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Some elected officials say BBB will limit terms, critics call measure ‘misleading,’ ‘self-serving’

BBB would eliminate write-in option and allow third term for current council, mayor. 

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Although Long Beach voters in 1992 and in 2007 approved the opportunity for mayoral and city-council incumbents who have already served two terms to seek additional terms as write-in candidates only, some current elected officials, as of this year, believe the city should allow them and future incumbents to seek a third– and final– term with the advantage of having their names on the ballots.

Hence, city officials have placed Measure BBB on the ballot. They claim the current system of permitting an official who has already served two terms to then seek another as a write-in is confusing to voters and allows an individual to continue winning and serving indefinitely.

Former Mayor Beverly O’Neill won her third term as a write-in candidate in 2002, then retired from public office. Patrick O’Donnell earned a third term to the Long Beach City Council as a write-in in 2012, then was elected to the State Assembly, in which he currently represents the 70th District. Dee Andrews is now serving a third term as the city’s 6th District councilmember after also winning as a write-in, two years ago.

According to the pro-measures campaign website, O’Neill and Andrews are both supporters of Measure BBB and the other three charter-amendment measures that Mayor Robert Garcia and City Auditor Laura Doud proposed and that the city council approved unanimously for next month’s ballot.

However, this week, O’Donnell announced his intention to vote “no” on the measure, and current 3rd District Councilmember Suzie Price confirmed to LBReport.com on Oct. 12 that she also will not vote for BBB. On Aug. 7, when the council approved the measure for the ballot, Price prefaced her vote with misgivings, saying, “I remain conflicted about it.”

On Oct. 17, O’Donnell announced his intention of voting “no” on BBB through a statement to the Long Beach Reform Coalition, a grassroots collective of community groups.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Signal Tribune confirmed with O’Donnell’s office his stance on the measure, as well as a statement in the Coalition’s press release attributed to the Assemblymember.

“The Long Beach City Council wants the voting public to increase the number of terms they can serve,” O’Donnell wrote. “I am not necessarily against that idea for incumbents, but I am firmly against getting rid of the write-in option. If you get rid of the write-in, you get rid of accountability. Further, the emails I have received from some councilmembers and the mailers I have received in support of this measure are misleading. The write-in was never a ‘loophole’ as the mailers have stated. In fact, it was approved by the voters at the same time term limits were put in place. To claim anything different is a fabrication and appears to be an attempt to confuse voters into favoring the measure. This is unfortunate. Simply put, we can do better, and the best way to do this is to be above board and remain honest with the voters.”

The day after O’Donnell’s statement was issued, the Mayor Robert Garcia & City Auditor Laura Doud Committee to Support Good Government Measures AAA, BBB, CCC, DDD released a list of individuals and organizations who support all four measures, including: former Mayor Bob Foster; Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon; State Senator Ricardo Lara; LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn; Long Beach Firefighters; Long Beach Police Officers Association; California Common Cause; the California Democratic Party; Long Beach Democratic Party; Long Beach Young Democrats; Democratic Women’s Study Club; and Los Angeles County Democratic Party. The emailed communication from the committee also identified the Long Beach Republican Club as supporting AAA, CCC and DDD but neutral on BBB. The list also mentioned the following as supporting BBB and DDD: Alyssa Gutierrez, Economic & Policy Impact Center; Steve Neal, Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Reverend Leon Wood, local educator, activist and pastor; Reverend Rethis Murry, Holy Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church; Pastor Gregory Sanders, The Rock Christian Fellowship; Darick Simpson, Long Beach Community Action Partnership; and Laura Som, Equity for Cambodians.

As reported last week, the Signal Tribune reached out to the mayor, the city auditor and all nine council members by sending questions about the measures to at least two email addresses per district office, as well as following up with phone calls to several of those offices. Doud did respond, and her replies were published on Oct. 12. However, no other elected official responded to the inquiries.

Instead, Mark Taylor, who is serving as the spokesperson on behalf of the campaign to support the measures, replied with answers to the questions. (Taylor is also Garcia’s chief of staff.)

In addition to contacting the 11 elected representatives, the Signal Tribune also reached out to community organizers to get a sense of how neighborhood groups are viewing the measures, including: former 8th District Councilmember Rae Gabelich; Carlos Ovalle, executive director of People of Long Beach, another grassroots organization that has formed in response to the measures; and Ian Patton, executive director of the Long Beach Reform Coalition.

Mark Taylor: Measure BBB establishes a clear limit on the number of terms that the mayor and councilmembers can serve. The charter currently allows the mayor and councilmembers to run for an unlimited number of terms by running as a write-in and even allows for their name to be printed on the general-election ballots. A three-term limit would put Long Beach in line with those in the State Legislature, County supervisors and LA City Council. It also makes voting easier, not harder.

Rae Gabelich: I am opposed to all four measures, and I will explain why. I feel they are all a bit disingenuous, and AAA, CCC and DDD are there mostly for cover for BBB, to extend term limits.

There is no rush, and the public deserves to have more comment time than three hearings to put it on the ballot. Then, at those hearings, if one were able to attend, they were at times limited to two minutes instead of the three-minute limitation for public input. How can we have meaningful dialogue with two- to three-minute exchanges of words? They know when they brought this forward where they wanted to go. The timing was scheduled to appear before the public after the local elections.

The third hearing was attended by over 150 residents who were against the action of three terms, and said so. Only one, a union LBFD rep, spoke in favor. Yet, there was no dialogue amongst the nine city councilmembers and the mayor. Vote was 9-0 to move it to a vote of the people– at a cost of nearly $650,000. No urgency, except to get this handled before 2019 preparations for the Long Beach 2020 election cycle for districts 2,4, 6 and 8.

