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Full-Time Mayor Plan in L.B. Wins Backing of Citizen Panel

November 28, 1985|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — In what could be the first step toward a major restructuring of city government, a broad-based citizens' committee has recommended that a proposal to create a full-time mayor and City Council be placed on the June ballot.

The committee, Citizens to Evaluate a Full-Time Mayor and City Council, will send a detailed plan to the City Council this week to replace the current city manager form of government with a "strong mayor" system.

Under the plan, some of the manager's budget and planning powers would be divided between the mayor, who would be chosen in citywide elections, and the council. The mayor would have veto power over council actions but would not have a vote on the council except to break ties. The plan also calls for the mayor to make $65,000 a year, while council members would receive $39,000. Currently, council members are paid $12,000 annually, and the mayor, who is selected every two years by his colleagues, receives $13,200. The council would meet at least twice a week under the plan instead of once.

Citywide Vote for Mayor

Council members would still be chosen by voters in nine districts, with only the mayor going before voters citywide.

The City Council, acting as the city's Charter Committee, will have to endorse the committee's plan by March 4 to place it on the June ballot. If the council rejects the plan, backers say they might try to gather 17,000 signatures by a Feb. 6 deadline to place it before voters as an initiative.

Most council members have said they generally favor making the mayoralty, and perhaps the council, full-time positions. Of the nine council members, only Eunice Sato, who said she finds restructuring costly and unnecessary, has come out against a change.

All members except Mayor Ernie Kell made presentations to the committee during three months of deliberation. Kell, who favors a full-time mayor, said Monday that he thinks the council will put a full-time mayor proposal before the voters next spring.

In another key provision, the citizens' committee also endorsed in concept limits on campaign contributions. The committee said that it favored a plan similar to one adopted in Los Angeles, which limits individual contributions to $500 in council races and $1,000 in citywide races.

That recommendation corresponds with a proposal drafted recently by the city attorney at the request of Councilmen Tom Clark and Warren Harwood, who will submit it to the council at Tuesday's meeting. Their proposal calls for a maximum $750 contribution per candidate each election.

In 1982, voters rejected by a 3-to-1 margin a ballot measure that called for a full-time mayor elected citywide. But supporters of the new proposal say that it has broad support.

'Consensus' Favors Change

"I think there's a consensus on every level in this community . . . that certain modifications of the present form of government have got to be made and should be made soon," said Alex Bellehumeur, chairman of the committee and owner of State-Wide Developers Inc.

Groups represented on the committee either as voting members or observers include the Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters, the Council of Senior Citizens, the Board of Realtors and the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. Those groups, however, have not yet formally endorsed the committee proposal.

Individuals on the committee include Richard Gaylord, chairman of the city Planning Commission; Harbor Commissioner George Talin; Frank Berry, president of the local NAACP chapter; Jack Jacobs, planning commissioner, and Luanne Pryor, chairwoman of the Bay Area Concerned Citizens group.

Clark, author of the failed full-time mayor proposal in 1982, said he thinks it may pass this time.

"It was its first time on the ballot in '82," he said, "and many people didn't even know how the mayor was elected. Now I think people have begun to see that it is desirable to have leadership focused in one individual, rather than have a situation where no one has a citywide power base to operate from."

Some council members have forwarded their own plans for a full-time mayor.

Councilman Wallace Edgerton, for example, has said he wants to abolish the non-elected city manager position, because it is too insulated from the voters.

And Clark, who agreed with most committee recommendations, said he can't support a provision that allows the mayor to vote only in cases of ties.

Another possible problem with the new proposal is its cost.

Committee members, recognizing that their plan might be vulnerable because of its price tag, said that they could support a ballot measure to increase City Council salaries to between $18,000 and $24,000, rather than the $39,000 they prefer. The proposal also calls for hiring a full-time legislative analyst to assist the council.

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