|(August 13, 2019. 2:15 a.m.) -- From three minutes, to 90 seconds, to ZERO seconds. LBREPORT.com provides two real-world examples below of how two misnamed "streamlining" actions could prevent Long Beach residents from speaking to City Council agenda items starting tonight (Aug. 13). It is up to the City Council, not the Mayor, whether these happen. As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, Mayor Garcia has signaled (stated in an August 9 management memo not publicly agendized but spotted Aug. 10 and reported by LBREPORT.com) that he intends to apply them unless the Council objects.
1. The "sign up or shut up" rule.: Unprecedented in Long Beach City Council proceedings, it would require residents to fill out cards indicating they wish to speak on an agenda item AND unless they submit the card before the item is called (a time the Mayor can move or change), they'd be barred from speaking to the item.
It's not unprecedented elsewhere; other agencies, including the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and the L.A. Metro Board (on which Garcia holds a seat) apply similarly restrictive rules, but that doesn't require the Long Beach City Council to race to the bottom to silence public participation. Metro's Board also limits the public to one minute each; its behavior arguably isn't a "best practice" from the public's standpoint to which Long Beach Councilmembers should aspire to meet.
Sign-up cards themselves aren't the issue but coupling them with a "shut up" (speaking forfeiture) provision is problematic. It would prevent the public from speaking to an agenda item if they arrive after the Mayor chooses to call it up (a time the public can't control.) It would also prevent speakers from rebutting/correcting testimony/statements offered by other public speakers.
One way to address this would specify that the Mayor/meeting chair must also give invite members of the public who didn't fill out speaker cards before closing public testimony. That option hasn't been discussed by the Council because the Council never voted to implement the "sign up or shut up" rule. The Council only voted on May 14 (motion by Supernaw) to direct the City Attorney to draft an ordinance for Council consideration that includes a requirement for speaker cards. An ordinance requires at least two additional affirmative Council majority votes to enact. At those two Council meetings (or at least one of them), the public could raise this issue and Councilmembers could discuss and address it but that hasn't happened yet. That's a good reason why the Council shouldn't implement the "sign up or shut up rule" with the Council's Aug. 13 meeting.
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2. The "Committee bypass and shut up" rule could prevent the public from speaking to an item that's been heard by a City Council committee (3 of 9 Council members) (unless the item is substantially changed when it comes to the full decisionmaking Council.) For example, today's (Aug. 13) meeting of the Council's "Budget Oversight Committee" -- scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. when many people can't attend -- will discuss whether to spend an additional nearly $80,000 more each year to pay Mayor Garcia's appointees to various "advisory" commissions and double the sums paid to his choices for Charter Commissions. If the Committee votes to recommend Council approval of this, the Council could prevent the public from speaking to it when it reaches the full City Council meeting for a decision (on grounds the public had an "opportunity" to address it in the Council committee.)
This would also be unprecedented in Long Beach Council proceedings (and it's arguably not a "best practice" from the public's standpoint) but it's not unprecedented elsewhere. The L.A. City Council (another entity to which LB's Council needn't aspire) already applies it; it's allowable under minimal Sac'to requirements of the Brown (open meetings) Act; it could be implemented in Long Beach immediately without an ordinance amendment unless the Council objects.
The bottom line: these two misnamed "streamlining" actions could prevent the public from speaking for any length of time to Long Beach City Council agenda items under both the "sign up or shut up" rule and the "committee bypass and shut up" rule unless the Council objects to doing so at the opening of the Aug. 13 Council meeting.
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