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    Divisive, Acrimonious Council Battle Produces 5-3 Vote Giving Mayor Retroactive Power To Fill RDA Board Vacancy On Her Terms

    Requires PACs To Send Mayor Double The Number Of Potential Appointees From Whom She Can Select New RDA Boardmembers

    Mayor Says It's Motivated By Desire For Diversity, Not Merger

    (July 2, 2003) -- With LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill insisting she was motivated by a desire for diversity and not a pending high-stakes merger of Redevelopment Project Areas, the City Council held a politically charged, personally acrimonious and racially inflamed discussion -- which some Councilmembers said left them personally sickened -- that produced a divisive 5-3 vote giving the Mayor what she wanted.

    The Council changed city law (motion by Colonna, seconded by Richardson) allowing the Mayor to fill -- retroactively -- a potentially pivotal RDA board vacancy (created by the Mayor's refusal to select an appointee from names given her by the Central Project Area Committee)...and requiring Redevelopment Project Area Committees (PACs) to send the Mayor twice the number of potential appointees from which she can choose RDA board appointees, subject to Council confirmation.

    Not only does the RDA board wield the power of eminent domain within Redevelopment Project Areas, it will oversee movement toward a city management desired merger of Redevelopment Project Areas. The merger is opposed by a number of community members and Councilman Val Lerch.

    On the Mayor's desired ordinance change, Councilmembers Baker, Colonna, Carroll, Kell and Richardson voted "yes." Councilmembers Reyes-Uranga, Webb and Lerch voted "no." Councilwoman Lowenthal was absent for the meeting. posts the ordinance verbatim on a link below.

    Councilmembers rejected on a reversed 3-5 vote a substitute motion by Reyes-Uranga, seconded by Lerch to remove the retroactivity verbiage from the ordinance and require the Mayor to appoint remaining RDA board vacancy from the two names submitted by the Central PAC or other PACs (would eliminate verbiage on line 24 "including any vacancies existing on July 1").

    Prior to the substitute motion, Councilman Lerch read a memo to the Mayor and Council from absent Councilmember Lowenthal which stated, "In the spirit of compromise in order not to penalize any individual or individuals already vested in the process, I would support the proposed ordinance as written, omitting the portion on line 24 reading "including any vacancy existing on July 1, 2003."

    Councilman Dan Baker responded, saying he had a rather extensive conversation with Councilmember Lowenthal after she submitted that memo "and she asked that if the issue was raised that I convey that her interest in writing that was predominantly to express concern for Mr. [Don] Darnauer, her constituent..."

    [LBReport note: The Central PAC forwarded Mr. Darnauer's name to the Mayor as one of two possible appointees to the RDA board. The Mayor refused to appoint him or the PAC's other forwarded possible appointee. At the June 17 Council meeting, the Mayor said "[t]his community being the most diverse does not need every PAC [Project Area Committee] to present names of white males."].

    Councilman Baker said Councilwoman Lowenthal had indicated that "through the past couple of weeks the process has led to a great amount of concern and consternation regarding Don, and she wished to convey her condolences for that, but she wanted to pass on that she would be supporting the ordinance as presented."

    In an extemporaneous statement following some of the more heated Council exchanges, Mayor O'Neill said:

    I think that the timing of this [ordinance amendment] has been lousy. I think that the discussion that we had on the merger was divisive, and I think it spilled over onto this ordinance change. I am not having a tiff with anyone...

    ...In my understanding of PACs, if PACs are made up of the community, the communities are diverse, and in the 12 names that I have received from the PACs, there hasn't been any diversity. That means we're not doing a good job, and that was my only reason for bringing this in.

    I'm not being divisive. I'm just saying that we need to do a better job of ensuring that we have the entire community represented...

    ...I agree with my Councilmembers that the conversation has disintegrated to making us more divisive rather than bringing us together, and that was not the intent at all. It was to try to bring people on the PACs that accepted responsibility that represented the entire community...

    The ordinance amendment approved by the Council on a 5-3 vote can be viewed at: Revised ordinance on RDA appointments. It is scheduled to return for a second Council vote on July 22.

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