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Memo To Mayor/Council Suggests Plan To Quietly Raise And Possibly Expand Sums ("Stipends") Paid To City Hall Appointees To "Advisory" Bodies, Fog Taxpayer Cost Within Upcoming Budget Items, And Thereafter Implement Controversial Restrictions On What Advisory Bodies Can/Can't Advise


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(June 26, 2019, 11:40 p.m.) -- A non-agendized memo recently sent to Mayor Robert Garcia and the City Council by City Manager Pat West suggests a plan to quietly recommend increasing sums paid to some Mayor-chosen/Council-approved appointees to some City Hall "advisory" bodies, possibly expand the payments to all such "advisory body" appointees, fog the taxpayer cost among upcoming FY20 budget discussions (that usually focus on bigger budget issues) and thereafter move to implement previously discussed controversial not-yet-enacted restrictions on what the advisory bodies can or can't advise.

Long Beach City Hall has 242 Mayor-chosen/Council-approved commissioners in 35 active Council-created bodies. Of those 35 bodies, members of 7 bodies currently receive $50 to $100 "stipends" for attending their meetings while most currently receive no sums (see chart below.) The memo indicates that may change by "updating the compensation consistently across all Commissions and Committees."

In addition, City Hall's "Housing Authority" includes all City Councilmembers plus two tenant representatives, each of whom receives $50 for each "Housing Authority" meeting they attend. City Clerk minutes indicate that the March, April, May and June 2019 "Housing Authority" meetings (at which between 5 and 9 Councilmembers were present) lasted between one minute and four minutes. It's unclear whether city staff plans to recommend that Councilmembers increase sums paid to themselves for attending the brief meetings.

The non-agendized memo, dated June 14, was titled "Update on Changes to City's Advisory Bodies" and its first bulleted paragraph is headed "Compensation of Advisory Board Members":

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The memo doesn't use the word "increase" or "raise," instead using the term "change" although its context invites that inference of increases/raises by stating that the sums haven't been "changed" "for at least 20 years."

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The memo's text also invites the inference that the recommended "changes" may include expanding payments ("stipends") to a larger number or possibly all Mayor-chosen/Council approved appointees to advisory bodies. The memo states in part: "Changes to the compensation of advisory board members will involve updating the compensation consistently across all Commissions and Committees..."

Management's memo doesn't mention a taxpayer cost for the "changes." It indicates that staff plans to leave the changes to FY20 budget discussions [when multiple spending issues may eclipse the item.]

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The memo comes in the context of a civic brouhaha that ensued last year after LBREPORT.com reported on a July 10, 2018 Council agenda item that sought Council support to change LB's Municipal Code in ways that could effectively tighten control over subjects discussed or voted on by Mayor-chosen/Council-approved "Advisory Bodies."

The Council avoided voted action on the item when Councilman Roberto Uranga, seconded by Councilman Austin, laid it over to an unspecified future Council meeting (passed 8-1, Richardson absent.) Roughly six months later (after a Nov. 2018 special citywide election on four Mayor/Council sought Charter Amendments), the issue resurfaced.

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On January 8, 2019, City Manager West advised Councilmembers that the offices of Mayor Robert Garcia and the City Manager had taken the following steps:

[Jan. 8, 2019 memo]...To conduct a thorough review of the City's advisory bodies and receive information from a diverse cohort of stakeholders, the City Manager's Office collaborated with the Mayor's Office to create an informal working group of current Commissioners to review the status of the City's advisory bodies and report back to the City Council. The working group will conduct a comprehensive review of the proposed changes to the City's advisory bodies, as well as provide input and recommendations to the City Manager. Members of the working group will be selected by the Mayor and City Manager.

The June 14, 2019 memo now indicates that city staff plans to move forward with putting select changes into effect "that address common administerial enhancements" -- including compensation changes -- before moving forward to implement "the full menu of proposed changes to the advisory bodies..."

In other words, any future limits on what Mayor/Council approved advisory Commission members can or can't discuss or offer advice on may come after the Mayor-recommended/Council approved appointees learn they'll be paid or paid more for attending their meetings. Under those circumstances, perhaps some may be less inclined to object.


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