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A Week After Voting No, Councilman Johnson Tells Council He Meant To Vote Yes On Exploring Transportation Alternatives For QM/South Shore Areas


(Oct. 10, 2010) -- A week after casting the only dissenting vote on beginning a process of identifying transportation alternatives to connect downtown/southshore locations possibly including cable drawn trams and aerial gondola ropeway systems, 7th dist. Councilman James Johnson says he meant to vote "yes" instead of "no."

Councilman Johnson made his statement at the conclusion of a September 28 special Council meeting (on an appeal on the Desmond Bridge EIR and Mayor Foster's veto of 1% General Fund spending),

To hear Councilman Johnson's explanation, click here.

Councilman Johnson's vote came during the Sept. 21 City Council meeting, when the Council voted 7-1 (Johnson dissenting, Gabelich absent) to enter into agreements with a private firm to guide LB City Hall in seeking grant money from regional and federal agencies to fund an "alternative transportation analysis" that would identify ways to connect some southshore locations linking downtown/southshore sites using traditional bus and waterway routes as well as "non-traditional approaches" including "ground-based cable drawn trams and aerial gondola ropeway systems."

City management recommended Council approval of the first phase of the proposal, which initially came from an unsolicited proposal heard and forwarded in August by the Council's Harbor & Tidelands Committee (Lowenthal, DeLong, Garcia). At the full Council meeting, the motion to approve was made by Councilman Gary DeLong and seconded by Councilman Dee Andrews.

Vice Mayor Lowenthal presided during Council discussion of the item. She voiced support for proceeding with the first phase (analysis of transportation alternatives). So did Councilman Garcia.

Vice Mayor Lowenthal called for the vote; there is whispered colloquy (we don't believe by Johnson); the City Clerk announced the item as passing with 7 votes yes, one vote no. The Council camera showed the "yes" and "no" votes on screen with Johnson indicated as "no." Fully thirteen seconds elpase before the meeting continued. There is inaudible Council colloquy off mike. Vice Mayor Lowenthal eventually resumes the proceedings. To hear this, click here.

Following the vote, the Council meeting continued for over an one hour and ten minutes more. During that roughly 70 minutes more, Councilman Johnson made no public effort to seek reconsideration of the item (a procedure that, with Council majority approval, lets a Councilmember publicly change his/her vote).

Councilman Johnson's "no" vote was reported by LBReport.com and other outlets. During an entire week following his vote, we received no indication from Councilman Johnson or his office that he'd cast his "no" vote in error (and to our knowledge, neither did others).

Councilman Johnson was elected in June 2010 and took office in mid-July 2010. By the time he'd cast his Sept. 21 vote, he'd voted on two months of agendized items that included approving City Hall's spending budget (with public safety cuts), the Desmond bridge appeal (overruled environmental group's appeal, sustained Port's EIR) and the sale of City Hall East (approved).

To our knowledge, this is the first item on which he's indicated after the fact that he voted "no" instead of "yes" in error.

In its agendizing memo, city management acknowledged that the process of pursuing alternative transportation systems would ultimately require local funding at costs currently unknown and not estimated for two of three of its phases [in part because the transportation system(s) aren't yet known]. The first phase (approved by the Council, which management says has no fiscal impact) entails seeking MTA pre-application funds to pay for an application seeking FTA funds to produce the second phase: an "Alternative Transportation Analysis" that management anticipates "would include a local match component that has not yet been determined."

Management's memo says that before proceeding with the second phase, "staff would issue a Request for Qualifications to identify the most qualified firm that could guide the City through this and subsequent phases of the process and return to City Council with the selected consultant, the scope of work and the associated cost for the next phase. Upon completion of the second phase, it is envisioned that additional grant applications will be submitted to the [federal agency] in a third phase that "will also include a local match and require subsequent City Council approval."


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