At Council Meetings, LB Councilmembers And Mayor Shrug This LB Law That Applies To Them is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(Feb. 6, 2019, 8:25 p.m.) -- Eight Councilmembers were present at the start of the Feb. 5, 2019 City Council meeting. Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, who's running for a vacated state Senate seat was (for the second time in several weeks) in Sacramento without public explanation but present via a legally allowed teleconference. Councilman Roberto Uranga, a Coastal Commission member, was absent (we presume to take part the next day in meetings of that state body scheduled to begin the next morning in Half Moon Bay.)

After the Council voted (8-0) to override residents' appeals and approve a developer-sought reuse of a historic downtown building (supported by appellants) that will further shrink the remnants of Ocean Blvd.'s Victory Park (opposed by appellants) and approved a "consent calendar," the Mayor called a brief recess.

When the meeting resumed and the City Clerk re-called the roll, Councilwoman Mungo had vanished. A close look at the video shows she voted "yes" on the consent calendar, packed up her belongings, exited the Council Chamber while the "consent calendar" motion was still in progress (photo below)...and didn't return for the rest of the meeting.

Screen save from Council webcast, Feb. 5, 2019

[Scroll down for further.]

Councilwoman Gonzalez answered "here" from Sacramento when the roll was re-called but wasn't heard or didn't vote for the rest of the meeting. Councilwoman Price answered "here" but during Council discussion of a lengthy Council item (ran two hours, twenty minutes) regarding City purchase of a NLB property for the first City-owned year-round homeless shelter/"campus") candidly acknowledged that she'd left the Council meeting for less than an hour to attend a recital at her son's school. Price returned to City Hall in time to cast a Council vote on that item and all other items for the remainder of the Council meeting.] When the Clerk called Councilmember Mungo's name, there was silence. [We're aware Councilwoman Mungo is a new mom but neither she nor anyone else cited that as the reason for her disappearance.]

LB Municipal Code section 2.03.100B, titled "Decorum," specifies:

"No member of the Council shall leave the Council chamber without permission from the Mayor "

Councilmembers Mungo, Gonzalez and Price all left the Council Chamber without receiving the Mayor's audible permission. Councilwoman Price returned before missing any votes but Councilmembers Gonzalez and Mungo didn't reappear for the remainder of the meeting.

No Councilmember(s) present called a point of order; they simply let their Council colleagues leave and Mayor Garcia said nothing on the matter. The practice of LB Councilmembers simply leaving Council meetings as they please has been commonplace for years notwithstanding the LB Municipal Code secton.

During public testimony, Megan Kerr, an LB School Board member representing NLB, commented, "I want to thank the Councilmembers who stayed in the Chamber for this entire discussion." Following public testimony, Councilman Richardson said that although Councilmembers Mungo and Gonzalez weren't present, they'd previously reached out to him and voiced their support for the purchase. However in's view, that's not the same thing as casting a recorded "yes" vote that an opponent can use against the voting Councilmember if (like several items we can name in LB) it fails to deliver what taxpayers were told.

Ms. Kerr's remark drew a response from Councilwoman Price: "We had a recital at my son's school, Lowell Elementary School tonight, so I did go to his recital and was back within an hour. I was the only parent he had there tonight so I felt it was important to me to be there. In five years, it's the first time I've ever walked away from a Council meeting to do something for my family and I have never walked out of Council Chambers for a vote ever [emphasis in her voice.] I frankly think that's cowardly and I'd never do it and anyone who knows me knows that I don't take those issues lightly."

The circumstances motivating Councilwoman Price to exit are similar to those voiced on December 18, 2018 by Councilman Richardson, who announced (prior to exiting) that he'd be leaving early to attend a Christmas-event for his young child. (His early exit spared him a recorded vote on spending $4.3 million for additional technology items at LB's new Civic Center (including a $1 million "media wall") but in our view his disclosure basically met the spirit of Muni Code section 20.03.100B by disclosing his desired exit to which he received no Mayoral objection.

Unfortunately, vanishing on Council votes has had a less benign history in Long Beach. Former Councilmembers "Waffling Wally" Edgerton (2nd dist.) and "Run-Away Ray" Grabinski (7th dist.) were notorious for disappearing on controversial Council items. Edgerton's vanishing act on a key vote let developers continue to build "crackerbox" apartments whose density damages now afflict a number of LB neighborhoods. "Run-Away Ray" Grabinski made an unsuccessful run for LB Mayor in which he found himself dogged by his previous disappearances on controversial Council items.

In September and October 2018, Councilmembers Gonzalez, Pearce, Uranga and Richardson exited the Council Chamber for what they later called a "protest" over a Council item (allowing them to avoid casting a recorded "no" vote.) In February 2017, Councilmembers Stacy Mungo and Dee Andrews, who'd both been present earlier in the Council meeting, vanished on a vote to put Long Beach on record as supporting then-advancing Sacramento legislation (SB 31 and SB 54) to create statewide immigration sanctuary policies. (Mungo returned after the vote; Andrews did not.) As editorialized at the time, we believe their disappearances evaded another LB Muni Code section, 2.03.050B, which provides: "Except when a conflict of interest exists and abstention is required by State law, every member of the Council who is present when a roll is called shall vote for or against the question, unless excused by a majority of the members present, prior to the calling of the roll on such question.")

In's opinion, the root of the problem remains an assumed entitlement by LB Council incumbents that they can meander in and out and leave Council meetings whenever they wish for whatever personally compelling or politically motivated reasons they choose. This mocks what Muni Code section 2.03.100B was enacted to prevent.

In our view it's not asking too much for LB Councilmembers to respect laws enacted for good reason by their predecessors. If they wish to change that, they can agendize an item to repeal the current casting a recorded vote..

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