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Democrats win big in House, across state

Four LB council-generated measures pass, but opponents say ‘corruption wins’

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It was a big day for Democrats Tuesday, as the blue party regained control of the House of Representatives, including sending California’s 47th District Congressmember Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach to a fourth term. Californians moved their Democratic lieutenant governor into the state’s top spot, in a defeat over Republican John H. Cox in the gubernatorial race. State Senator Ricardo Lara, whose 33rd District encompasses Long Beach and Signal Hill, won the seat of state insurance commissioner, over Steve Poizner, who ran as a no-party candidate. And incumbent Patrick O’Donnell beat out his Libertarian opponent, Honor “Mimi” Robson, to regain his seat representing the 70th District in the State Assembly.

That partisan victory streak, however, seemed to end at the borders of Long Beach, where party affiliation rarely plays into conversations about local politicians, and where some otherwise termed-out Democratic and Republican city leaders have banded together to successfully pass four measures that will change the city charter and ensure they will have their names on the next ballot.

As of Tuesday, voters in Long Beach will no longer have the opportunity to write in the name of a well liked but termed-out candidate, and elected officials who have already served two terms will now have the advantage of seeking a third term with their names printed on the ballot.

Measure BBB, which the current city council placed on the ballot this year to amend the charter, changes term limits from two, with the option to seek additional terms as a write-in, to three terms with no write-in opportunity.

As of press time, the measure passed with 47,233 votes– or 55.62 percent of those voting– in favor, according to LAVote.net. A total of 37,693, or 44.38 percent, voted against the measure.

After the council introduced BBB this past summer, along with three other charter-amendment measures, those leaders claimed it was an attempt to close a loophole in the charter’s existing language by removing a provision that permitted write-in candidates to seek an unlimited number of terms.

Photo by Diana Lejins
On Election Night, opponents of the four measures the Long Beach City Council placed on the ballot converse while watching results come in. Pictured from left: Juan Ovalle, outreach director for People of Long Beach (POLB), and Carlos Ovalle, executive director of POLB.

However, several community groups joined together thereafter to create the Long Beach Reform Coalition (LBRC) in opposition to the measures, particularly BBB, claiming they were misleading, as well as self-serving to the current mayor and council. They also accused Mayor Robert Garcia and the council of creating AAA, CCC and DDD as a “smokescreen” for BBB. They spoke at community meetings, shared yard signs and took to social media to persuade the citizenry to reject the four measures.

As it turns out, however, the galvanization of those neighborhood organizations was no match for the authority of elected officials in power, who, for example, had brochures on the measures slipped into residents’ utility bills.
On Wednesday, the LBRC issued a press release indicating that “corruption wins” yet a reform movement grows.

“At just over 55-percent approval, with all precincts reporting, Measure BBB was adopted into the Long Beach City Charter and will– with the relatively new local landscape of truly massive outside special-interest spending on incumbents’ campaigns– virtually guarantee minimal turnover on the city council dais for the next generation,” the statement reads. “Ironically, one of the biggest victims of this change will be Long Beach’s Cambodian community, which– after Mayor Garcia led some to believe that a Cambodian councilmember would be forthcoming if Cambodians supported all four measures– will now likely have to wait far longer just to field a candidate for a competitive open seat.”

Measure AAA, which amends the charter to authorize the city auditor to conduct performance audits– but also strips the auditor’s office of the ability to immediately acquire documents from city employees– passed by 69.87 percent, or 58,044 votes.

City Auditor Laura Doud on Wednesday morning issued a statement indicating that she was pleased that all four measures passed and thanked those who supported Measure AAA, because it updates the capacity of the auditor’s office.

“The passage of this measure is historically significant,” Doud wrote. “The Long Beach City Auditor’s Office was established in 1908, and I am grateful that our century-old charter is now up-to-date with modern, 21st-century government-auditing practices and standards. Ultimately, Measure AAA amends the city charter to clarify and strengthen the Long Beach city auditor’s authority to conduct performance audits, not just financial audits, and gain access to all City records which are necessary to perform and fulfill the city auditor’s role.”

Measure CCC amends the charter to establish an ethics commission of seven Long Beach residents to “impartially” administer and implement governmental ethics in Long Beach. However, Carlos Ovalle, executive director of People of Long Beach, a grassroots organization that formed in response to the measures, has criticized CCC because the majority of the commissioners– four of seven– are selected by the mayor and city auditor, thereby making the commission beholden to them and not independent or accountable to the citizens of Long Beach.

Measure DDD, which creates an “independent” citizens commission to determine the boundaries of city council districts every 10 years after the national census, passed with 58.59 percent, or 48,774 votes.

Also passed in Long Beach was Measure WW, a citizens initiative that will require hotels with more than 50 rooms to provide personal emergency contact devices for hotel workers, adopt restrictions on the square footage of hotel areas to be cleaned and establish penalties for failure to comply with the restrictions. Residents approved WW with 61.76 percent of the vote.

However, the city council, at its Oct. 23 meeting, had approved, in a 5-0 vote, to adopt a similar ordinance that would require panic buttons at all hotels, regardless of the size of the institution, and other precautions in the event of emergencies. On Nov. 13, the council will conduct a second reading of the ordinance, and then Garcia will have 30 days to sign it into law.

Linda Vu, deputy city attorney, told the Signal Tribune Oct. 24 that, although they are similar, WW and the newer hotel ordinance will not conflict with or supersede each other, adding that, when the council requested a “process to prepare” for the ordinance in September, a section of the document addressed the impact it may have with other ordinances.

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Democrats win big in House, across state