|Ed. note: No Council member(s) pulled this agenda item for discussion; on motion by Austin, seconded by Uranga, Council approved the entire consent calendar (without one unrelated item) 8-0 (Andrews absent).
(Oct. 3, 2017, 11:20 a.m.) -- Item 4 on tonight's (Oct. 3) City Council agenda, put on the "consent calendar" where it can slip through without public discussion unless a member(s) of the public testify on it or a Councilmember(s) pulls the item for Council discussion, is a prerequisite to taxpayers paying for Councilman Al Austin's Sept. 13-14 travel to Sacramento. State law requires politicians to tell the public what they did for the public on publicly paid travel before forcing the public to pay for it.
The Council shouldn't force LB taxpayers to pay for Councilman Austin's Sac'to travel unless he provides -- and verbally will be fine at tonight's Council meeting -- a transparent, businesslike and detailed report on what he did in Sacramento on Sept. 13 and 14 as SB 35 and other housing developer-desired Den-leadership-backed bills were about to come to final votes in the Assembly (Sept. 14) and state Senate (Sept. 15.)
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Councilman Austin could (and in our opinion should) have done this in writing when he agendized the item, but he didn't...and he (or some nameless person) used the silent "consent calendar" maneuver to avoid doing so...but tonight isn't too late.
That's why LBREPORT.com blows the whistle on this now.
The City of Long Beach pays dues (using public money) as a member of the "League of CA Cities," a privately run, non-governmental group that advocates the interests of City Halls statewide (which may or may not coincide with taxpayers' interests.) LB Mayor Robert Garcia is Long Beach's designated member of the League's governing board, but Garcia wasn't available to travel to Sacramento on Sept. 13-14. He chose to go on a junket to Lima, Peru where his presence wasn't legally required for a photo-op ceremony giving the 2028 Olympic Games to Los Angeles (which will include a few LB venues.) (You won't find a similar reimbursement agenda item by Garcia for his Peruvian junket, because the L.A. Game organizers paid for it.)
Councilman Austin is Garcia's designated "alternate" member on the League of CA Cities' Governing Board and is also Garcia's named chair of the City Council's "state legislation committee" (whose other two members are Stacy Mungo and Lena Gonzalez.) Austin's committee voted in January to approve, and sent to the full City Council which voted in April to approve, a "state legislative agenda" reciting various policies that the City was supposed to take in 2017 regarding proposed Sac'to legislation. These policies included:
[City of LB 2017 "state legislative agenda" text]
In very general terms, SB 35 and other Sac'to Dem leadership desired "housing" measures, take power from the public and make it easier for developers to control or override City Hall decisions on housing density and land use. (A number of the bills provide developers with various incentives; SB 35 applies if the City hasn't produced sufficient new housing building permits to suit a regional government body.) To view SB 35's full text, click here. The state Senate's legislative analysis of SB 35 can be viewed here.;
For reasons that continue to remain publicly unexplained, the City of LB took an official position on SB 35 of "neutral" while "working with the author on amendments, consistent with the City's state legislative agenda as it relates to local control." [Source: City of LB Manager of Government Affairs, Diana Tang, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5]
On June 1, LB state Senators Ricardo Lara (D, LB-Huntington Park) and Janet Nguyen (R, SE LB-west OC) voted for it. Prior to that vote, Sen. Lara could have effectively insisted (as chair of the state Senate's Appropriations Committee) on amendments before advancing SB 35 to a Senate floor vote (which he's done on other measures.) Sac'to's Dem Assembly and state Senate leadership supported the bill, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D, NLB-Lakewood-Paramount.)
The League of CA Cities consistently opposed SB 35. To see a full list of SB 35's supporters/opponents on final passage click here. A week prior to the Assembly's vote, Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (D, LB-SP) announced his opposition to it (which Assembly Dem leadership realized wouldn't change the vote outcome.) Shortly thereafter Councilwoman Suzie Price announced she opposed SB 35 (citing local control aspects) and Mayor Robert Garcia privately (quietly) Tweeted to a resident that he likewise opposed the bill.
With Mayor Garcia posing for pictures in Peru, Councilman Austin (as chair of the state legislation committee) might have done something. So...what did he do?
That's what the public and the Council deserves to hear tonight before the Council votes to reimburse him for his Sept. 13 and 14 Sacramento trip.
It remains a mystery for now as to why LB's Mayor and City Council allowed city staff to take a "neutral" position on SB 35 so visibly contrary to what the Committee and Council voted to direct as city policy on local control. We continue to wonder if what happened was similar to the 1919 World Series, where some members of the Chicago White Sox took the field pretending the play the game but threw the game and let the other side win.
SB 35 and a number of other Sac'to "housing" bills had the support of Sac'to's Dem leadership, whose views some local pols may consider more important than residents. The bills benefit corporate residential/rental development interests who can dispense campaign contributions. And the bills effectively liberate city staff from having to deal with pesky public opposition to developer-sought neighborhood-impacting densely packed residential/rental projects.
LBREPORT.com urges Councilman Austin to provide the public -- verbally at tonight's Council meeting is fine -- with a transparent, businesslike and complete explanation of what he did or didn't do on his Sept. 13-14 Sacramento trip regarding SB 35 and other developer-enabling land use/density impacting state legislation. If not, he can pay for the trip using his contributor-fed "officeholder" account.
We recommend savvy readers watch what he and other Councilmembers do on "consent calendar" agenda item 4. LBREPORT.com will (as always) stream LIVE VIDEO of tonight's Council meeting on our front page www.LBREPORT.com, scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m.
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