Here Are's Ten "Runners-Up" For LB's 2019 Outrage of the Year; Do You Have Others?

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(December 27, 2019) -- In a separate opinion piece, cited actions related to the Nov. 2019 1st dist. City Council election that we chose as LB's 2019 Outrage of the Year However we had other contenders -- 10 of them -- which we list below in no particular order. We invite our readers to cite others they believe merit inclusion; let us know via Facebook or Disqus. below.

With LB's policy-setting City Council silent on the health/safety impacting issue (for over four years), AQMD's governing board votes (Supervisor Hahn dissenting) to allow continued use of potentially lethal-if-released Modified Hydrofluoric Acid (MHF) at the LB-adjacent Valero Wilmington and southbay Torrance (ToRC) refineries. (The two refineries are the only ones in CA that use the highly corrosive chemical.) In 2015, a "near miss" explosion at the Torrance refinery (then-owned by Exxon-Mobil) nearly caused a mass casualty MHF release ( recap here). Expert testimony at AQMD hearings indicated that if released, MHF would likely form a ground-hugging cloud that could cause permanent health damages or deaths at distances including parts of LB (depending on winds, weather, amount released and exposure duration.)

AQMD staff said it believes the two refineries could convert to using a safer chemical (used at other refineries) at sizable but manageable cost. The refineries opposed a phase out/ ban on MHF, said conversion is unproven, insisted their use of MHF is safe and offered to accept a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU contract with AQMD) promising "enhanced" safety and "mitigation" measures.

Unions representing refinery workers and others (plus L.A. County Fed'n of Labor) opposed a phase/out ban. Multiple elected officials a urged a phase out/ban including the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and City Councils of Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach.

The LB Area Chamber of Commerce opposed phase out/ban citing economic impacts. No LB neighborhood groups took position; no LB Councilmember(s) agendized issue for public discussion and voted Council policy position. LB Mayor Garcia (who doesn't set City policy) sent June 2019 letter to AQMD supporting phase-out/ban just hours before a key AQMD Committee meeting ( coverage here) but didn't agendize the issue for Council policy-setting vote.

At the decision-making September AQMD board meeting, Boardmember (County Supervisor) Hahn called continued use of MHF too risky in the densely populated area and urged phase out/ban. With no representative from Long Beach (L.A. County's second largest city with one of the refineries on its border) visible or audible and no Council-voted policy position on the issue, the AQMD board voted (Hahn dissenting) to direct AQMD staff to negotiate MOU that will enable the two refineries to continue using MHF. ( coverage here).

( reported this issue in detail in multiple stories (here, here, here, here, here and here.)

[Scroll down for further.]

Council authorizes Community Hospital transaction that lets for-profit Molina/Wu/Network (MWN) LLC open and operate a smaller version of former facility, requires LB taxpayers to spend $1 million to $2 million annually for up to 15 years for site's seismic work, and if LLC subsequently decides not to continue operating facility as an acute care hospital, City would have to reimburse LLC for LLC's sums expended, which could result in City selling (permanently losing) the City-owned facility. Public learns transaction's financial details (which Council presumably discussed beforehand in prior closed sessions) in management memo agendized just days before Oct 2019 Council vote. ( detailed coverage here.)

Item was agendized using shortened public notice procedure (with approval of Councilman Supernaw.) Supernaw made motion to approve transaction, which carried 7-0 (Richardson absent, 1st dist. vacant), received effusive praise from his Council colleagues and Mayor. coverage here. In December 2019, city signed a long term lease with the LLC and issued a media release stating that the LLC (MWN) is a "partnership between Pacific6 Enterprises, AHMC Healthcare, Inc and Network Medical Management."

City management (LBPD/LBFD brass) gives LB media outlets incomplete accident data regarding the Broadway corridor amid controversy over its "road diet." City staff offered its figures a week after 2nd dist. Council candidate Robert Fox organized a public demonstration blasting the road diet as implemented. Mr. Fox, based on his experience as a Broadway resident, cited higher accidents and reduced customers at corridor businesses. Public Records Act requests subsequently showed Broadway corridor accidents were higher than city staff had represented.

