Long Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to move to increase the maximum limit on office holder accounts and the limit on contributions to those accounts for both council members and city wide officials.
The motion, which will be voted on again by the council at a later date, will raise the maximum limit on city council office holder accounts to $30,000 and the limit on contributions to those accounts from $500 per person per year to $750 and the maximum limit on city-wide accounts (mayor, city prosecutor, city attorney, city auditor) from $25,000 to $75,000 and increase the limit on contributions from $750 to $1,000 per person per year.
First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, head of the Election Oversight Committee, brought the motion to the floor and cited the need to increase the limits to stay in step with other cites in the region. She referenced the City of Anaheim’s contribution limit of $1,500 with no spending limits, as well as the city of Los Angeles, which has higher limits than Long Beach. She was quick to point out, however, that these increased dollar limits wouldn’t benefit the council members directly, but rather the districts that they serve.
“This allows us more opportunity to fundraise, but in a way that will give back to our local communities,” Gonzalez said. “Office holders' [accounts] are intended for that, they’re not intended for specific campaign purposes. It is to give back to our local communities, which many of us have done already with our office holder accounts.”
Although the motion was eventually passed unanimously, it was met with some resistance and questioning from Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, who expressed concerns about the dollar limit the accounts were being raised to, and what that could mean for the mindsets of the council members going forward.
“What concerns me is that our service on the council to a municipality will turn focus into fundraising and that much of our term will be committed to trying to fundraise, and that certainly isn’t an area that we should be focused on during our term of service,” Price said.
Price’s fellow council members spoke in support of the proposal, stating that raising the limits would increase their ability to serve their communities but downplayed the notion that it would shift their focus to fundraising.
“What are we here for?” said Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga. “If we’re here to serve our communities then we need to be given— we have to have the tools for us to do that. And one of those tools is having an office holder account that will provide us the avenue and the means by which to help our constituents and non-profits around the city.”
Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo said that although she initially also questioned the raising of the limits, expanding the office holder accounts will allow the council members to better serve their communities by having the financial means to put on events like Concerts in the Park without dipping into the city’s general fund, which Mungo said “really needs to go to pay the salaries of our employees and pay for the streets and sidewalks and trees.”
In an attempt to make the expansion uniform with the proposed expansion of city-wide accounts, Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson proposed an increase for city council accounts by an additional $5,000, bringing the maximum limit to $30,000. Richardson also proposed the increased contribution caps, given an increased officer holder account maximum. Under his proposal, city-wide contributions are to be increased from $750 to $1,000 and city council contributions from $500 to $750. Before joining in the consensus vote, Price voiced reservations as to what this could mean for future councils.
“I have no doubt that everyone on this present body is always going to do the right thing, no issues whatsoever. My concern is that we set policy moving forward and the decisions we make today stay with this body long after we are gone.”