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    Mayor Bristles, Belittles Brouhaha Over Bundling Ballot Measures

    (Feb. 1, 2007) -- Mayor Bob Foster expressed some displeasure at the Jan. 30 City Council meeting after a media outlet reported that the Council had voted on Jan. 23 to bundle proposed changes to the City Charter in groupings that weren't available for public review prior to the Council action.

    [ reported this; perhaps others did too; the Mayor also referred to a letter he and Councilmembers received on the issue with which he disagreed.]

    The Jan. 23 Council vote decided that LB voters won't have a choice on individual City Hall-proposed Charter changes as Councilmembers did. Instead, LB voters' choices will be limited to "yes" or "no" on seven Council-packaged Charter changes. Mayor Foster addressed this issue in his Jan. 30 Council comments, which posts below.

    One of the ballot bundles asks LB voters to approve creating an "Independent Salary Commission" (members selected by the Mayor, City Atty, City Prosecutor & City Auditor) with the power to raise Councilmembers' pay that "takes into account the nature of the duties of the office and which is commensurate with salaries then being paid for other public positions having similar duties, responsibilities and obligations") along with creating an "Ethics Commission and Code of Ethics" and a "Redistricting Commission."

    Another bundle combines a proposal to dilute Council term limits (letting incumbents seek three terms, instead of two, with their names printed on the ballot) along with changing terms of office for Harbor and Water Commissioners. [The Harbor Commission change was opposed by former LB Harbor Commissioner Roy Hearrean.]

    On Jan. 30, the Council voted (7-1, Schipske dissenting) to call a special May 1 citywide election to put its proposed ballot bundles before voters (coinciding with a 6th district special election for a successor to now-Assemblywoman Laura Richardson). Following the Council vote, Councilwoman Rae Gabelich asked City Attorney Shannon about the ballot-measure bundling, received a response from the City Attorney and the Mayor's comments followed:

    Councilwoman Gabelich: ...I was just passed an article in one of our local papers which said that it was the Council who had put these propositions into different categories and I'd like to let that be known that we didn't do it, that our City Attorney did. Would you confirm that?

    City Attorney Shannon: Well that's not exactly correct. What we indicated was that that particular grouping would be legally defensible. There are a number of possible other groupings that could have been engaged here.

    Mayor Foster: Let me try to take that. You have to have a single subject rule, and they have to be germaine. Otherwise, if you broke everything out individually, you'd probably have twenty items. That's not fair to the public as well.

    I know there was a suggestion on the part of the Vice Mayor, which I actually looked at and worked with the City Attorney to make sure these groupings were fair and they were all germaine to one another. And this grouping certainly passed that test.

    You can find fault with anything. The truth is, if somebody wants to find something they don't like in anything, any one of these things, they certainly can find it. But it is fair to put it into a manageable form, and a manageable number of items fpr the public. Otherwise you're going to have a really long ballot and it becomes almost unintelligible.

    Councilwoman Gabelich: Thank you, Mayor.

    Mayor Foater: And I read that as well, you know, and I just think that kind of stuff is, you hear it all the time. It amazes me that people who somehow like 90% of something, but because it wasn't exactly the way they would write it, that somehow they'll oppose it.

    I know you all have a letter on your desk right now which is the same sort of thing. 'We didn't get our way; we didn't get what we want, so a pox on your house.'

    A week earlier at the Jan. 23 meeting (under an item agendized by the City Attorney as "review proposed amendments to the City Charter") Mayor Foster turned to Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal when the agenda item was called...and the Vice Mayor quoted from a document given to Councilmembers. In introducing the item, Vice Mayor Lowenthal noted her role as chair of the Council's Elections Oversight Committee...but to our knowledge that Committee hadn't agendized the ballot bundlings either.

    Also appearing on the May 1 ballot will be an eighth measure, recommended by City Auditor Laura Doud, to increase Citry Hall revenue from each barrel of oil removed in the city. The item requires a 2/3 vote of the people...with the resulting revenue (which the Auditor estimates at $3.8 million per year) used for public safety purposes.

    To view the measures as placed on the ballot by the Council, click here

    Under LB's municipal code, the Mayor chooses (subject to Council confirmation) writers for ballot measure arguments, pro and con, for inclusion in voters' sample ballots. The City Clerk's website includes an application inviting ballot argument writers. The deadline for submitting the completed application to the City Clerk's office is February 2 at 4:00 p.m. To download the application, click here.

    The application asks the applicant's name, occupation, measure you want to write about, whether you want to write pro or con, plus address, phone number and email.

    And in a timely discussion, Mayor Foster offers his personal views on the proposed Charter Amendments on Art Levine's Straight Talk TV show, available on demand worldwide via (scroll to link).

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