A push to give elected officials a third term and do away with the city’s write-in process achieved a commanding win at the polls Tuesday, dealing a major victory to Mayor Robert Garcia.
With mail-in ballots counted and 219 of 219 precincts reporting, Measure BBB garnered 56 percent of the vote in favor, and 44 percent against.
The measure, which dealt with the number of terms allowed for council members and the mayor, was one of four charter amendments being touted by the mayor and his supporters.
“We felt good from day one,” Garcia said at a celebration party Tuesday night at the Firefighters Union Hall in Signal Hill. “We have felt positive about Long Beach and their trust in their government and about the way they view their city.”
— Kelly Puente (@KellyPuenteLB) November 7, 2018
The other three measures—which would give the city auditor power to conduct performance audits, establish an Ethics Commission and establish a Redistricting Commission—also passed by comfortable margins, returns show.
The package of measures were controversial from the moment they were first introduced earlier this summer, when the City Council announced that it was contemplating placing the four items on the Nov. 6 ballot.
City leaders said Measure BBB was an attempt to close a loophole in the existing language of the city’s charter by eliminating a provision that allowed write-in candidates to run for an unlimited amount of campaigns. The measure eliminates the write in and extends term limits to three, four-year terms.
In the process, the charter amendment carved out exceptions for current council members like Councilman Dee Andrews and Daryl Supernaw to serve more than 12 years in office as riders on the charter amendment spelled out that previous terms served by Supernaw (special election) and Andrews (write-in) did not count as a term served.
The opposition coalition composed of a number of neighborhood groups gathered to watch the election results come in at the Long Beach Petroleum Club Tuesday night. The small crowd mulled around the bar area as the polls closed, exuding an air of defeat. The defeat was guaranteed by the big money being spent by the city, a number of them remarked, but that shouldn’t be the takeaway from election night.
“City Hall lied to you and got away with it,” said No on BBB campaign manager Ian Patton. “The way it was worded it was misleading. The thing that drives me crazy is that we won’t know what would have been if it was accurately worded.”
Patton helped coordinate resident groups who banded together to fight the proposed charter amendments. The grassroots effort focused mainly on Measure BBB, stating that it was a self-serving attempt by current leaders to ensure a third term without having to go through the write-in process.
Garcia and other supporters were reluctant to refer to it as a term extension measure, choosing instead to cast it as a cleaning up of open-ended language in the charter while lumping in with the three other charter measures that supporters referred to as “a good governance package.”
The passage of Measure BBB adds to Garcia’s winning track record at the ballot box: Garcia beat out a field of mayoral candidates in 2014, and cruised to victory for his second term over his lone challenger last spring, Henk Conn.
Garcia also scored a major victory in the passage of a sales tax, Measure A, in 2016 to pay for infrastructure and public safety.
Through a number of fundraisers, opponents to the charter amendments raised about $40,000, but that figure paled in comparison to the nearly $300,000 raised by the mayor and city auditor.
Many within the coalition seeking to defeat BBB felt that the funding disparity was the major obstacle to their success Tuesday night as the mayor’s messaging was able to make it to more people’s doorsteps via expensive paper mailers, something it did not have the financing for.
Over the past few months, a number of public battles have played out between the coalition and the city, most notably that the group was sued by the city over the language used in its ballot arguments against the proposed charter amendments.
And just this week the group released a legal analysis of Measure BBB, which one attorney said has language in it that could allow the current council to serve as many as five terms, something that the city attorney’s office disputed.
The coalition was composed of people with a number of political ideologies who had coalesced around a simple idea: that City Hall in Long Beach has been wrought with corruption and something needed to be done to stop it. The coalition pumped out yellow and black yard signs calling for a no vote on BBB and spread optimism among its supporters that future fights against City Hall might be more successful.
“Win, lose or draw I have not only met people that I wouldn’t have met, I’ve became friends with them, allies with them,” said Lauren Boland. “We may disagree on national politics but we agree that the way City Hall is run needs to change.”
— Jason Ruiz (@JasonRuiz_LB) November 7, 2018
[Editors note: The original story said that People of Long Beach was the lead organization within the coalition. The story has been changed to state that the coalition acted as a group with People of Long Beach having an equal vote on its actions.]
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