(Sept. 23, 2009) -- Significant Council opposition surfaced on a proposal to implement "instant runoff voting" in Long Beach (in which voters vote for their first and second choices, effectively deciding an election without a runoff).
The proposal, agendized by Councilmembers S. Lowenthal, DeLong and Garcia and Lerch, is now scheduled for an Oct. 6 Study Session, originally directed in October 08 but never held. Scheduling the Oct. 6 study session scheduling came only after Council opposition indicated the measure may lack a majority to advance it to the Council's Charter Amendment Committee; the measure requires citywide voter approval to implement.
A number of podium speakers indicated they support instant runoff voting; they were advised to hold their substantive comments until the Oct. 6 study session.
Councilmembers Patrick O'Donnell and Tonia Reyes Uranga indicated they don't support the proposal.
Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal first tried to send issue simultaneously to a Study Session and to the Charter Amendment Committee (to avoid having to hold a future Council vote on referring the item to the Charter Amendment committee)...but the Council ultimately voted only to schedule the item for a Study Session
The item appeared to be over...until Councilwoman Reyes Uranga moved to reconsider its referral to a study session; her reconsideration motion carried 5-4. Councilwoman Reyes Uranga then made a motion to receive and file the Instant Runoff Voting item...which would effectively end discussion on the item.
Councilmembers Lowenthal and Delong argued against this, citing asserted cost savings and greater public participation; Councilman Garcia said he favors receiving more information.
City Attorney Bob Shannon indicated that since the public was told to withhold its comments on the merits until an Oct. 6 study session, he recommended continuing the item to another date at which time the public could be heard on whether to receive and file it.
On questioning by Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, City Clerk Larry Herrera said the Council voted in Oct. 08 to approve a consent calendar item to hold a study session on Instant Runoff Voting...and acknowledged it was never scheduled.
Schipske asked whether it's coincidental that the item hadn't come up for over a year; Herrera said such election items typically arise in advance of election cycles and when the issue came up in his recent budget study session, he sensed Council consensus on holding a study session now.
Councilwoman Reyes Uranga said there was no consensus because there was no Council voted action. She asked rhetorically, "What was the whole facade...of going through [a new request for a study session on instant runoff voting] when it was already [set] for a study session [from an October 2008 Council voted action]?"..and then withdrew her motion to reconsider, effectively letting the Oct 2008 Council referral to a Study Session proceed.
"If we're going to have a study session regardless of what the Council [majority now] wants, then let's go ahead and hold it" she said.
The Council then voted to receive and file the evening's agendized item for a Study Session item...and let Council's Oct. 2008 referral to a Study Session proceed on Oct. 6, 2009; a Council majority will subsequently have to vote to refer the item to the Charter Amendment Committee if it is to advance. (Motion carried 7-2, Garcia and Lowenthal dissenting).
Earlier in the meeting, City Clerk Larry Herrera indicated that the final date on which the Council could place items on the April 2010 citywide election ballot is in mid-January 2010.