The Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to forward a list of proposed charter amendments to an August meeting where leaders could decide to formally place the changes before voters on Nov. 4.

In an early afternoon meeting held before a swearing in ceremony for Mayor Robert Garcia and five of the incumbent council members who won reelection this year, the council voted unanimously to move forward the list of five proposed charter amendments. A final hearing is set for Aug. 7.

Charter Amendments That Could Impact Term Limits, Redistricting, Utility Consolidation Move To Second Hearing

The tweaks could establish a citizen redistricting committee, an ethics committee, more clearly define the powers of the city auditor and consolidate the city’s two utilities into one entity with one governing body. Arguably the most contentious item is a proposal to establish a third term for citywide elected offices.

Currently the city charter allows councilmembers and the mayor to run for two terms and thereafter as a write-in candidate. Proponents of the change said it would close a loophole that could potentially allow a candidate to run for an indefinite number of terms, as long as they did so as a write-in. Under current law a write-in candidate’s name appears on the ballot if they advance past the primary election.

If passed, the amendment would allow a candidate to run for a third term with their name on the ballot, but they would be limited to three terms.

Exceptions to what “term” means in the proposed ordinance would potentially allow for current members to exceed the three-term limit. As written, a term would not mean a person elected as a write-in candidate prior to November 2018 (Dee Andrews) or any person who won a mid-term special election (Daryl Supernaw).

A memo from the city attorney’s office dated April 25 broke down whether the current charter allowed for indefinite runs by write-in candidates, with the short answer being yes. Andrews asked the city attorney for the analysis.

Critics of the term limit item call it self serving and counter to the will of voters in the original 1992 ordinance, and again in 2007. That year voters overwhelmingly defeated Proposition C with nearly two-thirds of voters shooting down an attempt by the City Council to extend term limits in Long Beach.

“This was settled a long time ago,” said Rich Dines, who ran unsuccessfully for the Fifth District council seat this year. “Selling this under a different name, label and description will not make it a better product.  I urge you not to move forward on your term limit measure.”

If the council votes next month to put this on the ballot it would be the second charter amendment this year that would be sent to the voters after Measure M was placed on the June ballot. That amendment allowed the city to continue a practice of charging its city-run utilities access fees and then transferring those charges to the general fund where it can be spent on city services.

The practice was the focus of two lawsuits, one of which was settled by the city prior to the June election, and another that was winding its way through the legal system. Fifty three percent voter approval effectively nullified the fiscal impacts of those suits and helped the city avoid a fiscal hit to its budget that was estimated to be near $25 million annually.

Editors note: This story has been clarified to show that under current law a write-in candidate’s name can appear on the ballot after advancing past a primary election. 

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.