LB City Council approves 12% water-rate hike

Councilmembers also agree to 2% raise for refuse workers.


Mayor Robert Garcia during the Sept. 10 Long Beach City Council meeting

At its Sept. 10 meeting, the Long Beach City Council approved a 12% increase to water rates for residents, adopted the city budget and approved a 2% raise for refuse workers.

Rate hike
Despite opposition expressed during public comment, including the criticism that it is “morally wrong,” the city council approved an ordinance declaring an urgency, approving a resolution of the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners and increasing water rates by 12%, effective Oct. 1, 2019.

The council approved the increase in a 7-1 vote, with 8th District Councilmember Al Austin dissenting.

Hearing postponed
The council voted 8-0 to postpone a hearing regarding an appeal until the following week.

That vote concerned agenda item 3, which had recommended that the council receive supporting documentation into the record, conclude a public hearing, consider an appeal by William Grisolia– doing business as the Long Beach Blues Society– and uphold a decision of the Parks and Recreation Commission to deny the City Manager’s Office of Special Events and Filming an application allowing for the operation of the New Blues Festival in El Dorado East Regional Park, Area 3.

Entertainment permit
The council voted to grant an entertainment permit with conditions on an application for a business that will feature dancing and serve alcohol in the area of downtown called The Promenade.

“Tonight, you have before you an application for entertainment with dancing for Promenade Hospitality Group LLC, doing business as The Ordinarie, located at 210 The Promenade North, operating as a restaurant with alcohol in Council District 2,” said Assistant Administrative Analyst Emily Armstrong, during her staff report to the council before the vote. “As a new business in the downtown dining and entertainment district, The Ordinarie was required to conduct a sound study of the establishment. After a review of the application and sound study, all the necessary departments provided their recommended conditions, as contained in the hearing packet. I and the police department stand ready to answer any questions the council may have.”

With those remarks being the extent of the staff report, and seeing no comment from the applicant, appellant or public on the matter, Mayor Robert Garcia turned the item over to 2nd District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce.

“No major comment. There haven’t been any issues,” Pearce said. “They’ve been a great addition to The Promenade.”

The council conducted no further discussion on the item, had no questions for staff or the police department and then voted 8-0 to grant the permit.

Refuse workers
The council considered and briefly discussed a staff recommendation to adopt a resolution approving amendments to the current terms and conditions for the Refuse Basic Bargaining Unit.

“This is a very good thing. This is giving a 2% increase to the refuse workers” said Assistant City Manager Tom Modica. “This was already budgeted for, already planned for, and with SEIU (Service Employees International Union) there now, they are accepting it, so we’d like to get a recommendation to approve.”

The council voted 8-0 to approve the amendments.

Healthcare plans
Further concerning city workers, the council discussed a staff recommendation to execute contract amendments with various insurance and care institutions, to maintain current benefit levels and remain in compliance with state and federal laws on all healthcare plans.

Garcia and Modica commended the human-resources department for its work in negotiating the package and helping to lower the healthcare costs of employees.

The council voted 8-0 to approve the contract amendments.

Speaking limits
The city council conducted a second reading on an ordinance changing the municipal code by amending and restating two sections regarding policies on speaking time limits for city council meetings. The new procedure is an effort to reduce the length of meetings.

Members of the public must now submit a speaker card to the city clerk before a related item is presented, and, if 10 or more individuals are in queue to speak, those speakers will be limited to 90 seconds, rather than the heretofore restriction of three minutes. Councilmembers are also limited in their discussion time on items.

Several residents were critical of the time constraints being placed on those interested in making public comment. One person criticized the council for having already implemented the policy before the ordinance had actually been passed.

Ninth District Councilmember Rex Richardson said he hopes the implementation of the new policy is merely a “test run” and that staff and council can “check back in” about six months to assess the viability of the changes.

“From one standpoint, I understand making meetings more efficient, but, from the other standpoint, I know it’s a big shift– the sign-up for each card is a big shift for some folks, and I want to make sure that we are getting some kind of feedback and not diminishing folks’ participation in the meetings.”

After Pearce inquired about the clarity of the public-comment speaker procedures, particularly for those who are new to council meetings, the mayor requested that staff create some sort of signage that explains the policy. City Clerk Monique De la Garza affirmed that her staff would meet that request.

The council approved the ordinance by a 7-0 vote.

City budget
After several weeks of budget hearings, the council voted 8-0 to approve and adopt the official Fiscal Year 2019-2020 city budget.

The Long Beach City Council meets at 5pm on Tuesdays, with the exception of the last Tuesday of the month, at City Hall, 411 W. Ocean Blvd.