City Squanders $99,917 on ‘Information Only’ Ballot Brochure

By: 
Stephen Downing

On Oct. 13, this writer received via U.S. Mail the Official Sample Ballot booklet produced by the Los Angeles County Registrar – Recorder/County Clerk.

In addition to candidate statements, the booklet – printed on newsprint quality paper – included five categories of information related to Long Beach ballot measures LBC, LBU, E and BB.

The five categories included: Impartial Analysis, Argument in Favor, Rebuttal to Argument in Favor, Argument Against and Rebuttal to Argument Against Long Beach Measures LBC, LBU, E and BB.

A week later – on Oct. 21 – a high-gloss, full color 4-page brochure from the City of Long Beach titled “Important Voter Information” arrived by U.S. Mail.

The brochure was devoted to providing – “for informational purposes only” – information related to Measure LBC, LBU, E and BB.

On the back page – as a means of skirting election law that prohibits using taxpayer funds to advocate for ballot measures – the city advertised that the brochure was produced to “describe the practical effects of the proposed ballot measure” saying that “this information sheet does not advocate a yes or no vote on the ballot measures.”

On Oct. 21, the Beachcomber emailed the city manager’s office and asked five questions related to the brochure. On Oct. 27, Kevin Lee, spokesperson for City Manager Tom Modica, responded as follows to each question:

Beachcomber: Who in city government authorized the design, content, printing and distribution of the brochures?

Response: The mailers were produced under the direction of the city manager and reviewed by the city attorney to ensure compliance as voter education material and not to influence voter decisions on the city-initiated measures.

Beachcomber: What was the cost of the design?

Response: The scope of work included design, printing and mailing the voter information mailer and the entire budget was $99,917.56. This is an overall cost of about $0.85 per mailer.

Beachcomber: How many brochures were distributed via U.S. Mail?

Response: 117,854 mailers were distributed by U.S. mail to likely Long Beach voters*.

* Likely voters were selected in order to maximize the reach of the mailers within the city manager’s maximum procurement authority of $100,000. The universe of voters for the mailers was obtained through Political Data Intelligence, a database of voter data. Likely voters for this mailer can be generally described as those who voted in 2020, 2021, or June of 2022 and those registered to vote since June 22.

Beachcomber: What was the mailing cost?

Response: The mailing cost was $24,442.01 for about a $0.21 cost per mailer. This amount is included in the overall cost of $0.85 per mailer.

Beachcomber: Why did the city see the need to distribute this brochure when the neutral statement from the city attorney and the pro and con statements were all contained in the booklet distributed by the county?

Response: The city’s interest in providing this mailer was to provide voter information focused on city-initiated ballot measures in a short, easy to read and accessible format.

The county’s voter information booklet contains congressional, state and local race information, variously including but not limited to candidate statements, initiative text, arguments for and against, and rebuttals.

The county booklet is lengthy and is not a concise summary of the facts that can be easily accessed by voters, who may be turned off by its length and the need to search the booklet for information they may be interested in to inform their ballot choices.

Comment from Candidates and Council Members

On Oct. 27 a copy of the city manager’s response to the Beachcombers questions was sent to each candidate for office and sitting council members. Each politician was asked for comment “as related to the four-page brochure mailed to LB voters at a cost of $99,917.”

The response – or non-response – follow:

Mayor Robert Garcia, candidate for U.S. Representative, 42nd District: Did not respond.

Council Member Suzie Price, candidate for mayor: Did not respond.

Council Member Rex Richardson, candidate for mayor: Did not respond.

Kailee Caruso, candidate for City Council District 3: Did not respond.

Kristina Duggan, candidate for City Council District 3: Did not respond.

Council Member Al Austin, candidate for State Assembly: Did not respond.

Megan Kerr, candidate for City Council District 5: Did not respond.

Ian Patton, candidate for City Council District 5: “I have too much history being outraged by this topic and it triggered something in me, which led to 3,000+ words pouring out (attached) that I didn’t really have time to write but had to anyway. I don’t know how it happened, but here it is.”

Editors Note: 5th District Candidate Ian Patton’s in-depth response was considered to be highly educational and is therefore published as a sidebar to this Page 1 article titled: Veiled Advocacy Communications.”

Ginny Gonzales, candidate for City Council District 9: Did not respond.

Joni Rick-Oddie, candidate for City Council District 9: Did not respond.

Mary Zendejas, council member, District 1: Did not respond.

Cindy Allen, council member, District 2: Did not respond.

Daryl Supernaw, council member, District 4: “Although my wife and I are “likely voters,” we did not receive the mailer in question. I’m not comfortable commenting on voter educational materials sight unseen. I’m also working on a deadline for our Go Fourth! Friday newsletter, so I will not be able to respond further this morning.”

Stacy Mungo, council member, District 5: Did not respond.

Suely Saro, council member, District 6: Did not respond.

Roberto Uranga, council member, District 7: Did not respond.

 

Stephen Downing is a Long Beach resident and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police. stephen.beachcomber@gmail.com

 

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Comments

Let me say it again, "The LBC is a criminal organization that needs to be investigated by the Fed's". But it's the uninformed sheep voter in this city that is to blame, because they voted them in. We had the chance to vote them out and replace them with decent people but No, this city get what it deserves a bunch of criminals running the city. LBC is a joke..

It’s not the first nor will it be the last time this happens, so long as the status quo remains.

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