Who Wants to Play "Spin the City Charter?"

Gerrie Schipske

Hey, readers. Have you heard? Apparently, voters have been beating down the doors of the mayor and councilmembers, begging them to change the City Charter … in a hurry. Usually when a city embarks on changing their charter (which functions like a constitution), a “Blue Ribbon Task Force” is appointed and an expert is hired to help guide a review of the entire charter. From that review and a series of public meetings, recommendations are forwarded to the mayor and city council for further public hearings.

I know I went to Hawaii for 10 days in June, so I may have missed all of that, but apparently the mayor and council don’t need any stinking experts, meetings or public input. Instead, it seems they played “Spin the City Charter,” and selected five …count them … five sections of the charter they are convinced need changing this November.

And why these specific five? Four of them are packaged as innocuous little items that hide the true agenda for the November blitz: 1) The consolidation of the Gas and Water Commission into a Public Utilities Commission; 2) The establishment of a Redistricting Commission to deal with drawing council district boundaries every ten years; 3) The establishment of an Ethics Commission to keep tabs on the behavior of our elected officials (members will be appointed by the mayor whom they are watching) and 4) allowing the city auditor to conduct “performance audits” (which she admits she can already do but wants the people to tell her again).

The fifth change to the charter, and the real reason for this kabuki theater, is that the current mayor and city councilmembers want another term in office. They are proposing to do away with the current limit of two terms and the provision for a write-in and adding a third term.

Seems like they are concerned that the current provision of a write-in means that the mayor and councilmembers could be re-elected forever. Come on folks. Trying to stop elected officials from running forever? These are the same people who told you Measure M wasn’t a tax (but it is) and that it would take funds from surplus utility money (and it isn’t, which is why you are getting a water rate increase).

Let’s be clear, only Beverly O’Neill succeeded in winning a third term as mayor as a write-in. The only councilperson elected on a write-in is Dee Andrews from the 6th District. Is this what triggered the move to eliminate write-ins? Oh the horror, should Andrews do it again and win a fourth term. But wait! They have drafted language to exempt him so he can run for a fourth term.

The truth? The current mayor and council “need” a third term because they have nowhere to go politically for another 6-8 years.

Congressman Lowenthal isn’t leaving D.C. anytime soon. State Senator Lara may not win Insurance Commissioner if the GOP rolls out enough voters to kill the gas tax –then Lara stays in the Senate. Assemblyman O’Donnell has six more years left in the Assembly, so his seat isn’t “available.”

What are a termed-out mayor and council to do but ask you to extend their terms by claiming it “closes loopholes”?

If this group was truly being “ethical” by putting the third term forward, they would make sure it did not impact themselves, but only “future” mayors and city councilmembers.

So, get ready for all the “informational and campaign” mailers that are coming your way. And let’s hope you all get your ballot argument pamphlet in time to read why these charter amendments should not happen. Remember, lots of voters never received the ballot arguments on Measure M.

Spoiler alert: City Auditor Laura Doud already put herself out as the spokesperson on behalf of changing mayor and council term limits to three, by telling the news media: “Voters in many jurisdictions including Long Beach have shown they want term limits.”

Really, Laura? You failed to mention that there are no term limits at all for you, the city attorney and the city prosecutor. Does this mean you support all of you stepping down now that two of you have served three terms and the city attorney is serving his second term? Just trying to close the loopholes.



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