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Vice Mayor Baker Suggests, And City Mgr. Welcomes, Having City Staff Discuss City Charter Section 1502 (requiring City Hall-run utilities to charge prevailing area rates) At June 5 Council "Budget Workshop" (6-7 p.m.)

We post transcript, below

(May 30, 2001) -- After repeated requests by LB consumer activists that the City Council agendize the issue of City Charter section 1502 (which requires that City Hall-run utilities to charge rates prevailing among like area utilities), Vice Mayor Dan Baker has publicly suggested that city staff discuss it within the framework of the next Council "budget workshop" scheduled for June 5.

The Vice Mayor's request was enthusiasticaly received by City Manager Henry Taboada (transcript below).

The June 5 budget workshop is scheduled for 6 p.m.-7 p.m. during the regularly scheduled Council meeting. Vice Mayor Baker made his suggestion during the Council's May 22 budget workshop (held at 2 p.m. before the main evening Council meeting.)

LB Citizens for Utility Reform (LBCUR) has sought to have the issue formally agendized, arguing that by letting LB natural gas bills reach levels more than twice those charged by So. Cal Gas in neighboring Lakewood this winter, City Hall violated Charter section 1502 and should rebate the differential to LB consumers.

During budget workshops, the City Manager and his department heads traditionally present budget and fiscal information and Councilmembers respond with questions and directions but take no action. Public comment is traditionally allowed.

The Vice Mayor's statement (transcript below) did not suggest agendizing Charter section 1502 itself. Under the Brown Act, agendizing a subject is a legal prerequisite to the Council taking a voted action on it.

If section 1502 isn't agendized, Councilmembers may talk and listen to staff and the public in the context of the budget workshop but the Council can't take substantive voted action related to it at the June 5 meeting.

However, Councilmembers could ask the City Manager to bring back to the Council at a future meeting an agenda item that provides options for consumer rebates, at which time options from the City Manager (and options offered by Councilmembers) could be debated as a policy matter and ultimately put to a public Council vote.

At the May 22 budget workshop, Vice Mayor Baker indicated he and Councilmembers Jackie Kell and Laura Richardson-Batts were going to agendize the issue of Charter section 1502, but if city staff were going to discuss the utilities issue at the next budget workshop, including Section 1502, Baker said that "would eliminate the need" to have it on the agenda (transcript below).

Councilmembers Kell and Richardson-Batts did not contest the Vice Mayor's assertion.

As previously reported by, City Attorney Robert Shannon has said his office has opined as a legal matter that City Hall has not violated Charter section 1502. At the same time, he noted the Council has within its discretion the policy issue of whether or not to provide rebates to LB consumers.

Vice Mayor Baker's statement during the May 22 budget proceedings follows:

Vice Mayor Baker: "...I know that on June 5th, we're going to have the second portion of this budget workshop and I understand that the utilities discussion is going be a major part of that. Councilwoman Kell and Richardson-Batts and I were going to put on a discussion of Section 1502 on the agenda. I think if you [directed to City Manager] could incorporate that into part of that utilities discussion...

City Manager Taboada (interjecting): Oh, I think it makes perfectly good sense to do that, absolutely.

Baker (continuing): ..and that eliminates our need to have it on the agenda, if we can have that part of that discussion under utilities. Very good..." [no objection heard from any Council members]

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