I was told by Mayor Garcia they knew that the WW measure was going to go on the ballot, so they didn’t consider the cost to be outrageous. [Editorial note: Measure WW was placed on the ballot by a citizens’ initiative petition, and, if approved by voters, will require hotels in Long Beach with 50 or more rooms to supply employees who work in guest rooms without other employees present with an electronic contact device for summoning on-scene assistance.] Yet, they had not yet voted on that measure to go before the voters instead of the council approving it until after they voted to move the four measures forward. Was it a Brown Act violation? Or are they mind-readers?


RG
: I firmly believe that Mayor Garcia and the entire city council are pushing Measure BBB in the most deceptive, self-serving way. If they were truly believing that our government would work more effectively with an additional four years, they would remove themselves from the equation and have it be for council/mayor in the future. They would abide by the rules that were in place when they came into office and use the 2007 voter-approved write-in process. [Former Mayor] Bob Foster tried to get a third term through in 2007. It felt wrong then, and it still feels wrong today. It is self-serving.  

I will agree that it takes about two full years to understand your role as a councilmember and to grasp the significance of your position, but adding another four years without truly earning it is wrong. Over 10 years in office? A decade without the opportunity of a serious challenge? Not a good idea for our city. Why do they want this?  Because most of them know they could not win a third-term write-in! Who would you support?

Ian Patton: That horribly misleading wording [“three-term limit”] on the ballot right next to BBB is the biggest hurdle we’re up against. And it was done on purpose by the city attorney, who is part of the same special-interest campaign cash network as the mayor and a close ally of his, to fool Long Beach voters into thinking that they are introducing term limits rather than actually loosening them considerably.

So, the short answer to your question is: pure self-interest. It’s hard to get elected to a third term as a write-in for a reason. That higher bar allows us to limit the vast majority of incumbents to two terms, with just three exceptions over the last 26 years for especially popular individuals, most famously Beverly O’Neill.

The problem in Long Beach is that incumbents running for a second term, without the higher bar, almost always get reelected in the post-Citizens United world where independent-expenditure committees pump ungodly amounts of money into supporting them, all from special interests who can write gigantic checks, sometimes as high as $50,000– because Long Beach candidate contribution limits don’t apply to those allied outside committees. Our only backstop against the special-interest money gusher in the city is our term limits, and now they’re trying to destroy those too!

For the mayor, personally, it’s clear. This is an insurance policy against a higher-up seat opening up. If Lara doesn’t win [as] insurance commissioner and Lowenthal doesn’t retire because he becomes a committee chair, with Democrats likely to take over the US House of Representatives, Garcia has nowhere to turn and will need to stay in order not to find himself out of office, which would be the death knell of a political rising star. Every single resident who spoke at the final charter amendments hearing was opposed to this.

Carlos Ovalle: Mayor Garcia has nowhere to go if termed out. It is generally accepted that if a politician is out of office for a term, their chances of seeking to climb the political ladder diminish. If Garcia remains in power one more term, then other higher offices will become open to him. And Councilmember Richardson can then seek the office of mayor.

The running of unlimited terms is possible in theory. In 26 years, only three candidates have successfully run write-in campaigns and for no more than one additional term. Even if the above were a problem– loophole– then the solution to the problem is to close the loophole. Period. So the purpose of raising the “loophole” bogeyman is to try to trick voters into believing an onerous scenario that isn’t borne of reality for the purpose of increasing term limits.

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Some elected officials say BBB will limit terms, critics call measure ‘misleading,’ ‘self-serving’”

  1. JOSEPH MELLO on October 19th, 2018 4:55 pm

    I am truly disappointed that Laura Doud and the Mayor are trying to “trick” the voters. This is a play out of Washington politics…not suitable for local neighborhood politics. I applaud Councilwoman Price and Assemblyman O’Donnell for announcing there opposition and calling out the misleading nature of what Doud and the Mayor are trying to do.
    And thank you to all the neighborhood leaders across the city that have stepped up to protect the City Charter.
    Shame on the Mayor for trying to trick the people he serves into overturning the current two-term limit with 3 terms.

  2. David Eggie on October 19th, 2018 9:00 pm

    Mayor Robert Garcia wants to be Mayor Robert Garcia-etti. A “baby” Garcetti, if you will. The city Council wants to be the LA city council. Little Garcetti has development plans to add sky scrapers to LB, thus destroying the character of our wonderful city. Look at all of the outside money pouring in to support little Garcetti. Council members like Supernaw ignored the voices of Long Beach citizens and gave themselves a sure thing to steal a third term. Promises to redistrict and give out council seats, special interests telling the council what to put in the budget, development money. Tammany Hall West. Connect the dots.

  3. Alex Victor on October 20th, 2018 7:58 am

    Mark Taylor is a flat-out liar. All large cities in California –San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento – have a two-term limit for their Mayor, although some allow you to run again after a break in service. NONE allow three consecutive terms.
    And the chance of someone serving indefinitely because of the write-in option is right up there with the chance of being hit by a meteorite.

    And in what way does BBB make voting easier??? That statement is absolutely nonsensical.

    BBB is simply ten-people in search of an easy, high paying job that allows them to imagine they are important.
    Here is what I mean by high-paying:

    2017 Total Pay& Benefits for Robert Garcia ? $189,6668
    2017 Total Pay & Benefits for Rex Richardson (part-time job) ? $67,390

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Some elected officials say BBB will limit terms, critics call measure ‘misleading,’ ‘self-serving’