Notice: This is not a City of Long Beach site.

Dear Readers: Please note that this is not a City of Long Beach website and is not paid for nor maintained by taxpayer funds.

If you contact Gerrie Schipske through this site on any matter pertaining to the City of Long Beach, a copy of your contact will be forwarded to her official city email as an official public record.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Why It Should Matter How Your Next City Attorney Is Selected

After 39 years of service to the City of Long Beach, City Attorney Robert Shannon has retired. The City Attorney is elected by the voters every four years (without term limits) which is unique in California as most City Attorneys are appointed. (City councils directly appoint the city attorney in 464 of California’s 478 incorporated cities. 

Of those, approximately two-thirds are contract city attorneys from outside firms; the remaining one-third are hired as in-house city attorneys. Voters directly elect their city attorney in eleven charter cities and city managers appoint the city attorney in three charter cities.)

The City Attorney's Office consists of 68 employees, including 21 attorneys. Their duties are set forth in the City's Charter, which provides that the City Attorney shall be the sole and exclusive legal advisor of the City, City Council and all City commissions, committees, officers and employees. He/she is charged with municipal legal responsibilities as complex as any in the state. 

The City Attorney must be a resident of Long Beach.

When a City Attorney leaves office before the completion of his or her term of office (Shannon’s term ends in 2014), the City Charter and Municipal Code provide that the City Council shall designate an Assistant City Attorney or Deputy City Attorney, who shall become the Acting City Attorney and shall serve in that position until the City Council appoints a successor for the unexpired balance of the term. Any person serving as Acting City Attorney must possess the qualifications prescribed for the City Attorney.

Upon Shannon’s retirement, the City Council selected Assistant City Attorney Charles Parkin as Acting City Attorney. Mr. Parkin is a resident of Long Beach and has been serving in the City Attorney’s office since 1995 and as Assistant City Attorney since 2012.

There are 12 months remaining for the balance of the term for the City Attorney and there are some on the City Council who are advocating to solicit resumes and to have the City Clerk and the Human Resources Director review the resumes and recommend 5 candidates to the City Council for interview. The interview process would take place in closed session out of the view of the public. (see link to League of California Cities suggested ways to recruit and select a contract City Attorney. 

This process would make sense to replace a City Manager who is employed directly by the City Council, but not for a City Attorney. Selecting a successor City Attorney who is not currently employed in the Long Beach City Attorney’s office is asking for trouble, especially when you see the list of pending litigation and other legal matters currently being handled by the Office of City Attorney.

Some argue that whomever the City Council selects will have an advantage in the 2014 election for City Attorney. This may be unavoidable but the City Council should not make this situation any more political by soliciting resumes from potential candidates. (Applicants cannot be prohibited from seeking public office if chosen because of First Amendment rights.) 

What is more important is that the Office of City Attorney continue to work on the issues pending. For this reason, I agree with outgoing City Attorney Robert Shannon (see link to his memo  ) that the City Council should leave in place the current Assistant City Attorney, Charles Parkin, until the voters elect a new City Attorney.
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Friday, July 5, 2013

City Council Directs Mayor to Issue Letter in Support of Fed Law To Clear Up Problems Between State and Fed Medical Marijuana Laws

English: Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis s...
English: Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis shop at 970 Lincoln Street, Denver, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The City of Long Beach attempted to responsibly and reasonably regulate allowing medical marijuana in our boundaries but was ordered by the court to stop because one of the collectives sued the City on the theory that federal law pre-empted the City from regulating medical marijuana. Not sure why the collective did that because they got the answer that they didn't want -- yes, you are right federal law pre-empts state and local law and federal law says marijuana is illegal.

Most recently, federal law enforcement agents came to Long Beach and directed 28 of the collectives to stop operating because federal law considers marijuana to be an illegal drug.

Something needs to be done at the federal level to sort out the mess that has been created by the conflicts between state and federal law on this issue. Below is a memo the City Council directed the Mayor to send in support of federal legislation that would clear up the conflict.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Public Meeting Raises Many Questions About City Pushing Teardown of City Hall and Main Library

Consensus at Packed Meeting on City RFQ for New Civic Center and Main Library: Taxpayers are angry they have been left out of process. Civic Center area is embarrassment to taxpayers – not because of design but because it is filthy and unsafe. Many asked who decided on possible size of a new Main Library and where is the new earthquake assessment?

Long Beach, CA, June 30, 2013 – A standing room only crowd at El Dorado Library Community Room this weekend made their opinions very clear about the City management’s call for firms to propose tearing down and rebuilding the City Hall and Main Library.

“The attendees were astonished and angry to find out that the City had not involved residents about what should be done with City Hall and the Main Library and that it was soliciting firms to do what had not yet even been approved or discussed publicly,” remarked Fifth District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske who called the meeting after several residents had asked when the public would be involved. 

“They were especially upset that the Request for Qualifications did not contain solicitation of firms to repurpose, rehab or retrofit the current buildings or that an updated seismic assessment hasn’t been made to justify a rebuild.”

A Request for Qualifications was released with the title: “A Public Private Partnership for a New Civic Center” and asks for firms who have experience in financing, designing, building and operating major construction projects to respond by July 26. The RFQ document mentions the possibility of moving the Main Library from its current location and downsizing it from 136,000 square feet to 50,000. The announced schedule for a completed project does not include public comment in any form.

Schipske noted that many asked in this meeting who decided that the Main Library should be relocated or downsized to 1/3 of its current size. “This was a particular sore point since many in the room are members of local organizations that raise funds to assist the public libraries and learned that neither library staff nor the public were consulted before the RFQ was sent.”

Some participants questioned how the City could propose to build a new complex when it doesn’t even take care of the one it has – allowing Civic Center to “become dirty and unsafe.”  “Many participants expressed concern that there has been a purposeful neglect of the Civic Center to bolster the argument to tear it down,” said Schipske.

 “The tiles and sidewalks are filthy, the paint is chipped on all of the railings, all of the plants and grass are dead around complex. The flags are faded. Lincoln Park is a homeless encampment with belongings strewn all over. Visitors to the area are accosted by aggressive panhandlers. The area is an embarrassment and there is no reason why this has been allowed to deteriorate.” 

Schipske finds it ironic that the City voted to expand the downtown property based improvement district (PBID) assessment on homeowners but fails to keep up its own properties which directly impact the downtown area.

Participants at the Saturday “visioning meeting” had a number of other suggestions for improving the Civic Center and Main Library such as using some of space for an outdoor cafĂ© and providing at least one hour of free parking for library visits. “They also pledged to continue pushing for public input on this important issue.”

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