The City Council has taken no action on the Broadway road diet and has let other staff implemented "road diets" and vehicle-slowing ("calming") measures proceed elsewhere including "complete streets" measures adjacent to 2nd/PCH development and a "road diet" along eastern Ocean Blvd. and the Peninsula. The 2nd/PCH "complete streets" measures triggered appeals after ousting nesting birds contrary to a Coastal Comm'n directives.

LB's "State Legislation Committee" (then comprised of chair Al Austin, vice chair Lena Gonzalez (until mid-June) and member Rex Richardson failed to meet during the entire 2019 Sacramento legislation session. The Council's State Legislation Committee met on October 23, 2018 to adopt a "state legislative agenda (general principles the City said it would apply in supporting or opposing Sacramento bills.) Among those were "Oppose legislation that would reduce the City's local land use authority" and "Oppose legislation that preempts the City's existing control over local matters." But the Council's State Legislation Committee held no meetings to discuss any then-advancing state bills and city staff didn't apply "legislative agenda's" local control principle to oppose a number of then-advancing bills which advanced to enactment. Those included SB 330 (the "Housing Crisis Act" with locally preemptive provisions) and five bills preempting aspects of LB's Council-enacted ordinance allowing Accessory Dwelling Units with neighborhood protective provisions..

The Council's State Legislation Committee also didn't discuss an even more sweeping bill: SB 50 by state Senator Scott Wiener (D, SF), opposed by multiple CA cities.) That bill stalled in 2019...but isn't dead, and Sen. Wiener has signaled that aims to revie and try to pass it in the nezt few weeks (facing a Jan 24 deadline for release from a state Senate committee.)

In May 2019, Councilmembers Austin and Mungo agendized an item to ask the full Council to oppose SB 50. During Council discussion, Councilman Richardson (then-chair for Councilwoman Gonzalez's state Senate campaign) offered what he called a "friendly amendment," which Mungo and Austin accepted, that framed the City's stance in a substantively narrow way: to oppose SB 50 "unless amended to exclude the City of LB." The Council vote was 8-0, with then-state Senate candidate Gonzalez conspicuously absent.

A day earlier, Gonzalez told a Wrigley Ass'n candidate forum that she opposed SB 50 as it was then written, a position allowing her to subsequently support SB 50 if Sen. Wiener (who endorsed her) subsequently amends it. A little over a week later, amid considerable statewide opposition to SB 50 (including the L.A. City Council and SF Board of Supervisors), the state State Senate Appropriations Committee chair held SB 50 in his Committee, preventing it from reaching the full Senate floor in 2019.

Sen. Wiener has signaled that he intends to try to revive SB 50 and advance it to Senate passage in January 2020. This may include amendments to SB 50 to get the measure out of the state Senate for passage by a Jan. 24 deadline with Senate passage by a January 31 deadline.

If Senator Wiener amends SB 50, the LB City Council would have to agendize the item and cast a publicly recorded vote if it wishes to make clear that City of Long Beach either supports, or is neutral, or opposes SB 50 as amended.

If Sen. Wiener amends SB 50, his amendments may or may not prompt state Senator Gonzalez to support the bill (since she only stated that she opposed the bill as then-written in May 2019.) Sen. Umberg (SE LB) who voted "yes" in April 2019 to advance SB 50 in the Committee process, may or may not support it if/when it reaches the full state Senate floor.

Mayor Garcia continues telling audiences (including at "Meet the Mayor" events) that crime is at near record lows and lower than in past years, offering an incomplete picture of LB neighborhood-impacting crime. At an event in the 3rd Council district (VIDEO of salient portion on here), Mayor Garcia cited the number of murders, which in recent years has been at record or near-record lows, but avoided mentioning many more non-fatal shootings (persons hit and not hit.) LBPD's publicly accessible crime stats don't list "shootings" which LBPD includes among "aggravated assaults" which is accurate and satisfies federal reporting rules but doesn't show the number of shootings or their locations. ( inquires from LBPD daily to obtain this information for our readers.)

In addition, Mayor Garcia cites "citywide" crime stats which he knows or should know combine high and low crime areas of the City and thus numerically conceal the inequity of disproportionate crimes impacting mainly working class LB neighborhoods.

