UPDATE: City settles with community groups on language for charter amendment arguments

UPDATE: The City of Long Beach and opponents of proposed charter amendments that voters will decide in November have come to an agreement regarding the language surrounding the arguments which the city said was “false” and “misleading.”

Both parties were in court Wednesday and signed an agreement to change the language of a argument against two of the ballot measures. Ballot measures that could impact term limits, redistricting, the creation of an ethics commission and the powers of the city auditor are among the issues that voters will decide during the Nov. 6 election.

Measure AAA deals with the scope of authority of the city auditor and Measure DDD deals with the city’s efforts to establish a redistricting commission. The commission would be comprised of 13 residents with one coming from each of the nine council districts and the remaining four being selected by the nine established redistricting commissioners.

The city argued that language in the ballot argument that asserted that Measure AAA would lead to the city auditor’s office losing access to “certified hard copies” of all contracts with the city and that Measure DDD was part of a plan by the mayor to eliminate the right of commissioners to set their own agendas, placing that power with the city manager instead, was “false on its face.”

In the agreement signed Wednesday, language from the measures’ opponents was tweaked or removed. For instance, an entire paragraph from the argument against Measure AAA that claimed the auditor would have no access to “certified hard copies” and alleged that the digital copies of the documents would be susceptible to “hacking” or “deceptive alterations” was taken out entirely.

City of Long Beach Elections Official v Board of Supervisors of LA Count… by Long Beach Post on Scribd

However, the segment that described the city auditor’s future role as a “political lapdog” was left in place. A sentence that originally claimed the “mayor and management” could “bury any report, record or document” was amended to say the mayor and city management could “inadvertently misplace” records and documents.

The opening line in the argument against Measure DDD was changed from stating that a redistricting commission that isn’t independent is “gerrymandering with lipstick” to now saying that it “could potentially lead to gerrymandering.”

A portion that stated that the mayor was attempting to strip the independence of commissions by taking away their ability to set their own agendas was taken out entirely as was a segment that referenced the “self-serving term limit extension, unethical ethics commission” and the stripping of powers from the city auditor. However the portion describing the the measure as a power grab by the mayor and his “rubber stamping” city council remained.

“This ruling brings closure to the incorrect and misleading statements that were originally submitted by the writers of the ‘Argument Against Measure AAA’ and ‘Arguments Against Measure DDD,’” Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin wrote in a statement.

Previous: 8/28/2018 18:37| The city has filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court to change what it says are “false” and “misleading” ballot arguments against two proposed charter amendments that will go before voters this fall.

In the two official ballot arguments against Measure AAA, which focuses on role of the city auditor, and Measure DDD, which would establish a redistricting commission to redraw council districts, lead writer Juan Ovalle accuses local leaders of trying to remove checks and balances while grabbing for power.

City Attorney Charles Parkin on Tuesday said the arguments contain language that is false and would mislead voters in November.

The city has filed a petition to have the language changed and a judge in L.A. Superior Court will hear the matter on Sept. 5, he said.

Ovalle, a Long Beach resident and founder of People of Long Beach, said he plans to keep the essence of his arguments but will consider rewriting.

“We want to try to work with the city in coming to a resolution that is amicable and has respectful language that we can both live with moving forward,” he said.

Proponents in the argument for Measure AAA say it will eliminate ambiguous language and clarify the role for City Auditor Laura Doud, allowing her to more effectively do her job.

Opponents, including Ovalle and Robert Fox, with the Council of Neighborhood Organizations, argue that the measure would actually hinder Doud’s access to documents by changing wording in the charter stating that she will have “timely” access as opposed to “immediate.”

The delay would give staff extra time to “shred, edit, re-write, hide and alter documents,” the argument says.

Parkin said the city took issue with accusations that it would shred documents. He said opponents are also wrong when they state that the charter amendment would eliminate Doud’s access to “certified hard copies” of all contracts with the city.

“It’s false on its face,” he said.

Parkin said the city auditor, who supports the ballot measure, will continue to have access to all documents and will file reports with both the city council and clerk’s office.

Nothing in the charter amendments would remove checks and balances, he added.

In the argument against Measure DDD (redistricting), opponents state that the mayor is planning to  eliminate the right of commissions to set their own agendas. Parkin said that is false.

“It’s completely misleading and has nothing to do with the argument,” he said.

Ian Patton, a political consultant for the new Long Beach Reform Coalition, a collection of political and neighborhood groups that includes Ovalle’s group, said the city should have voiced its concerns sooner.

Patton said the writers weren’t told of any problems until they got a notice Monday to appear in court.

“The fact that this has gotten into court is ridiculous,” he said.

Ovalle, 52, who owns a property management and investment company with his wife, said he plans to keep pushing forward for changes. 

“We have to keep and eye on our local government,” he said. “We have to be vigilant.”

Voters in November will decide on four total charter amendments. The other two include Measure BBB, which focuses on term limits, and Measure CCC, which would establish an ethics commission.

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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