Councilmembers Reyes Uranga & Gabelich Seek Charter Amendment To Ensure Council, Not Port, Determines LB's Legislative Policies...And Seek City Mgr. Communication To Gov. Schwarzenegger Supporting AB 2042
(Sept. 3, 2004) -- In a significant response to actions by the Port of LB opposing clean air legislation that LB's City Council voted to support, two Councilmembers are proposing a Charter Amendment to ensure the Council has exclusive authority to set legislative policy (support or oppose legislation in Sacramento and Washington) for the city.
In their item agendized for the Sept. 7 Council meeting, Councilmembers Tonia Reyes Uranga and Rae Gabelich also seek to have City Manager Jerry Miller send a communication to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger explicitly supporting AB 2042, a bill intended to keep Port growth from increasing air pollutants beyond 2004 levels.
The bill has been endorsed by the LB's elected City Council and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) but is opposed by the Port's non-elected (Mayor chosen, Council approved) Board of Harbor Commissioners, shipping interests and the LB and CA Chambers of Commerce. The AQMD has called the Ports of LB and L.A. the largest stationary source of air pollution in the region. The agency has found multiple airborne toxics in areas impacted by Port operations, including pollutants linked to cancer, pulmonary diseases and (especially in children) asthma.
AB 2042, which has now passed the Assembly and state Senate, awaits action by Gov. Schwarzenegger, who must either sign it, veto it...or let it become law without his signature.
As first reported by LBReport.com, Port of LB Executive Director Richard Steinke has said that the Port wants Governor Schwarzenegger to veto AB 2042.
Assemblyman Lowenthal, who served on the LB City Council representing downtown and port areas for over six years prior to his election to state office, told LBReport.com in response to Mr. Steinke's statement:
AB 2042 is good policy that protects the public health while at the same time allows for responsible growth. I am disappointed the Harbor Department's continued opposition to AB 2042. Long Beach Harbor Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. I do not believe a
department of the city should be taking a position contrary to the unanimous support of the elected city council. It is not allowed in Los Angeles and it should not be allowed in Long Beach.
LB's schizoid position on pending legislation came up during a hearing on AB 2042 before the state Senate's Environmental Quality Committee...when the chair at first seemed bewildered, then openly bemused, on learning that the City of LB had two positions on the same bill. At the hearing, an individual speaking on behalf of the Port of LB opposed AB 2042...and Assemblyman Lowenthal had to explain that LB's City Council endorsed the bill (which seemed to satisfy the chair).
The Port vs. Council collision over AB 2042 marks the second time in recent years that the governing body of the Port of LB has voted to oppose anti-pollution legislation favored by the legislative body of CA's fifth largest city.
In August 2002, LB's Port opposed another Lowenthal anti-pollution bill (limiting truck idling time at the Ports) supported by the Council. Assemblyman Lowenthal amended the legislation to the point where opposition ended and the bill passed the state legislature and is the law today.
In response to industry opposition, Assemblyman Lowenthal also amended AB 2042. (Among other things, the bill's pollution baseline was changed from 2002 to 2004) but the Port has continued its opposition.
Each year, in a publicly voted action following committee hearings, the LB City Council adopts state and federal legislative agendas that list legislative policy goals that LB City Hall is authorized to support and oppose in the name of the city. On some occasions, the Council may also vote on specific pending legislation. LB taxpayers pay six figure sums to firms to advocate these positions in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
The Port of LB also expends public resources (from Port fees, not LB's General Fund) to lobby for or against legislation. Previous attempts by LBReport.com to obtain a list of the Port of LB's advocacy positions have been unsuccessful. We were told that in general, the Port of LB's positions parallel those of the "American Association of Port Authorities" or were determined by Port management, sometimes after consulting with some Harbor Commissioners. On other occasions, as when the Port wanted to stress its opposition to the two Lowenthal clean air bills, Harbor Commissioners do so in a public vote.
We post the text of the Councilmembers' agendizing memorandum below.
To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council
From: Councilmember Tonia Reyes Uranga, Seventh District,
Councilmember Rae Gabelich, Eighth District
Subject: AGENDA ITEM: LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY FOR THE CITY AND SUPPORT AB 2042
The Long Beach City Charter established the Harbor Department to
"promote and develop the Port" within the boundaries of the Harbor District, as
established in accordance with law. The exclusive control and management of
the Harbor Department is vested in the Board of Harbor Commissioners.
However, the City Charter also states that all powers of the city, except
otherwise provided in the Charter, shall be vested in the City Council.
While the powers of the Harbor Department appears to be primarily
focused on the operations and management of the Port and areas within the
Harbor District, the Harbor Commission have actively engaged in legislative
activities that have an impact beyond the boundaries of the Harbor District.
Some of its past actions and current legislative advocacy have come into
conflict with the policies of the City, as established by the City Council. These
activities also include lobbying on behalf or in concert with associations that
have also taken positions in conflict with the Cityís Legislative Agenda. An
example of conflicting priorities is Portís opposition to and the Cityís support of
Assembly Bill 2042 (Lowenthal).
We believe that it is necessary to clarify the authority of the Harbor
Department to advocate and/or engage in lobbying activities without the
consent of, or in conflict with, the City Council. If in fact the Harbor
Department has been vested the authority to pursue an independent
legislative agenda, we would like to request the City Attorney to draft a Charter
Amendment reserving the exclusive legislative authority to the City Council.
Suggested Actions: Request the City Attorney to draft a Charter
amendment reserving exclusive legislative authority
to the City Council.
Direct the City Manager to communicate the Cityís
support of AB2042 to Governor Schwarzenegger
and to urge him to adopt the legislation.