Mayor Garcia also doesn't cite specific numbers of "quality of life" crimes -- typically homesless/vagrant related "non-violent" but neighborhood-impactful misdemeanors -- that aren't itemized in LBPD's publicly accessible crime stats. Some of these now-misdemanors (including thefts of items worth as much as $995) were previously felonies prior to CA voter approval of Propositions 47 and 57.

Mayor Garcia also didn't mention that he is only one of two LB elected officials remaining who voted (as a Councilman, 2009-2014) for budgets that erased the largest number of police officers in the City's more than 100 year history. Despite LB voters approving the Measure A sales tax increase (June 2016) now bringing City Hall roughly $60 million more annually) combined with a local economy Garcia says is "booming," Mayor Garcia hasn't recommended, and LB Councilmembers haven't voted to approve, budgets that restore at least 150 citgywide deployable police officers (including LBPD's former field anti-gang unit) that LB taxpayers previously had but now no longer have.

Councilman Supernaw offers rationalization for not restoring LBPD field anti-gang unit and says public should stop raising the issue. ( coverage here Nayor-recommended/Council approved FY20 budget again fails to restore LBPD field anti-gang unit or over 150 police officers that LB taxpayers previously had but no longer has (despite City Hall collecting $60 million more annually from Measure A sales tax increase that Mayor/Council want voters to extend permanently.)

Council adopts new rules that reduce, make more difficult and in some cases could entirely prevent members of the public from speaking on City Council agenda items. Councilman Supernaw launched the action by saying he wanted to shorten lengthy Council meetings by making them more "efficient." Supernaw rejected public suggestions to shorten agendas by restoring Council's fourth meeting of each month, instead directed staff to develop proposed changes in Council rules (following "best practices" adopted elsewhere.) Staff proposed measures that include cutting public speakers to 90 seconds each (instead of three minutes) if more than ten people seek to speak. Another new rules requires members of the public to sign up to speak on agenda items before the agenda item is called (without knowing when the Mayor might call the item.) [In's view, the Council's new sign-up-or-forfeit-right-to-speak" rule violates the Brown open meetings Act.] At the same time, Councilmembers placed no enforceable limits on their time to speak. coverage here.

Council votes to approve a ballot title (composed by City Attorney's office) that voters will see moments before marking their ballots on whether to extend permanently the Measure A General Fund ("blank check") sales tax that voters approved in 2016 when the City told voters in the measure's text that it would be temporary shows the Council-approved ballot title text in in coverage here Councilmembers voted it without dissent. Councilmembers also voted without dissent to declare a "fiscal emergency" to enable the March 2020 citywide special election. Police and firefighter unions (who'd benefit from City Hall receiving continuing "blank check" revenue) voiced lockstep support for the Measure A tax extension.

Council approves Mayor recommended FY20 budget that includes $250,000 for Civic Center related programming including content for display on $1 million City Hall "media wall" "Budget Oversight Committee" chair Stacy Mungo supported management proposed $388,000 spending items from "Special Advertising & Promotion Fund" for Civic Center related programming including material for display on City Hall's $1 million "media wall" but Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce sought to shift $100,000 from those funds for other spending items. (Mungo argued against the shift but ultimately agreed to it after several Councilmembers sided with Pearce.) ( coverage with AUDIO at this link. Council's FY20 budget also includes $120,000 "to monitor social media"/focus on "community engagement"; $200,000 for "planning" and "consultants" for 2028 Olympics and $50,000 "Commemorative History Book" re new Civic Center.

Management memo advises Council not to pursue administrative enforcement to deter fireworks scofflaws, Method in used by a number of other cities, uses civil fines that avoid need for sworn police officer, criminal prosecution and proof "beyond a reasonable doubt." No Councilmembers publicly agendize issue for Council discussion or possible pilot test in LB. coverage here.

Council approves "Economic Development Subsidy" for The Breakers (Ocean Blvd b/w Pine/LB Blvd.) luxury hotel. $13 million subsidy comes from 80% of the LB hotel's room tax over its first nine years of operation amounts to roughly twice all revenue City will receive from hotel's net room tax + general sales taxes + property tax over first ten years. Building is owned by Pacific6. coverage here and here..

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Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.

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