected to two items (details below) and wanted them discussed individually. A number of LB enviornmentalists also subsequently testified asking that additional items be included and or that some items be further refined.
During the Council discussion leading up to the vote, Councilman Carroll stated:
Let me congratulate Councilwoman Oropeza for her diligent work over the years actually on representing the city and advancing our interests in Sactamento. I know she's not only already done that for us but will do a terrific job and I commend her and the committee [the Council committee Oropeza chaired that developed the proposed legislative agenda and brought it to the Council] for all the work they've done.
I was not also a member of this committee, and I am concerned that notwithstanding the qualifications placed on this by Councilmember Oropeza, this document might be construed as a comprehensive statement of the City of Long Beach, or at least the City Council's position, with respect to a wide variety of issues and I know she doesn't intend it as that, but I can easily see that persons, well, this Councilmember was not a participant in this. I find many of the items here worthwhile and hope that they are advanced, but I certainly don't want to personally adopt this as my political philosophy.
And in order to applaud and encourage, but also preserve my political independence on some issues, not only that appear here, but many which have been sketched briefly here that we have not included, many other worthwhile ones that I'm sure will be taken up when Councilman Baker chairs this committee but my proposal would be to abstain from voting on this in order to avoid any misrepresentation with respect to my personal positions on these issues being included, and those not being included, but I want the Councilwoman to understand this is done with complete respect to her and for the reasons that I have advanced.
Mr. Carroll voted "abstain" when the vote was called on adopting the balance of the legislative agenda, after two items were removed for separate discussion at the request of Councilman Jerry Shultz (details below) . Mr. Carroll then also voted "abstain" when the votes were called on the two individual legislative items pulled for separate recorded votes by Councilmember Shultz.
Neither the Mayor, nor any then-present Councilmembers, objected to any of Mr. Carroll's "abstain" votes.
The Municipal Code (section 2.03.120) provides:
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no rule contained in this chapter shall be rescinded, modified, suspended, altered or changed except by a vote of two-thirds of all the members of the council, and at least one day's notice, in writing, being given of the motion therefor.
Under the Municipal Code, the Mayor is the "presiding officer" and "shall decide questions of order, subject to an appeal to the Council by any member, on which appeal no member shall speak more than once, unless by leave of two-thirds of the members present. The Mayor, or other presiding officer, shall have general direction of the Council Chamber."
Mayor O'Neill was presiding and seven other Councilmembers (Oropeza, Baker, Colonna, Kell, Richardson-Batts, Webb and Shultz) were present amd voted; Grabinski was absent for the entire meeting.
LB City Hall's proposed state legislative agenda was delivered to Councilmembers in writing in their agenda packs several days before the Council meeting.
LBReport used this public document to report on a proposal to support local authority to tax internet sales. A number of LB environmental activists also used the document to prepare public testimony addressing legislative items.
Councilman Carroll's "abstain" vote contrasted with the action of 9th district Councilmember Jerry Shultz, who announced with specificity that he opposed two items in the proposed legislative agenda (the items put the city on record supporting a pilot needle exchange programs and supporting a ban on the sale of "junk" guns and gun sales from homes). Mr. Shultz requested a separate vote on these items; separate votes were taken and Mr. Carroll abstained again on both items. Mr. Shultz ultimately lost both votes.
The Municipal Code section on abstentions prevents Councilmembers from avoiding controversial votes without legal cause or excuse, requiring Councilmembers present to take a position either for or against a measure, or take the embarrassing (and sometimes politically costly) step of "walking out" on a vote.
Notwithstanding Mr. Carroll's abstention, LB's proposed legislative agenda was adopted. It included the item (previously reported on LBReport.com) encouraging efforts to ensure local taxation authority of products purchased through the internet.
Among the those testifying at the hearing was Ms. Ann Cantrell of El Dorado Aububon, who raised several concerns, some of which were echoed by others:
Ships entering LB harbor "which are contributing to the diesel pollution by running their motors the whole time they are here";
Felt LB harbor's water quality was probably affected by the breakwater, so when considering efforts to improve peninsula beach, city should also look at improving water quality right outside Queensway Bay.
Neighborhood development efforts should include habitat development and open space.and water quality as goals for Prop 12 and 13 funds
Councilmember Rob Webb indicated he felt points made by environmental advocates needed to be addressed. Vice Mayor Baker, who will chair the state legislation committee in the coming year, noted that the state legislative agenda "is not written in stone" and his committee would be meeting regularly throughout the year and "particularly on the environmental issues, I think there is a lot of room for discusion there and some good suggestions to include other items and look forward to doing that."