Council Votes 7-1 (Lerch dissenting) To Get Report From City Clerk On Possible Council Meeting Changes, Possibly Switching To Daytime Meetings, Holding Fewer Of Them, Ending District Meetings And Still Unspecified "Streamlining"
City Clerk Herrera discloses recently created Legislative Review Process involving his office, City Att'y office and Mayor's office that's pursuing areas paralleling the Council referred items.
(January 22, 2003) -- At its January 21 meeting, the City Council voted 7-1 (Lerch dissenting, Baker in Sacramento on city business) to seek a report from the City Clerk's office on possible changes in Council meetings including switching to daytime meetings, holding fewer of them, ending district Council meetings and still unspecified "streamlining" measures.
The Council will receive the report in about 45 days before taking action, following proposals separately agendized by 4th district Councilman Dennis Carroll and 5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell (previously reported by LBReport.com, click here). Kell's item offered specific suggestions, but Carroll's was more vague...although his agenda item explicitly referenced including the City Clerk in the process.
The most significant part of the item came when the Council's newly hired City Clerk, Larry Herrera, publicly disclosed [comment: providing details for the public is much to his credit] a recently created "Legislative Review Process" involving his office, the City Attorney's office and city staff that is pursuing areas paralleling the City Council's agendized items.
Clerk Herrera indicated the process applies an Executive Committee structure comprising the City Manager, City Attorney's office and the City Council "via the Mayor's office." He told the Council and the public:
I was going to give the Council an update on something that we're doing in the Clerk's office that parallels this. With the assistance of [Acting City Mgr.] Gerry Miller, [City Att'y] Bob Shannon, and our office, as well as Technical Services Department, we created something called the Legislative Review Process.
And the idea of that project was to improve the legislative process which includes the agenda, which includes the public access, includes the records management aspects of what this Council does. We're attempting to review and improve that.
And as a part of that project, we created what we call an Executive Committee structure, which consists of the City Manager, the City Council via the Mayor representation, City Attorney representation, to kind of guide what we call a Project Team.
And the Project Team led by a Project Manager is in the process of, on an internal basis, attempting to identify possible areas for improvement in this legislative process as I call it. And they just started on Friday [January 17] and their first meeting is going to be in a few days or so, I think [Jan] 28th.
And what we will do is we will bring to that Project Team kind of some of these suggestions that have been made by the Council. And I just want to let you know that this project that we're talking about is in parallel to this. We will bring it back to this team of employee Department representatives, guided by the Executive Committee, to kind of try to prioritize some of the suggestions you have, some of the decision points that need to be followed and that's what I think we would work real hard to report back to you.
It may be that some of those would wait, some of them might be things that we can do immediately, others might be more long term types of changes. But even if we do something now, it needs to be consistent with whatever we do when we come out the other end of the tunnel. And we would call these "bridge projects" so to speak.
So, I didn't know this [agenda item discussion] was going to happen until, I think a bird told me on Wednesday [Jan. 15] or last Saturday, but it's kind of in parallel to that. And I just want to say that we wouldn't be in a position to absorb this, again, if it hadn't been for other staff people in city government saying we also want to take a look at that.
The question is going to be how do we manage these multiple issues, the new rules perhaps that the City Council would like us to draft for them and things like that.
So it's going to be a fun ride, a little bit of a slight roller coaster but there are some things that we can do to streamline the process to make it better for the public as well as the City Council as well as the Departments.
Prior to Clerk Herrera's disclosure, Councilman Carroll said:
Let me first indicate that both Councilmember Kell and myself are interested in this particular area. We are trying to bring as many efficiencies as we can for the taxpayers in doing the city's business while trying to ensure that there is a maximum amount of public participation, but also a maximum amount of product that is useful efforts that the City Council can produce on behalf of our constituents. And from time to time I think it's helpful, and I know Councilmember Kell also believes, it would be constructive for us to review our policies of meetings, meeting times, meeting places, the agenda itself, how we can best serve you.
And it is my request that this be evaluated, that City Councilmembers and members of the public who have ideas about how you think we might more effectively serve you, have an opportunity to contribute those ideas. I believe that the Clerk's office, who is most involved in this process, might be the best vehicle to prepare such a report with input from the City Council...
Councilwoman Kell said:
...For most of the history in Long Beach we have had day meetings...We know that more people did attend the Council meetings when they were held during the day...Day meetings also mean that we don't pay staff overtime. I don't think a lot of people realize that when we're here at these nighttime meetings, we are paying many staff members overtime...
...The other thing is, if we were to suspend district Council meetings, and by the way that was something brought to the Council by [former Mayor] Ernie [Kell] when he was first elected, he promised to have district meetings, and it wasn't mandatory, it was optional when he suggested it.
[LBReport.com note: District Council meetings are now specified in the Council-enacted LB Municipal Code. After winning a 70%+ re-election victory in April 2002, Councilwoman Kell didn't hold the Muni Code specified 5th district Council meeting in May or thereafter.]
But if these [district] Council meetings are costing, as Councilman Carroll says, more than $6,000 when we have them off-site and you go $6,000 times nine, well there's another savings, and we could suspend them and reinstate them when the budget looks better. ...
7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga stressed:
[W]hatever we do, we need to ensure that we increase community participation and not decrease it...I am looking forward to an entire package that'll be able to cover a number of items that hopefully will not only take into consideration those of us who work full time but also try to maximize at best any way possible to increase public participation at every level when it comes to City Council meetings. So I do look forward to creating some cost savings and again not prohibit public participation but increase it...
Although Councilwoman Kell's item had sought a report from the City Manager, Councilman Carroll took control when it came time to make the motion. He moved (and the Council voted 7-1) to send both items to the City Clerk's office -- which had just disclosed its parallel process involving the Mayor's office and representation from the City Attorney's office -- for a report within 45 days.
And Carroll added, "I assume Councilwoman Kell joins me and makes this a co-motion. Is that correct?" asked Carroll. "Yes," Kell replied.
Prior to the vote, Clerk Herrera added:
What we will do during this [45 day] period of time...if we can put together some of the items that have been discussed tonight, listing those, taking a look at them, but attempting to put together a model so to speak as to what system changes we might make in the work flow, what structural changes you might make per the Muni Code or your meeting dates, and what people changes might be in order.
And in people, we include the community so I'll give you an example. It was suggested, how do you involve the public in this process? And what we would do is we would set that out, if we couldn't get it back to you in 45 days, we would tell you when we would address that point.
And so we're going to try to put together something that answers as many question as can, and those things that aren't answered are at least given a date by which we would perhaps meet with other groups because it does take time to bring people together and 45 days would at least let us come back and give you a plan, a program, and some options that you could invoke sooner than later and others that might have to wait.
And if you saw something that you didn't want to have wait, we'd have to figure out how to push that up sooner.
9th district Councilman Val Lerch voted "no" on the item, after announcing earlier in the meeting that he intended henceforth to oppose consuming staff time for reports on which the Council could act immediately.
Here's another report, another evaluation. How much is it going to cost the city? Do we need it? Is it essential? I'm of the opinion that we're big boys and girls here. Why do we need staff to come back and tell us that we need to go dark a couple of nights a month in order to save money? I would suggest that we vote right now to go dark the third and fifth Tuesday of every month and be done with it and let's start saving money. I see no reason why we can't make that decision without burdening staff on coming back with a report. Let's take charge here...
Vice Mayor Frank Colonna (presiding in Mayor O'Neill's absence) advised against proceeding on the matter, indicating he felt the matter is one which there'd likely be members of the public opposed and in favor and he favored proceeding to air the recommendations.