How Much, If Anything, Should LB Taxpayers Pay So A Private Entity Can Run A Smaller Version Of Community Hospital For Profit On Seismically-Challenged City Land? Public Deserves Overdue Discussion Of Taboo Taxpayer Topic With Overdue Reforms In Mayor/Council Contract/Lease Approval Process 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.
(November 27, 2018) -- Should LB taxpayers pay -- and if so and on what terms -- so a privately run LLC can operate a smaller version of Community Hospital for its profit on seismically challenged City-owned land?

To date, the City Council hasn't invited serious taxpayer discussion of this question. Instead, on November 20, the Mayor/Council excluded the public and press and discussed price and terms behind closed doors, using a loophole CA's Brown (open meetings) law allowing "a closed session with its negotiator prior to the purchase, sale, exchange, or lease of real property by or for the local agency to grant authority to its negotiator regarding the price and terms of payment for the purchase, sale, exchange, or lease."

As a threshold matter, the Brown Act isn't an "official secrets" act. It doesn't require a closed door meeting although it does allow it in limited circumstances. Of course there are times when it's not advisable for electeds to discuss real property price and terms, but exactly how did that secrecy serve taxpayers here?

Even if one accepts that the Nov. 20 closed session was reasonable, nothing prevented the Mayor/Council -- for months -- from inviting serious public discussion with meaningful taxpayer input pro and con on whether the public should pay, and if so how much and on what terms and with what risks and benefits and for whom to enable "Molina/Wu/Network, LLC's" future profit-making enterprise. There was no good reason we can find for having treated taxpayer impacts as publicly taboo in this transaction.

City staff has publicly acknowledged in public meetings potential significant costs to address with the site's seismic issues...and it's previously hinted at the possibility of some type of "public participation," a euphemism for spending taxpayer dollars as part of the deal. It's a safe bet city staff has focused on this matter in its negotiations with the LLC operator, but it's not the Mayor's money or the Council's money; it's taxpayers' money...and taxpayers haven't been seriously asked.

Whatever price and terms the Council authorized in that closed session will now surface as a publicly agendized City Council item in which the public will be basically told, not asked. Taxpayers will have limited time to review it, a limited chance to comment on it, and Councilmembers will predictably defend and vote to approve price and terms they've already authorized non-publicly.

And in LB, there's an additional anti-transparent, taxpayer-disserving twist. For years, multiple LB Mayors/Councils have refused to require city staff to attach major proposed contracts/leases for public review before the Council votes to approve them. Other cities routinely attach major contracts/leases to their Council agenda items so the public (and Councilmembers) can see what they're approving. The Port of Long Beach attaches major proposed contracts for public and Harbor Commission review before approval votes. So yes, in this very important respect the Port of Long Beach is more businesslike and transparent than the City of Long Beach. has repeatedly urged the Mayor and City Council to show the public major contracts proposed for Council approval. Instead, LB's incumbent Mayor/Council continue to let city management "summarize" what management considers salient proposed contract terms in an agendizing memo and on that basis the Council votes to authorize management to execute a contract binding taxpayers sight-unseen.

The City Council has an opportunity to reform its current practice with the Community Hospital deal. The Council should direct management to attach the full contract for Council and public review before approving it...and this should become City Hall's practice on all major contracts. If the Mayor/Council seem puzzled at how to accomplish this, they can phone the Port of LB whose management has done so for years.

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