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Internal City Recs Show Mayor/Mgm't Worked Outside Of Public View To Support Sac'to Gas Tax Hike...Even After Sac'to Added Text -- Opposed By Sierra Club/Coalition for Clean Air -- Making It Harder For AQMD To Curtail Some Port-Related Pollution Sources; Tax Hike Will Give LB City Hall $11 Million Annual Windfall For City Street/Road Work

Councilwoman Price swiftly suggests Council-wide discussion to reassess current Prop A (LB sales tax hike) priorities 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.
(July 15, 2017, 6:00 p.m.) -- Internal Long Beach City Hall communications obtained by under the CA Public Records Act show that Mayor Robert Garcia, his staff and city management -- none of whom have policy setting authority -- acted without explicit City Council voted approval to support Sacramento's then-pending gas tax increase (SB 1) believing it would bring LB City Hall $16 million a year for local street and road projects.

As ultimately enacted, the gas tax increase will produce $11 million annually for LB street/road projects, a windfall for City Hall on top of the June 2016 "blank check" Mayor/Council sought sales tax increase (Measure A), much of whose $48 million annual revenues the Council has currently allocated for infrastructure and street repairs.

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SB 1 will ultimately increase gasoline pump prices by 12 cents per gallon. The first increase (expected to begin in November) will be 6 cents/gallon; it rises to 9 cents/gallon a year later and by 12 cents/gallon two years later in addition to increased annual fees to register one's car. SB 1 (and an Assembly clone AB 1) were the first bills introduced in December 2016, days after the start of the new legislative session, after Democrats won 2/3 majorities in both houses of the state legislature and no longer had to gain votes of even a few Republicans to raise taxes.

City Hall emails obtained by show city management and Mayor Garcia's office aggressively advocated enactment of SB 1 in March and early April 2017. LB City Hall support didn't waver even after SB 1 was amended on March 29 to add verbiage -- opposed by the Coalition for Clean Air, Sierra Club and SCAQMD -- that clean air advocates warned could let trucking industry dilute/delay/possibly avoid some anti-pollution measures. An association representing CA's 35 air pollution control districts told lawmakers in a letter that with the added verbiage, SB 1 could impede trucking-related regulations such as restrictions on emissions at ports, warehouses, railyards and airports. Environmental groups called the amendment an "Assault Our Lungs" provision and said lawmakers added it to mollify trucking industry interests displeased with SB1's 20 cent/gallon diesel fuel tax increase. reported these LB-impacting aspects of SB 1 at this link.



Two members of Sacramento's Democrat-majority legislative leadership represent parts of Long Beach: state Senator Ricardo Lara (D., LB-Huntington Park) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D, NLB-Lakewood-Paramount.) found no evidence in the emails released to us showing any actions by LB Mayor Garcia, LB Councilmembers or city staff to apply LB's clout to oppose or urge removal of the "Assault our Lungs" provision (although LB area residents near the Ports and 710 freeway arguably stand to be among the worst impacted.) The only internal email released to that mentioned the language was a list of talking points prepared by the "League of CA Cities" (which supported the tax increase) offering ways to respond to points raised by the clean air groups.


Prior to addition of the trucking industry language, LB Mayor Garcia signed two letters supporting SB 1: one joining with other Mayors from CA's larger cities and another signed by Garcia individually on City of LB/Mayoral letterhead, dated March 23, and addressed to the chairs of the Assembly and state Senate Transportation Committees:

"As Mayor of the City of Long Beach, I write in strong support of SB 1/AB 1," Garcia stated, and continued:

In Long Beach, voters have made it apparent that investments to State and local infrastructure are long overdue. The Long Beach electorate voted to adopt a new 1% local sales tax in June 2016 to fund improvements to transportation, parks, and public safety; adoption of SB 1/AB 1 would be consistent with this interest.

Long Beach has 177 miles of major roads and 609 miles of local roads that support our local economy. On average, this infrastructure can be rated "fair," and at the optimum point for repair. While the City has committed local funding to an aggressive infrastructure investment plan, State funding is needed to maximize the benefits...

Given these reasons, the City of Long Beach is proud to support SB 1/AB 1. Thank you for all you have done to make transportation infrastructure a priority for California and our cities.

