' Councilmembers Don't Ask, And Austin Doesn't Tell, What He Did/Didn't Do On Recent Sac'to Travel Re Density/Land Use Legislation '


Councilmembers Don't Ask, And Austin Doesn't Tell, What He Did/Didn't Do On Recent Sac'to Travel Re Density/Land Use Legislation

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(Oct. 4, 2017, 3:30 p.m.) -- At last night's (Oct. 3) City Council meeting, no Council member(s) wanted to discuss an item -- that someone placed on the Oct. 3 City Council "consent calendar" where it could avoid public discussion unless a taxpayer or Councilmember sought to discuss it -- that enabled Councilman Al Austin to collect taxpayer reimbursement for Sept. 13-14 travel to Sacramento.

We don't begrudge reimbursing Councilman Austin for conducting the public's business. We very much object to reimbursing him if he refuses to provide the public who pays him with a businesslike and transparent explanation of what he did, or didn't do in Sac'to. He was there, at ground zero, just as SB 35 and other density-inviting neighborhood-impacting developer-desired Dem-leadership-engineered housing bills were coming to final votes (Assembly:Sept. 14; state Senate: Sept. 15.)

State law requires electeds to report publicly on travel if they seek public reimbursement. Here's the extent of Councilman Austin's agendized written agendized "report":

"On September 13-14, 2017, I traveled to Sacramento to attend the League of California Cities Conference as the Long Beach representative and participated in the Board of Directors Meeting."

[Scroll down for further.]

By way of background, the "League of CA Cities" is a privately run, non-governmental group that advocates the interests of City Halls statewide (which may or may not coincide with taxpayers' interests.) LB pays annual dues for its membership in the group. 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.)

Garcia has designated Austin as his designated "alternate" on the League of CA Cities' Governing Board, and Austin is also Garcia's choice to chair the Council's "state legislation committee" (whose other two members are Stacy Mungo and Lena Gonzalez.) In January, Austin's Council committee voted to approve, and sent to the full Council for its voted approval in April a "state legislative agenda" reciting various policies that the City was supposed to follow regarding proposed Sac'to legislation. These policies included:

[City of LB 2017 "state legislative agenda" text]

..."Oppose legislation that preempts the City's existing control over local matters"..."oppose policies and legislation that preempts the current authority possessed by the City and delegates that authority to the State or other government jurisdiction"..."oppose policies and legislation that diminishes the City's local control over land use, planning, zoning and development decisions, and oppose legislation in conflict with the City's adopted General Plan or other Council adopted land use policies."

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. (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 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 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.

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.

Sac'to Dem legislative leadership supported SB 35 and several other developer-desired "housing" bills. With Mayor Garcia posing for pictures in Peru, Councilman Austin (as chair of the state legislation committee) was in Sacramento just as votes on those LB-impacting bills were about to occur. So...what did he do, or not do?

The public has a right to know this. We regret that Councilman Austin, enabled by seven of his Council colleagues (Gonzalez, Pearce, Price, Supernaw, Mungo, Uranga and Richardson) and LB's current Mayor, didn't want the public to know.

LBREPORT.com will find out eventually and we'll report it. Stay tuned. Opinions expressed by LBREPORT.com, our contributors and/or our readers are not necessarily those of our advertisers. We welcome our readers' comments/opinions 24/7 via Disqus, Facebook and moderate length letters and longer-form op-ed pieces submitted to us at mail@LBReport.com.






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