LONG BEACH — The leaders of a campaign for a full-time mayor say their upset win Tuesday will bring about a historic transfer of power.
No longer will Long Beach be run solely by a powerful city manager who is not accountable to the voters. Now the power to lead the city will be shared by an appointed city manager and, for the first time, a popularly elected full-time mayor, said the supporters of the victorious charter amendment known as Proposition R.
On Tuesday, voters approved Proposition R by 61,856 votes (67.3%) to 30,047 (32.7%). It was a dramatic turnaround for voters who had shunned a similar proposal by a 3-to-1 margin in 1982.
The first campaign for a full-time mayor in 1988 will give the city a long-needed forum for discussion of citywide issues, supporters said. When the full-time mayor takes office in July, 1988, the city also will join the ranks of other large California cities in finally having an appropriate leader to deal with corporations and other governments, supporters said.
Proposition R "is going to take the power out of the hands of the old guard . . . and it's about . . . time," said Alex Bellehumeur, a Los Alamitos developer who spent the past 18 months leading the campaign for a full-time mayor.
"Long Beach has come into its own," said Michael Long, treasurer for the Committee for an Elected Mayor, the group that backed the charter amendment.
"It's a milestone," added committee member Elaine Hutchinson, chairwoman of the board of directors of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. "When a city reaches a certain size, you need the identity that a (full-time) mayor can give" a city, Hutchinson said.
Council member Tom Clark, a former part-time city mayor for seven years, agreed that with the passage of Proposition R, the full-time mayor will have a "clearly defined leadership role." Meanwhile, Clark said he expects that the city manager's job will become more "administrative" in nature when the full-time mayor takes office.
Under Proposition R, the full-time mayor will earn $67,500. Currently, the City Council appoints one of its members to serve as part-time mayor at a salary of $13,800 a year.
Power of Veto
The full-time mayor will be a non-voting member of the City Council with a veto power that can be overridden by a council majority on most matters. On budget appropriations, however, a two-thirds council vote will be required to override a mayoral veto.
The relatively weak status of the full-time mayor set forth by Proposition R had publicly distressed the measure's detractors and supporters alike, some of whom complained that the official would be nothing more than an overpaid ribbon cutter.
The campaign to approve Proposition R was also hampered by fund-raising problems and by widespread but nominal official support.
One proponent, lawyer Charles E. Greenberg, had characterized official support for the measure as being "a mile wide and three inches deep." As for fund-raising, supporters threw a large cocktail party at the Ramada Renaissance that was supposed to earn $40,000, but it was sparsely attended and brought in only $12,000.
"Somehow, we got our message across," said a stunned Luanne Pryor, who handled the committee's public relations. "It's the most gratifying experience in the world."
Resignation Played Role
The leaders of the full-time mayor campaign say the resignation of longtime City Manager John E. Dever also may have played a role in Tuesday's voting. After 10 years in office, Dever announced Oct. 23 that he would resign Jan. 30, saying that his job of reversing the economic decline of the city was "largely completed."
Dever "was perceived as the person running the city, and he had a following from a segment of the voters who believed in his ability, and rightly so," Bellehumeur said. He added that with Dever in office, some voters "would have thought of the full-time mayor as (duplicative) in leadership." But with Dever's sudden resignation, that objection was removed.
Council member Clark agreed. "With the departure of a strong city manager, people have been more inclined to look at the desirability of having the mayor in a stronger leadership role," said Clark, who served as the city's part-time mayor from 1975 to 1980, and 1982 to 1984, and who has expressed interest in seeking the full-time job.
Mayor Ernie Kell, who also has expressed interest in the full-time position, credited the amendment's victory to limited opposition. "It (Proposition R) had a broad base of support and no really organized opposition," Kell said.
The only announced opponents of Proposition R were the Long Beach Area Citizens Involved, which spent about $200 to campaign against the measure, and the Downtown Long Beach Business Associates, which merely sent a letter to the City Council opposing the amendment. The amendment's backers raised $18,000, Long said.
Voters Tuesday rejected another measure, Proposition S, by 51.8%. The amendment would have given the City Council the right, with state approval, to extend the terms of contracts without competitive bidding for the development of oil and gas in coastal areas.
The amendment was rejected by a vote of 45,261 to 42,034. In an interview, council member Clark said the amendment was a "housecleaning" measure that is needed and probably will be put on the ballot again in 1988.
Lynwood elects new council member. See Page 5.