Councilmembers Mum -- Say Nothing, Ask No Questions -- At First of Three Hearings On Charter Amendment To Restore/Authorize Taking Up To $26 Mil From LB Water/Sewer/Gas Users For General Fund ("Blank Check") Council Spending; Two Taxpayers Blast Measure; Next Hearing Feb. 13 is reader and advertiser supported. Support 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.
(Jan. 11, 2018, 7:05 a.m.) -- As seen LIVE on, eight Long Beach City Councilmembers (Richardson absent) said nothing -- made no statements of any kind and asked no questions -- at the first of three hearings on Wednesday (Jan. 10) on a City Hall drafted Charter Amendment that, if approved by LB voters, would let City Hall re-impose fees on LB Water/Sewer customers (ended by taxpayer litigation, now requiring rebates) and continue to impose taxpayer litigation-threatened Gas Dept. fees.

The measure would let City Hall take ("transfer") up to $26 million from the city-run utilities annually (if deemed "unnecessary" by the City-run utilities) that would become general fund ("blank check") City Hall revenue that the Council could spend as it wishes.

[Scroll down for further.]

The Charter Amendment hadn't been previously discussed by the Council. It appeared (already drafted in legal form) immediately after a Dec. 19 Council study session agendized (without details available prior to the hearing) to discuss the City's "fiscal outlook." At the study sesion, city staff detaield the magnitude of looming deficits (spending exceeding revenue) and said a Charter Amendment could "fix" a roughly $8 million budget hole created by City settlement of taxpayer litigation now requiring rebates of the Water/Sewer fees. On Jan. 5, a city management memo discussed the proposed Charter Amendment at this link.



The Jan. 10 Council hearing lasted a total of 18 minutes. Director of Financial Management, John Gross, delivered a Power Point presentation. He said the Charter Amendment would restore or continue to authorize fees that LB Water/Sewer/Gas customers were already paying. He said without the Charter Amendment authorizing the fees/revenue transfer, the City could face the prospect of major budget cuts. Mr. Gross noted (illustrated by a graph) that LB Water/Sewer/Gas charges (with the fees) are lower than in a number of other cities. Mayor Garcia made reference to the chart, calling it significant.

Two LB taxpayers -- Wrigley area resident Tom Stout (co-founder of the LB Taxpayers Association) and downtown resident Anne Proffit -- blasted the proposed measure. Mr. Stout said the Council had "brass balls" for considering the action after the City enabled massive pension debts. He said money sent into the General Fund's "black hole" goes in and doesn't come out.

Ms. Proffit, a longtime downtown resident, asked rhetorically if the Mayor/Council would again "trot out" former Mayors Beverly O'Neill and Bob Foster to urge voters to support the Charter Amendment [similar to the campaign for the June 2016 Measure A sales tax increase.] Ms. Proffit said she would do all she can to oppose the measure's enactment.

The taxpayers' testimony drew no response from the Council or Mayor Garcia.


As previously reported by here, city staff stated at a Dec. 19 afternoon Council study session that (despite collecting $45+ million annually from the LB sales tax increase imposing the highest sales tax rate in CA tied with only a few other cities), LB City Hall faces deficits (gaps between spending and revenue) in FY19, FY20 and FY21 in a range of between $30.6 million and $36.6 million dollars.

Opening staff's presentation, City Manager Pat West said -- in a brief and blunt statement -- that the City would solve those separate deficits. [At the Dec. 19 study session, staff offered a partial fix for FY19 $13+ million deficit if the Council approves increased fees, fines and some Measure A transfers but nothing further for now.]

A Council majority has the power to tweak or change the terms of the proposed Charter Amendment (including setting a percentage lower than 12% for the allowable transfers to the General Fund or to make other changes) at two additional hearings on February 13 and March 6.

The Council can vote at the March 6 hearing to put the measure on the June 5 ballot.




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