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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why We Need Political Reform in Long Beach.

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magnifying glass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heard through the grapevine that some are “freaked out” by my proposals to reform political contributions and private communications with lobbyists and contractors. The proposals will be on the Council agenda this Tuesday and I encourage you to let me and the other Councilmembers what you think about them.

Simply put, it is time that the City of Long Beach prohibit taking political contributions from contractors, potential contractors and anyone doing business or applying to do business with the City. The City also needs to proactively put in place requirements that electeds disclose text messages and emails on their private cellphones and computers that are related to the conducting of city business during a council meeting and any other time.

These proposals are part of my continued push to make local government more open, transparent and accountable. In the past, I have pushed very hard to register lobbyists and to prohibit gifts from them. I also proposed that City Council members disclose at the beginning of a vote whether or not he/she has had contact with anyone who has expressed an interest in the council agenda item. This is a requirement made for the State Coastal Commission and I pushed for it to be enacted for votes on the Medical Board of California, on which I serve. Unfortunately, the council rejected that proposal. 

I have also advocated for putting online the calendars of the Mayor and City Councilmembers. To date, only a couple of Councilmembers put their calendars on line. The public deserves to know who we are communicating with that may have an impact on our votes.

We wouldn’t be the first city council to put these reforms in place: The Mayor and City Council of San Jose have their calendars on line as well as their key staff persons’ calendars. The Mayor and City Council of San Jose are required to disclose before a vote if they have received a text or email during the council meeting on an agenda item. And most recently, the Mayor and City Council of San Jose are now required to disclose texts and emails from their private cellphones and computers if the contents are related to conducting official city business. This last reform came as a result of the City being sued and the court ruling that these communications are public records.

The federal and state governments prohibit political contributions from contractors and/or bidders on contracts. Many other cities prohibit contributions from potential and current contractors. It took the voters of the City of Los Angeles to put that requirement into law. But certainly our Council could step up and put them in place without a ballot measure.

Because the details of both proposals need to be worked out, I am recommending that they be referred to the Council Committee on Elections Oversight with a return to Council within 120 days.  I know we can do this.

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