CityWatch Long Beach

Gerrie Schipske

Thanks to Jay Beeler, we are launching City Watch Long Beach – a column on the inner workings of local government. We hope this will inform, inspire and engage readers. I welcome questions and suggestions for topics.

After spending eight years on the City Council, four years on the LBCC Board of Trustees, 11 years teaching public policy, law and political science at CSULB and many, many years in political campaigns, I want to share how to keep our elected officials accountable. To do so, we need to understand how the city operates.

So, let’s begin with the ABCs of Local Government.

Charter vs. General City: Long Beach is a chartered city and while it must follow the laws of the State, the City Charter outlines a unique set of laws that forms the legal foundation of its local system of government. For instance, Long Beach established its own fiscal year. Most other cities and the state are on a July 1-June 30 budget. Former City Manager Jim Hankla urged the city to change its fiscal year to October 1 – September 30. Long Beach elections were held in April and June. Other cities and the state held elections in June and November.

City Manager-Council Form of Government: Long Beach took a bold step in the 1920s when voters changed its form of government from entirely being managed by the City Council (then called Commissioners), to a professionally managed form of government. City managers are hired by the City Council and can be removed at any time with a vote of 5 or more members of City Council. The Mayor has no vote. The city manager is responsible for managing all city departments except the Port and the Water departments. He is also responsible for the annual city budget which he presents to the mayor, who can make recommendations, which then must be approved by the City Council. The city manager is responsible for the hiring and firing of all department heads, such as the chief of police and fire chief. While the City Council can provide input, the Charter is very clear that the authority for hiring and firing department heads lies with the city manager. The city manager has other responsibilities through his office:

Office Of Cannabis Oversight

The Office of Cannabis Oversight (OCO) regulates the local cannabis industry in Long Beach. The OCO’s role is to coordinate the implementation of the city’s cannabis laws and regulations.


The Recovery Staff are responsible for the Long Beach Recovery Act’s millions in federal, state and county relief funds to ensure an economic and public health recovery.

Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator

City-wide Accessibility Coordinator has been designated to coordinate and carry out the city’s compliance with the nondiscrimination requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some of our efforts and resources to better provide accessibility in the city.

Ethics Officer

The city ethics officer works with the Ethics Commission which is responsible for the impartial and effective administration and implementation of the provisions of the Charter, statutes and ordinances concerning campaign financing, lobbying, conflicts of interest and governmental ethics. The commission serves as an advisory body and does not have the ability to conduct investigations.

Citizens Police Complaint Commission

The commission is a fact-finding body, supported by an administrative and investigative staff that relays the commission’s findings and recommendations to the city manager who, by the Charter, makes the final determination in matters of alleged police misconduct.

Next column: Elected Officials


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