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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Council Shirks Its Responsibility -- Votes to Have State Legislature Change How Pensions Are Given

It would have been oh so easy to press the "Yes" button and to go along with the majority of the council members who lined up in support of an item that calls upon the state legislature to outlaw the granting of increasing pension benefits retroactively.

Sounds so politically correct, doesn't it?  So tough. Call upon that damn state legislature to stop allowing pension increases from being applied for past service.

The only problem, is that any increases allowed under the state pension system CALPERS were not mandated to be given. 

No one in the state held a gun to the past City Council's heads to make them retroactively increase city employee pensions.

Oh, no. The prior mayor and city council (not the state legislature) agreed to apply a pension increase retroactively to city employees because it allowed the city council to forgo increasing salaries in bad budget times by giving employees better retirement benefits in the future. (Let's examine: the city council agreed to give city employees an increase in the percentage of their salary they would receive at retirement from 2.0% to 2.7% for non public safety and 2.5% to 3.0% for public safety. The increase applied for every year the employee worked for the city -- before and after the increase. The City had the ability to limit when that increase would apply but it didn't.)

The dirty little secret is that this current council cannot take away the pensions that the prior city council gave because of a pesky little problem called the state constitution which clearly prohibits a governmental agency from taking away that which it has contracted to give.

Also there are all those cases in which the courts have held that the city can't take away that which it contracted to give and that it is perfectly legal when a city increases benefits and those benefits are given to everyone who is part of the employee group. 

I find it interesting that some of the very people asserting that pension increases are "gifts of public funds" are the very same people who voted to ram through real estate transactions which sold city assets at fire sale prices and to give back sales tax to businesses -- which should have been given to the city -- as an enticement for the business to be in Long Beach.

Do I believe we need pension reform in Long Beach? Absolutely. That's why I offered several permanent, real proposals to deal with the problem which were soundly rejected by the City Council. First, I proposed a charter amendment that would prohibit this and future city councils from spending pension funds when CALPERS is superfunded and the city doesn't have to make contributions. This happened several years ago and the City spent the money.

Secondly, I offered a charter amendment that would have permanently required the city council to "sunshine" all negotiations so that the public could find out what was being given before it was a done deal. The council would also have to verify that the city had the funds to meet the obligations of the contract for the duration of the contract.

And what was the response to these real, permanent changes in pension and benefit matters? Oh no. We can't bind future city councils. Oh no. We don't want to change the way we disclose our negotiations. Oh no.

So I guess it must have felt good to vote for something that looks like "pension reform" but really does nothing to impact the current or future situations. I just couldn't join in the charade.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Don't Get in a Jam on the 405 and 22

Don't get stuck in a jam, check out OCTA's new and easy-to-use West County Connectors project interactive maps at
Simply scroll over the selected closure or the highlighted detour routes for in-depth directions that will ease your commute during construction.
Major closures include:
Northbound I-405 to Westbound SR-22 / 7th Street Connector - 12 months
Eastbound SR-22 to Northbound I-405 Connector - 10 months
Southbound I-605 to Southbound I-405 Connector - 2 weeks
Eastbound SR-22 to Southbound I-405 Connector - 2 weeks
For additional information about the West County Connectors project, please visit

Visit LB Libraries on October 7th

Be a part of the Long Beach Public Library!

The Long Beach Public Library is joining libraries across the state in participating in "Snapshot: One Day in the Life of California Libraries" on Thursday, October 7th, to show how important academic, public, school, and special libraries and library systems are to the state of California.
LB Pubic Libraries will compile statistics, customer comments, photographs, and other data chronicling a typical library day. Community members are invited to visit their Long Beach neighborhood library on this day and be part of the snapshot.

For more information call Susan Jones at 562-570-5365.

For Library Locations and a calendar of summer events, please check the website at

Monday, October 4, 2010

Let's Bring More Campaign Finance Reform to Long Beach

Got to admit it. The City of Santa Ana has two very interesting pieces of legislation on the books concerning when electeds can take campaign money that I think we should take a look at.

Sec. 425. - Disqualification due to campaign contributions.
A councilmember shall not participate in, nor use his or her official position to influence, a decision of the City Council if it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision will have a material financial effect, apart from its effect on the public generally or a significant portion thereof, on a recent major campaign contributor. As used herein, "recent major campaign contributor" means a person who has made campaign contributions totaling two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) or more to the councilmember or to any campaign committee controlled by the councilmember in the twelve-month period immediately preceding the date of the decision. The mayor is a councilmember for purposes of this section. 

Sec. 2-107. - Prohibited campaign contributions.
No councilmember or any campaign committee controlled by the councilmember shall solicit or accept any campaign contribution or loan of two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) or more from any person for a period of three (3) months following the date a final decision is rendered in any proceeding before the council involving a license, permit, or other entitlement, if the councilmember knows or has reason to know that the person had a financial interest in the proceeding. Financial interest, for purposes of this section, shall have the meaning it is defined to have in Title 9 of the California Government Code (the Political Reform Act). The mayor is a councilmember for purposes of this section.

Some may ask how can an elected official be influenced by a mere $250? (In Long Beach the limits are higher -- $350 for council and $500 for the mayor.) Campaign contributions are an indicator of support and while the amount doesn't look high enough to really have an impact on a vote, the reality is that the contribution is what it is: support for the elected official.

I am going to move forward on proposing these reforms -- with more to come about limiting how and when former City employees and/or appointees to key City Commissions, Committees and Boards may lobby or represent clients after they leave employment or appointment.

Save Station 18

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