Opinion: Put on a giant pot of coffee for tonight’s marathon City Council meeting

If you’re planning on following the City Council meeting tonight (and, let’s be honest, on into tomorrow) you had better be asleep right now if you plan to follow the city’s governing group as it wades through a 78-item agenda that includes topics that might draw the maximum number of 20 public commenters giving their 90 seconds-worth.

Just reading the agenda takes a long time and it’s more of a chore than slogging through, say, “The Mill on the Floss.”

The dictionary-size agenda is the result of council meeting cancellations—nothing on Election Day, Nov. 3, nothing on Nov. 10, and nothing next Tuesday (Nov. 24) because the council doesn’t have meetings on the last Tuesday of the month and, with the tentative cancellation of the Dec. 1 meeting (due to the lack of agenda items), December will only have one meeting, on Dec. 15.

It’s a fact that being a council member is a part-time job, but there are garden clubs that meet with greater frequency.

So, for all the Tuesdays off during the COVID era, which is getting worse, not better, there’s a busy and likely extra-long night for the council, which includes two lame ducks, 2nd District Council member Jeannine Pearce and 6th District Councilman Dee Andrews.

Andrews himself is on the agenda, as the council will decide whether to name the Chittick Field Sports Complex after him, and Pearce is pushing for the Bixby Park Dog Park to be renamed “Dr. Myrna “Mickey” Donahoe Dog Park.

While those, and a large number of other issues on the agenda, including nearly 50 items on the consent calendar that are as non-controversial as anything can be said to be in these divisive times, are expected to be passed with no resistance, there are other items that can expect some public comment, including:

  • An amendment to the municipal code to allow un-hosted short-term rentals citywide.
  • Approving deferral of payment of business license taxes and fees until March 31, 2021.
  • Approving a recommendation to provide for grants to businesses to offset business license taxes and fees for those businesses closed or materially restricted and impacted for an extended period of time due to the city health orders.
  • A recommendation to modify Andrews’ Tenant Anti-Harassment ordinance passed Nov. 2, 2020 to add an “in bad faith” component to the ordinance.
  • Recommendation to direct the city manager and all appropriate departments to report back within 90 days on the potential use of revenue bonds or any other instrument that would accelerate our street and alley improvements with a plan to tackle the list of worst streets and alleys in the city.

And, of course, more, along with whatever public comment comes up.

There is some discussion about moving some of the agenda items into a Dec. 1 meeting if things go on after the bars close (or would close if they were open), which would just be kicking X amount of cans down the road that’s already in need of repair, and which District 5 Councilwoman Stacy Mungo is loath to do, she says, because “we’ve already told people there is no meeting on Dec. 1.”

The council has brought this mess it’s facing tonight and tomorrow morning by canceling so many meetings. Just one meeting a month—one for November and one for December—is too cavalier of a pace for a city that is, like all American cities, in the midst of a very serious financial and health catastrophe, and while the city charter says the council gets the last Tuesday of the month without a meeting, it also says the mayor can call special meetings—like the one on Monday, Nov. 2, when it passed the tenant-harassment ordinance—and doing so would prevent the massive build-up of agenda items that the council, and those citizens who pay attention to how this city is run, are forced to virtually attend this week.

And that would allow us all to sleep better—not well, but better.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.