|(August 3, 2020, 12:15 p.m.) -- LBREPORT.com, now completing our 20th year of providing Long Beach news independently online, shares with our readers what we encountered when we sought to report City Hall management's proposed/Mayor recommended budget. This year it is especially controversial with calls by some to "defund" (shift funding away from) police to other spending items coupled with budget disruptions caused by COVID-19.
On August 2, Councilwoman Suzie Price sent a mass emailing in which she stated: "As I write this letter, the City Manager's proposed budget has yet to be released. Based on my recent conversation with the City Manager, I expect it will be released to the council on Sunday night, Aug. 2nd."
Handed that factual nugget, LBREPORT.com immediately requested from the City's Public Information Officer and City Manager a copy by email (or URL link) of the budget document at the time it is provided to the legislative body. We cited CA Gov't Code section 54957.5(b)(1), part of the Brown (open meetings) Act, which provides: "If a writing that is a public record under subdivision (a), and that relates to an agenda item for an open session of a regular meeting of the legislative body of a local agency, is distributed less than 72 hours prior to that meeting, the writing shall be made available for public inspection pursuant to paragraph (2) at the time the writing is distributed to all, or a majority of all, of the members of the body."
The budget is an item agendized for the August 4 City Council meeting.
As of noon Aug 3, LBREPORT.com regrets thatwe don't have that document in hand . City management is concealing it until a 1 p.m. press event at which it can hand us and others the document with no opportunity to review it beforehand. That's a clumsy but effective media management technique, It effectively prevents taxpayers and reporters from preparing pesky detailed questions for a public forum.
And it's a lot easier for credulous or laxy reporters to simply cut and paste officialdom's press release describing the materials in ways officialdom prefers. . .
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|This morning (Aug. 3), Councilwomam Price confirmed to us that had the proposd budget in hand and was reading it, didn't offer to share any of it with us and referred us to city management's scheduled afternoon press event.
We don't mean to single Councilwoman Price out in his; her attitude on this is no different than any of her other Council colleagues as best we can tell; to our knowledge, as of noon none have shared details about the budget they were given and taxpayers weren't.. .
At midmorning Aug. 3, LBREPORT.com received the email below from City Manager Modica (in response to a second email we sent this morning reiterating our request for access to the proposed budget under the cited Government Code section. We cc'd our second request this morning to the City Attorney's office which was cc'd on the City Manager's response we received below.
The document that will be presented to the City Council tomorrow is still under development and has not been completed. We will be doing a PowerPoint presentation on the budget, and it is still be worked on. No documents that will be displayed to the Council tomorrow as part of the Budget Hearing have been provided to the Council yet.
LBREPORT.com responded by email this morning (Aug 3): "Thank you for your reply. The City's behavior violates the Government Code provision cited. We consider it a media manipulation technique beneath the level of a well governed city."
LBREPORT.com doesn't know if other LB media outlets invoked state law to seek access to these materials. We know it's a lot easier for reporters to simply plug into a video feed or cut and paste what press releases handed out at a media event.
But easier isn't better. In our view, offeriing a high fidelity reproduction of hat officialdom wants said isn't journalism; it's transcription.
We think LB deserves better than that. It may take us a while, but LBREPORT.com will report this story in its salient details. It may or may not be what City Hall officialdom wants said, but it will be accurate and unflinching.
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