Robert Fox on Reform

Posted by Robert Fox for Long Beach on Friday, February 14, 2020

The Reform of the City of Long Beach.
A little history of our Big City.
Whenever someone starts ranting and raving about reforming this City, I need to remind them, that we have done this before with excellent results.
We have only lost our institutional memory of how we got our City back on track. Read my other post on small business development for more history of our City.

The problem:
City Hall has turned into a megalithic monstrous autocratic management consortium Gradually over the past 20 years, City Hall has removed the ability of citizens to participate in our decision-making process. During the LUE, the Land Use Element, I raised the citizens against this autocratic government and challenged their monopoly on the legislation of the City. At that time we discovered the City had not maintained the directory of neighborhood and business association and HOAs. Margaret Madden,
whom I had known since she was 16 years old was and is the director of the Neighborhood Resource Center we founded back in the mid 1990s. Unfortunately, she was not tasked with the maintenance of those contacts and had not done any outreach to update the information, nor get signed releases from the presidents, and board members for inclusion in the directory. The City had stopped producing the “Red Book” a long time ago. One might suggest it was to prevent anyone from knowing what was happening City-Wide or in City Council. If only a few avid activists were paying attention, they could be written off as kooks and crackpots.
Then came the over-reaching draconian high density, height increase and intrusive development of the Land Use Element. I organized my office to re-create the Red Book. Once finished we gave it to the City. Then when the planning commission was going to hear the LUE, we packed the house with 29 presidents of neighborhood associations from every district of the city. Amy Bodek, head of the Development Department was rebuked and the planning commission mandated 4 major outreach sessions for citizens to get to know the LUE. We learned from that situation, that the City Management would do anything to thwart the truth. They lied, they subverted the truth, they hid the details, they tried to defame those who opposed them, and they did not succeed. For venues were they expected 150 people to show up, we packed the house with thousands.

In the end we won almost 8 Districts our of 9. Only the 2nd District Councilperson opposed the presidents of all the neighborhood associations and upzoned almost the entire district.

Reform is critical, but as you can see it is a case by case issue unless we get to the root of the problem. I will be criticized for speaking the truth here, but I am ready for the onslaught.

What does reform entail?

1.) Mandate an independent Fiscal Audit of the City of Long Beach to be done by an outside agency like Management Partners Inc. and have it go to each City Council Member and the Public. (Not the Mayor or City Manager who buried their last report in 2012 so no one could read the conclusions)
2.) A line-item, fully disclosed budget for each fiscal year. This should be delivered to the City Council and the Mayor at the same time. What we need to forestall is the hiding of any subject matter or cost factor by the Mayor before presentation to the full City Council. I suggest this LARGE item be given to each City Council Member at least 1 month in advance of any hearing in Council or any Vote in City Council. (This will give time for each Council Member to do the deep research which is needed to analyze the budget, research the line items, research the underlying policies and principles of each line item and/or department. This is what staff is for and this will give adequate time for the community experts to weigh in)
3.) Creating an ordinance such that a retired judge, independently appointed (NOT BY THE MAYOR) by the City Council itself be given authority over any ballot initiative, measure, proposition or City Council item for vote to review, alter and/or approve a clarity of language and intent before being put before the City Council or the Public. (A staff to assist the Judge should be authorized, like in the Supreme Court) Truth in Government Act.

4.) Transparency of all documentation, whether in draft form or final form for any project the City is involved in. We cannot make good decisions when the Staff hides the information. Direct the City Attorney to facilitate the transference of information for Public Records Requests rather than fighting the people against such disclosures. (It is a sad thing when
we are forced to hire attorneys to make the City Attorney give us records which we are entitled to by the Freedom of Information Act)
5.) Removal of the Public Information Officer. There is no need for a barrier between the management of City Hall and the people. We spent 95,000 the first year for Kevin Lee, and he was so successful in preventing the interaction of the citizens with the government that they increased his salary to $178,000.00 in one year. (You all didn’t know about that, as we
didn’t’ have the next item in place)
6.) Affirming that plain language, not misinformation, nor prevarication shall ever be used by anyone working for the City of Long Beach and that the consequences of such lack of honesty will be termination.
7.) Restore the voice of the people. Restore the 3 minutes for testimony in City Council to all residents regardless of the number of people speaking. It is time to remind the Mayor and the City Council that they ran for this job. Supposedly they wanted to do this job, and it is their responsibility to do this job without the hindrance of free speech. If they do not want the job anymore, they have the freedom to resign.
8.) Required a Course in Ethics and Ethical Behavior for each and every manager and staff member working in City Hall. ( Rotary has a course on this if the City does not want to just borrow from the National Association of Realtors Ethical Code Standards Courses.
9.) Remove the ability of any union, any outside organization, political PAC, or corporate interest from depositing to any campaign, nor to any officeholder account for any elected official.
10.) Remove the ability to use officeholder accounts for political campaigns and ensure those funds to be used only the minor infrastructure and services in the specific districts.

11.) Remove the gifting of monies from officeholder accounts between council members.
12.) Stop the destruction of public documents prior to the expiration of the “legal standing cause”. If it is a major project exceeding 2 million dollars then hold those records for 7 years. We are in a computer age so we certainly have the memory in our system to retain documents.
13.) Stop the City Council Meetings at 11 PM every Tuesday. If there is a holdover item we can call a subsequent meeting on Thursday. This will allow citizens to participate.
14.) Hear all agenda items first, to prevent the long hours of people waiting to speak on important agenda items. Delegate Thursday for awards and honorable mentions. Thursday also could be the time for minutia, and consent calendar, and the requests for destruction of Documentation.
15.) Create an ordinance limiting the total amount of money to be raised or spent in City Council Campaigns, including every other elected office, to be no more than $50,000.00.
16.) Getting back to inclusive government. (That means that we invite and seek out neighborhood association and business association involvement in all infrastructure and policy decisions) This does not mean a blithering whisper out, but a real dialogue where the wishes of our people are incorporated in the final designs and outcomes. I received an email from Carl Hickman, in the traffic engineering department in which he acknowledged that we as citizens had attended more than 2 years’ worth of visioning process on the beautification of the Broadway Corridor. Nothing from our process was included in this failure of the Broadway Road Diet. His direct response to me was that even though we had participated, they didn’t have to LISTEN to us at all. It simply was not a requirement. Curiously enough the department also said the SAFETY was not something they even considered in imposing this Road Diet on Broadway.
17.) Affirming that the protection and safety of our people is the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY of the city of Long Beach.
18.) Restore Real Community Policing. Remove the Bars (fencing) from every police substation, and allow the public access again. Restore the practice of volunteers manning the front desks and doing outreach and clerical work for the department. Restore the Police Activities League and Senior Police Partners etc. Restore foot patrols in the neighborhoods and especially the Downtown zone. Prevent the congregation of 4 or more police cars for minor incidents.
19.) Restrict all overtime, throughout all departments to no more than 10 percent per annum. Only in a declared specific State of Emergency shall there be overtime authorized for any department, especially the Police Department.
20.) Restore the Park Rangers to full compliment. Restore the mounted patrols to the parks. Mandate at least 7 academies for the training of our police officers per year. This will solve the overtime issue and make up the officers needed for attrition.

21.) Remove the Bars from around Bixby Park and all other Parks so that we are an inclusive inviting Parks Department instead of a
battlement mentality Departments.
22.) Publish all direct phone numbers for each Commander, Department Head, Head of Committee, and Manager within the City for easy access. (Now we have to go through a plethora of “push button” choices to get nowhere) Restore access to the people to their leaders, watch commanders and heads of departments NOW.