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    Kell Quietly Exits Council Chamber Before Vote On Resolution Re Props 74, 75, 76; Colonna Leaves Early In Meeting, Aide Cites Family Emergency; Lerch Blasts Council For Taking Position On Ballot-Box Issues, Then Exits On Vote

    (Nov. 2, 2005, with updated corrected text) -- 5th district Councilwoman/Vice Mayor Jackie Kell quietly exited the City Council Chamber prior to a Nov. 1 vote on an item agendized by Councilmembers Patrick O'Donnell, Bonnie Lowenthal and Tonia Reyes Uranga to put the Council on record opposing Propositions 74, 75 and 76 (on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot) "because of their negative impact on local services."

    Councilman Colonna left early in the proceedings (after agenda item 1), aide Robert Garcia said a family emergency arose and Councilman Colonna informed Mayor O'Neill he couldn't stay past the first item before the meeting.

    After Councilmembers O'Donnell, Lowenthal and Reyes Uranga delivered remarks opposing the state propositions, Councilman Val Lerch blasted the Council for politicizing its proceedings by taking a position on ballot-box issues that voters would decide.

    "Once again, we're here for politics. Our Charter mandates that we're a non-partisan body...and once again, we are sitting here trying to make decisions that are not the business of this Council," said Councilman Lerch. He continued:

    Councilman Lerch: I personally will not stand and take the sanctity of my ballot box away from me tonight, and I am getting up and I'm walking out, and I will not vote on any one of these. It is a private matter that I can vote on next Tuesday. This Council's job is not to make political decisions...This is a non-partisan body and these issues should not be here. I've said it constantly, over and over again, and from now I will not violate the sanctity of my ballot box and vote on these in this Chamber.

    Leaving no public doubt about why he was leaving, Councilman Lerch then walked out.

    [updated, corrected text] A review of the tape of the proceedings shows Councilmember Kell in her chair during consideration agenda item 29...but absent by the time agenda item 29 ended and absent for the remainder of the Council meeting. The item on Props 74, 75 and 76 was agenda item 37. Councilman Lerch returned after the vote on item 37.

    A subsequent review by us (more careful than our initial one) shows Councilman Colonna left the Council meeting after the first agenda item. Aide Robert Garcia tells a family emergency came up and Councilman Colonna informed the Mayor before the meeting that he wouldn't be able to stay past the first agenda item. [We regret mangling this factoid in our initial post midnight report.]

    Several Councilmembers responded to Councilman Lerch's comments:

    Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga: "I just wanted to clarify that these are non-partisan resolutions...Long Beach City College [Board of Trustees] also opposed these propositions [4-1, Kellogg dissenting]..."

    Councilman Patrick O'Donnell: "I think if you've read the paper lately, clean air is a political hot potato, yet we just weighed in on that."

    Councilwoman Laura Richardson: "...I think we do have a responsibility. The reason why we were elected is that people elected us to know the issues that impact this city, know the issues that impact our budget and the services and clearly, these initiatives do impact us..."

    Councilwoman Rae Gabelich: "I understand the reason why this was brought forward but I have to say I'm very uncomfortable with voting on it myself. It's everybody's right to vote the way that they see fit. I don't think any of them are going to pass. I don't know that we're supposed to be doing this either so I'm just stating that for the record, really. I'm very uncomfortable with it."

    Four speakers supported the Council action: Janet Wright (LB Machinists Union, rep'ing city employees), Michael Day, (1st VP Teachers Ass'n of LB), Steve James (LB Police Officers Ass'n), Dave Kean, LB Firefighters Ass'n.

    The Council motion to oppose Props. 74, 75 and 76 passed 6-0 (Colonna, Kell and Lerch absent).

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