No On City Mgm't Sought $250k Contract Authority: It Would Prevent Council & Public Oversight Before Deals Are Done And Will Prove More Costly, Not Less


(Dec. 4, 2012, 9:15 a.m.) -- For years, local activists (including Dan Pressburg in NLB) have urged the Council to return to a more sensible $50,000 limit (from the improvident $100,000 allowed by a previous Council under now-former City Manager Henry Taboada) by which city management can approve contracts without voted Council approval and public disclosure before the deals are done.

Instead, today (Dec. 4) as reported here by, city management proposes to go in the opposite direction: it seeks Council approval to let a city staffer bind taxpayers on contracts of up to a quarter of a million dollars without voted Council approval, neatly avoiding public disclosure of parties, amount or subject matter before the agreements are entered into. (Exception: sole source contracts over $100k would still require Council approval.)

This is worse than a Council rubberstamp. It would hand the rubberstamp to a non-elected city staffer AND block public [and press] access to information about what's being done before the deals become binding.

In our opinion, it is -- literally -- abrogation of Council responsibility and oversight in the spending of public money.

Of course management tries to justify its proposal by spinning it as "streamlining" to save money. In our view, this flies in the face of common sense. Deals done in the dark -- without public oversight and disclosure before they're done -- are what invite wasteful spending and potential cronyism. This measure would give those with clout inside City Hall access to the public's pocketbook behind the public's back; just a nod from the right person and the deal is done.

And no, including a periodic report to the Council on deals that have been done is no remedy for bad deals done and shows no respect for a Council that should be overseeing them before they're done.

And obligating taxpayers to spend up to a quarter million dollars ought to be a big deal in a town that tells taxpayers it can't afford to fund core services.

In an attempt to try and manipulate Councilmembers into giving up their overight, city management has included a clumsy lure: it impregnanted City Hall's FY13 budget with a forecast "savings" of roughly $98,000 by eliminating five positions if the measure is approved. Translation: if the Council doesn't approve what management wants, Councilmembers will have find nearly $98,000 from somewhere else.

This is roughly equivalent to telling a child that if they don't clean up their room, they won't go to Disneyland. Councilmembers who let management treat them like Councilchildren deserve to be viewed in that way by their taxpaying constituents.

The Council should reject management's lure and protect taxpayers from ultimately higher insider costs by: (1) voting "no" on the item tonight; and (2) instructing management to rebalance the FY13 budget by having one or at max two [not five!] staffers prepare materials for Council and public review, saving the cost of at least four to five staffers while protecting Council and public oversight. [City management can offer options for funding their salaries, a more manageable sum.]

We also reiterate our call for ending Long Beach City Hall's historically non-transparent practice of not disclosing actual contracts before seeking Council approval for them. For real openness, Long Beach City Hall should do what a number of other cities [admittedly not all] do on large contracts: attach the proposed contract to the agenda item, at minimum on large items. What a concept.

But tonight, the issue before the Council is straightforward. In our opinion, handing a quarter million dollar rubberstamp to city staff isn't responsible, isn't transparent, will ultimately prove costly...and deserves voted Council rejection.

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Signal Hill Petroleum's Debra Russell and Amanda Kilpatrick (center) present check to Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation Trustee Jerry Miller (far left) and Executive Director Pamela Seager (far right)

Carter Wood Floors
Hardwood Floor Specialists
Call (562) 422-2800 or (714) 836-7050

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