It's Not Streamlining. It Doesn't Promote Public Participation. It Will Affect Your Ability To Speak And Be Heard When City Council Actions Affect Your Neighborhood And Our City. Here's How To Stop It And Send A Message That The Public's Voices Matter
"...[T]he most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of private citizen. The duties of the office of private citizen cannot under a republican form of government be neglected without serious injury to the public." Louis D. Brandeis (1903), painting by Norman Rockwell (1943)
(September 2, 2019, 7:15 a.m.) -- On September 3 and September 10, the City Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance that could affect the public's right to speak at City Council meetings. It originated when Councilman Daryl Supernaw said he wanted to "streamline" (shorten) Council meetings and invited
We believe it deserves a modest amendment/tweak to the draft ordinance text on Sept. 3 and 10 to protect the public's right to participate in LB Council proceedings.
The draft ordinance text (agenda item 28 on the Sept. 3 City Council agenda includes the following draft text:
...C. Public Comment for Agenda Items.
Although some legislative bodies (including the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and L.A. County Metro) require the public to a submit-a-card/sign-up to speak to agenda items, the LB draft ordinance goes further by imposing a "sign up or shut up" rule. It would create a forfeiture of the public's right to speak to Council agenda items unless they're signed up before the moment the item is called -- a time the public can't know in advance because another so-called "streamlining" rule enables the Mayor without Council objection to move agenda items and take them up as he wishes.
The draft text would disserve informed Council discussion by preventing speakers -- who might not have initially sought to speak -- from rebutting or correcting misstatements made by earlier speakers. (Other speakers could do so only by foregoing portions of their planned testimony that may already be cut in half on major items under another "streamlining" rule.)
For purposes of this editorial, we're not addressing the question of whether the Mayor/Council can legally do this under the Brown Act. It's undeniable that no law requires them to do this, meaning the best remedy now is to persuade the Mayor/Council not to do this.
The remedy is a very modest text tweak. It specifies that after all members of the public who've signed up have been heard, the Mayor or presiding chair shall ask if any others wish to speak, invite them to be heard and then close public testimony. Problem solved.
Accordingly, the proper Council motion on Sept. 3 is to amend the draft ordinance text section C1 to strike the text "the speakers list for said agenda item will be closed" and replace it with "the Mayor shall inquire if other members of the public wish to speak and call those who wish to do so."
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|All LB ordinances require two successive Council majority votes to enact, a safeguard that lets the public raise issues about a draft ordinance and lets Councilmembers make tweaks/amendments to address those issues before it's enacted into law. In other words, this is the right time to raise this issue.
LBREPORT.com recommends cutting-and-pasting the text below (after customizing it as you may wish). Email it to your Council member's City Hall office. AND use Facebook's message system send a copy to the incumbent via his/her Facebook page (most incumbents have them.) AND feel free to share this article on your area's Nextdoor stream and invite your neighbors to join in. (If anyone tries to block posting this article on a social network, please inform LBREPORT.com right away via email to mail@LBReport.com or via private message to LBREPORT.com's Facebook page.)
If you belong to a neighborhood group, contact your group's leadership and urge them to send an email supporting the text amendment/tweak that will protect your group's rights. Remind them the first vote is Sept. 3 and the second is Sept.; 10. If they claim it's "at the last minute," remind them that this issue hasn't been a secret; they've had plenty of time to do something on their own; we're just showing what can be easily done now.
Here's our suggested text; customize it as you wish:
Dear Councilmember ______________"
Please :cc LBREPORT.com on your communication (mail@LBReport.com) and let us know what response(s) you receive.
LBREPORT.com also believes other reforms are overdue regarding the public's rights at City Council meetings. These include restoring the public's right to agendize items for Council action (instead of relegating taxpayers to no-action "public comment on non-agendied items") and restoring public's previously respected ability to use the taxpayer-paid Council Chamber's video equipment to illustrate one's testimony on non-hearing agenda items (a genuine efficiency measure since one picture can tell a thousand words.) LB residents had those rights but lost them through inattentiveness and silence. Elections are the opportunity for the public to show that those rights matter and voters want people in office who respect them and not scorn them.
It's simply not "streamlining" to needlessly install additional barriers to the public's right to be heard. If LB Council incumbents don't grasp this, candidates seeking to succeed them in Council districts 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8 can and should publicly commit that within 90 days of taking office they'll agendize an item to start the process of restoring public rights at LB City Council meetings that LB residents had but no longer have.
Cynics believe most voters don't care about wonky matters like this. We disagree. We think voters do understand the Brandeis principle quoted at the start of this editorial -- that the most important office in the land is that of private citizen. Long Beach shouldn't belong to City Hall lobbyists, developers and other officially-favored interest groups while their Councilmembers tell taxpayers to sit down and be quiet.
We think that's very well understood by many voters in Long Beach now.
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