|(July 19, 2017, 5:40 a.m.) -- As seen LIVE on LBREPORT.com, with Mayor Garcia absent and Vice Mayor Richardson presiding, Long Beach City Councilmembers -- whose City Charter duties include deciding whether to confirm Mayoral appointments to City Charter-created Commissions -- asked no questions of any of Garcia's choices for LB's neighborhood-impacting Planning Commission or health-and-economy impacting Harbor Commission (or any of several Council-created non-Charter Commissions) and voted 8-0 to confirm them all in a single vote on July 18 (Gonzalez recused herself, as the Mayor appointed her "significant other" to the LB Transit board.)
[Scroll down for further.]
|All Councilmembers praised Mayor Garcia's choice of former Councilmembers/Vice Mayors Frank Colonna and Bonnie Lowenthal for LB's Harbor Commission, citing their lengthy city government experience, but none asked them about their positions on Port issues (including the upcoming revision to the Port's "Clean Air Action Plan" [costs of pollution reduction measures/public health vs. costs], Desmond Bridge cost overruns, Port debt and other budget issues.)
The Councilmembers' voted action also included approval of a new Planning Commissioner, Josh LaFarga, who effective Oct. 1 will begin casting votes (some subject to appeal to the Council) on land use matters, developer-sought project approvals, zoning, density and traffic impacts affecting LB neighborhoods citywide but apparently became a Long Beach resident less than roughly two months earlier.
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, Mr. LaFarga holds a leadership position in the "Laborers Plaster and Tenders" Union ("LiUNA!") Local 1309, whose PAC has made campaign and "officeholder" contributions to LB's Mayor and a number of LB Councilmembers (detailed below.) Mayor Garcia didn't publicly disclose his choice of Mr. LaFarga for the position until the release late Friday afternoon (July 14) of the City Clerk's finalized July 18 Council agenda.
No Councilmembers asked Mr. LaFarga about what appears to be his recent arrival as a Long Beach resident, or for his view on planning policies including increased density, zoning practices, neighborhood quality of life versus developer-desired projects, or on the proposed revision to LB's Land Use Element (scheduled for Planning Commission voted action on August 13) or how he would deal with developer-sought projects that neighborhood residents might oppose but his union might support on grounds they would provide jobs (including "Project Labor Agreements.")
In public testimony, Warren Blesofsky (Long Beach Citizens for Fair Development) raised issues regarding Mayor Garcia's choice of Mr. LaFarga for Planning Commission (in part citing LBREPORT.com coverage here) and suggested that the Council consider delaying appointment of Mr. LaFarga.
Robert Fox (Council of Neighborhood Organizations) didn't mention Mr. LaFarga by name, didn't oppose his appointment, but said he favors studying a possible change to City Charter to require some period of residency before eligibility for Commission appointments [an issue not before the Council.]
Michele Grubbs of Pacific Merchant Shipping Ass'n praised the Mayor's choice of Lowenthal and Colonna for Harbor Commission, as she did earlier in the day at the Council's Personnel & Civil Service Committee (Austin, Uranga, Pearce), which likewise asked no questions in voting to recommend Mayor Garcia's choices for the Harbor and Planning Commissionf. Harbor Commission appointees Colonna and Lowenthal attended the Committee meeting and spoke, as they did at the City Council meeting. Planning Comm'n appointee LaFarga wasn't present at the Committee meeting and if he was present at the Council meeting, he didn't speak.
With Mayor Garcia absent, no Councilmembers could publicly ask him why Planning Commissioner Van Horik had abruptly resigned and created the vacancy that enabled the Mayor to appoint Mr. LaFarga fill that position. Vice Mayor Richardson asked City Attorney Parkin if Mr. LaFarga was legally qualified to serve on the Planning Commission and Mr. Parkin replied that he was...and no Councilmembers pursued the issue further.
As first reported by LBREPORT.com on the morning of July 18, Mr. LaFarga was until recently a member of City of Los Angeles "Board of Neighborhood Commissioners," whose members must reside in Los Angeles. Minutes of its meetings show Mr. LaFarga last participated in its proceedings in late March, 2017. On Monday July 17, 2017, L.A. Board of Neighborhood Commissioners staffer Mike Fong told LBREPORT.com that Mr. LaFarga joined the Board in August 2015 and exited in early June 2017, informing L.A. Mayor Garcetti's office "within the past few weeks" that he was moving out of Los Angeles.
[LBREPORT.com has since learned that Mr. LaFarga's purchase of a 9th Council district residence was deed-recorded on May 24.]
At late afternoon Monday (July 17), LBREPORT.com advised Long Beach Mayor Garcia's office (via email to his Chief of Staff, Mark Taylor) that we were preparing to publish these matters, asked his office to release a copy of Mr. LaFarga's application for the Planning Commission position and invited Mayor Garcia to provide a statement on what appears to be his appointee's recent move from Los Angeles.
Mayor Garcia's Chief of Staff emailed the following statement in response:
Mr. La Farga recently became a homeowner and now lives in Long Beach's 9th District. He has been actively working in Long Beach for many years as a leader in the building trades which makes him a strong candidate for this appointment.
Mr. LaFarga holds a leadership position in "Laborers Plaster and Tenders" Union ("LiUNA!") Local 1309, whose PAC contributed $40,000 to support the campaign for last year's LB Mayor/Council sought sales tax increase/"budget stabilization" Measures A/B. The union's PAC has given campaign contributions and "officeholder account" contributions to a number of City Hall incumbents (source: LB City Clerk website)
Election campaign contributions
The union's PAC also gave a $40,000 campaign contribution in May 2016 to the "Mayor Garcia, Foster & O'Neill Committee to Support Measures A & B..." (Mayor/Council sought sales tax increase/"budget stabilization" measures, June 2016 ballot)
Mayor Garcia and five Council incumbents -- Gonzalez, Price, Mungo, Uranga and Richardson -- are seeking re-election in the April/June 2018 city election cycle. Contributions to them and others for the period Jan. 1-June 30, 2017 will become visible on or before August 1.
In his agendizing memo to the City Council listing his desired appointees, Mayor Garcia stated:
Josh LaFarga is being appointed to the Long Beach Planning Commission effective October 1, 2017 to fill the vacancy created by Donita Van Horik’s resignation. Josh LaFarga, a resident of the 9th District, has a long history of community service and activism. He currently serves as the Director of Public and Government Affairs and as Recording Secretary and Executive Board member at LiUNA! Local 1309. Josh has been a leader in the local building trades and has advocated for quality construction jobs across the region. He is also a member on the South Bay Workforce Investment Board and Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee for FuturePorts, the largest non-profit organization working to promote the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Earlier this year the L.A. County Board of Supervisors appointed Josh to the Building Rehabilitation Appeals Board.
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