Mayor Garcia Signals He'll Attempt To Apply Unprecedented Limitation On Public's Right To Speak To AGENDIZED LB City Council Items In New City Hall: Would Require Public To Sign Up Before He Chooses To Call Agenda Item Or Lose Right To Speak To It
|(August 10, 2019, 3:05 p.m., updated 3:15, 3:34 p.m., 7:50 p.m. and Aug. 12, 1:15 p.m.) -- A memo sent to all Long Beach City Councilmembers on Friday August 9 states that Mayor Robert Garcia has asked that rules to "streamline" City Council meetings be put into effect at the Council's August 13, 2019 meeting.
Most of the changes have been discussed publicly before but one of them has not been fully discussed or adopted as an ordinance change that requires two affirmative Council votes at which the public could object. If allowed by the City Council, it would be a dramatic and unprecedented limitation on the public's right to speak to agendized LB City Council items.
LBREPORT.com reports the salient text of the memo below. [Aug. 12 update: Assistant City Manager Tom Modica tells LBREPORT.com: "The memo is from the City Manager. I coordinated the effort with the City Manager’s Office, the City Clerk and the City Attorney’s Office." [end Aug. 11 update] The memo speaks for itself. However to double-check, we sought clarification and confirmation from Mayor Garcia and his Chief of Staff that the Mayor plans to apply it to agendized City Council items.
UPDATE: At 3:09 p.m., LBREPORT.com received the following email from the Mayor's Chief of Staff, Mark Taylor: "The Mayor intends to implement all the recommendations unanimously adopted by the Council at the Aug. 13 meeting."
At 3:13 p.m. LBREPORT.com replied: "Thank you, but you've provided an obfuscatory non-responsive response that's inconsistent with paragraph 11 in the TFF [to-from-for memo to Councilmembers]. We ask again: will the Mayor seek to implement item 11, yes it no? We're publishing our story forthwith.
3:34 p.m. FURTHER UPDATE: The May 14, 2019 agendizing memo listing "streamlining" items for "Future Implementation" included "Use of technology in the new Civic Center, such as speaker signup and alternative ways to show support for community presentations and speakers..." The May 14 agendizing memo attached an accompanying March 1 TFF sent to Councilmembers that included: "...Staff recommends exploring the use of this technology via digital kiosks and personal devices. Sign-ups could occur until the time the item is called by the Chair for discussion. There would be an option to sign up without providing identifying information, to not stifle public comment." [end further update.]
LBREPORT.com publishes for our readers what all Councilmembers were told in writing on Aug. 9. LBREPORT.com spotted the memo on Aug. 10 at this link.
[Scroll down for further.]
August 9, 2019
[Text added 7:50 p.m, Aug. 10, 2019] Under "Next Steps," the Aug. 9 management memo states:
City staff will bring this item as an ordinance for City Council review and adoption. In the interim, it is the Mayor's intent, as Chair, to apply these rules to future City Council meetings in the Bob Foster Civic Chambers, provided there is no objection from the City Council. [emphasis to originating text added by LBREPORT.com]
The "Next Steps" text in management's Aug.9 memo makes sense, because the Council's May 14 vote was only to "request the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance [emphasis added] amending the Long Beach Municipal Code governing the City Council meetings according to staff recommendations and Council direction." Amending an ordinance requires TWO Council majority votes to approve the changes, that would give the public TWO opportunities to push-back and object to the proposed "sign up or shut up" change.
In contrast, what Mayor Garcia (who has no vote) has signaled he intends to do on August 13 is, in effect, rewrite LB's ordinance himself and impose the change on the public for multiple Council meetings (that the memo vaguely calls "the short term"),.a process that effectively attempts to legitimize acceptance of the "sign up or shut up" policy before the two legally required Council enacting votes needed to actually change the ordinance.
LBREPORT.com very much regrets that Mayor Garcia has signaled his intention to further reduce the public's right to publicly address their elected policy-setting Councilmembers on voted actions at Council meetings. [end text added 7:50 p.m. Aug. 10]
LBREPORT.com offers no views here on whether this new policy does or doesn't meet minimum state requirements in the Brown (open meetings) Act. However since it not yet LB law, we presume that (under standard Roberts Rules of Order) a City Councilmember(s) can move, and if seconded, prompt a Council vote on whether to overrule the Mayor's attempt to apply the policy on August 13.
In other words, application of this unprecedented restriction in the LB public's right to address their Council meetings on Council agenda items doesn't really depend on Mayor Garcia. It depends on whether a Council majority lets him implement it on August 13, and whether a Council majority thereafter votes to include it in a formal ordinance along with previously discussed "streamlining" measures that Councilmembers choose to apply in their new taxpayer-paid City Hall and its "Bob Foster Civic Chambers.".
Aug. 12, 1:14 p.m. In a 6:34 a.m. email, Assistant City Manager Tom Modica writes: " The memo is from the City Manager. I coordinated the effort with the City Manager’s Office, the City Clerk and the City Attorney’s Office.
Aug. 10, 10:43 p.m.: Text amended to note that the Aug. 9 memo doesn't say who sent it. We speculate it was sent by Assistant City Manager Tom Modica since he's listed as the contact person but we're double-checking.
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