|(April 12, 2019, 12:30 p.m.) -- In response to recent emails from LB residents (prompted by an LBREPORT.com editorial), senior staff in the offices of Mayor Robert Garcia and City Councilman Roberto Uranga have sought to justify city management's concealment of a long-anticipated management report on LB's animal shelter ("Animal Care Services"), preventing the public from studying (and LBREPORT.com from reporting) management's concusions and recommendations prior to an April 16 publicly agendized "study session" on the item.
The April 16, 3:30 p.m. City Council special meeting, labeled a "study session," is agendized to "receive and file a presentation on the City’s Animal Care Services." This "study session" (similar to previous study sessions on other topics) doesn't include an accompanying memo or Power Point slides indicating its content or recommendations. There's no legal reason why these can't be disclosed prior to the study session; it's simply a choice by non-elected LB city management/staff that LB's elected Mayor and City Council have allowed to continue.
In an April 11 editorial, LBREPORT.com urged public release of management's materials prior to the study session so the public could study them and the press could report them as newsworthy prior to the meeting.
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|Responding to an April 11 email from a LB resident Michelle Baker (cc'd to the Mayor, City Manager and Parks/Rec Director) objecting to the absence of accompanying agendized materials, Mayor Garcia's Deputy Chief of Staff, Justin Ramirez replied: "At times, documents for presentations are being worked on by staff up until the day. They are made available at Council meetings, and then posted online."
Ms. Baker added Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce to her email cc's and responded: "The report should be posted online before the study session so the public and media can review. We have no idea what is going to be presented & obviously Gerard doesn't wait until the meeting to have the info ready. . You should already have the powerpoint presentation and notes from Gerardo...Can you post by Monday so the public can review? This session is very important to thousands of Long Beach residents. Many can't come because of the time, but would like the information upfront because we are a democracy."
Deputy Chief of Staff Ramirez replied: "Rest assured it is only a study session. No council action will be taken. Materials will be made available."
Ms. Baker wrapped up: "...This study session is very important to many people so I would greatly appreciate that the info is posted online before the meeting at 3:30 p.m. so we can review."
That didn't sit well with Ms. Dolce: "Thanks for the reply - but just because you don't HAVE to have the materials available until the moment before the presentation, doesn't mean that you shouldn't. I don't believe that is good policy. You COULD post the materials publicly now if you wanted to. There is nothing saying that you can't (release the materials now). Not giving the public adequate time to familiarize themselves about the item before speaking is not transparent and gives the public the impression that you DON'T want an informed public. Please reconsider this."
As to what the City Council can and can't do at the April 16 "study session," Assistant City Attorney Mike Mais tells LBREPORT.com:
"Our practice is that with a "study session", Council cannot take any substantive action on the item other than to basically "receive and file" the information that is the subject of session. That said, Council could also request that an item be agendized for a later date where some substantive action could be taken regarding the topic. Also, with a study session, the Council could request that the City Manager or City Attorney bring back additional information at a later date (either on agenda or off agenda) regarding the subject."
In other words, city management knew or should have known that by scheduling its animal shelter presentation for a "study session" -- instead of including it as part of a prime-time City Council meeting -- Councilmembers wouldn't be able to take any voted action to change current LB animal shelter policies at that meeting. To do so will require a subsequently agendized prime-time Council item.
At present, only LB's Mayor, Councilmembers and city management can agendize City Council items. LB residents previously had that right (under LB's Council-enacted Municipal Code) but lost it in the mid-1990's through a previous Council's stealthful action ("Amnesia File" coverage on LBREPORT.com here)...and LB's incumbent Mayor and Council haven't restored the public's right to agendize Council items.
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