A few days later, Diana Tang. Manager of Government Affairs in the City Managers office, sent Garcia's correspondence to staffers in the offices of several state lawmakers. "...I wanted to make sure you and your bosses have the most recent information on streets and roads in Long Beach," Ms. Tang wrote. "While it was not easy to choose funding streets and roads over libraries and parks and other City programs important to our community, the Long Beach City Council made a decision to focus on transportation infrastructure since there is such a tremendous backlog for repairs."

When the Mayor's Chief of Staff, Mark Taylor, forwarded Ms. Tang's email to Mayoral office staffer Justin Ramirez, Mr. Ramirez responded: "Council resolution?"

But there was no Council resolution. There was no full Council discussion with public input, pro and con, or a publicly cast Council vote on SB 1.

What there was was a Council Committee vote (by three of LB's nine Councilmembers) in January 2017 to recommend to the full Council a 2017 version (with amendments not relevant to this issue) of City Hall's "State Legislative Agenda," a list of policies stated in very general terms (no specific bills cited) that the Council approves. The Council's policy-setting voted approval is required so LB's Mayor (who has no policy setting power) and city management (which has no policy setting power) can properly use City taxpayer resources to support or oppose Sacramento legislation.



In January 10, 2017, LB Councilmembers Austin (chair), Gonzalez (Vice Chair) and Mungo (member) (who comprise the Mayor-chosen "State Legislation Committee") voted to approve and recommend to the full Council a 2017 State Legislative Agenda that made no mention of increasing the state's gasoline tax. It did include verbiage to support policies and legislation "to secure the maximum amount of State funding for the construction and maintenance of local roads, infrastructure, transportation projects and major corridors" but didn't explicitly state support for any gas tax increase.

The State Legislative Agenda also included a provision to "Support efforts to improve air quality" through the actions that include supporting policies and legislation that would enable the adoption of comprehensive and aggressive State air quality standards for mobile sources, including passenger vehicles [and] heavy-duty trucks, locomotives, and ships..." (which the city didn't use to oppose the "Assault our Lungs" verbiage inserted in SB 1. .

By the time the Committee recommended "State Legislative Agenda" reached the full Council for approval on March 21, City Hall's support for SB 1 was already at full throttle. On March 21, Councilman Austin moved to lay the State Legislative Agenda item over to the April 4 Council meeting (carried 6-0, Gonzalez, Mungo and Andrews absent). By April 4, the City Manager had already informed Councilmembers that SB 1 was basically a done deal (see text below.)

Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (D, LB-San Pedro) and nearly every Dem voted for SB 1; state Senator Janet Nguyen (R, SE LB-west OC) voted against it.


A few days earlier on March 30 (one day after the "Assault our Lungs" verbiage was added), Councilman Austin signed a letter in his capacity as president of the "Gateway Cities Council of Governments" supporting SB 1. [ presumes the letter was prepared before the problematic language was added.]

On April 4, City Manager Pat West emailed all Councilmembers and the Mayor : "The passage of SB 1 will provide Long Beach with $11 million in new State funding per year to advance street and road improvements outlined in the City's Pavement Management Plan. This money would come to the City in the same way that our current gas tax revenues, and are used to maintain our local streets and roads. Long Beach has been intimately involved in substantiating a need to prioritize transportation funding above many other state priorities that will be addressed this year...." Mr. West's email added, "A big 'thanks' goes to our State delegation, the Mayor, our State Legislative Committee, the City Council, and our Government Affairs and Public Works staff who have all been working hard on this..."

In response, Councilwoman Suzie Price replied to the City Manager and cc'd her fellow Councilmembers: "This is great. In light of this development, I would think we would be having a council-wide discussion on Measure A (June 2016 LB "blank check" sales tax increase) priorities and reassessing some of our prior commitments and order of projects."

If there have been any such discussions inside City Hall about how to adjust street/road projects now slated to receive LB Measure A sales tax funding in view of the $11 million windfall City Hall is about to receive for roads/streets under Sacramento's gas tax increase, those discussions are, much as they were with City Hall's actions on SB 1, well hidden from the public.

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R, Huntington Beach) (a candidate for Governor) is leading a petition initiative drive to repeal SB 1. To get the repeal measure on the ballot requires collecting 365,000 registered voter signatures within 150 days.

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