Long Beach, News

Council members hold off on hotel safety proposal, discuss more efficient meetings

Hotel worker safety precautions

Members of the Long Beach City Council went back and forth Tuesday night with City Attorney Charles Parkin over a proposal amending the Long Beach Municipal Code that would provide workplace safety precautions for hotel employees.

With the Nov. 6 general election coming up, members of the council felt this proposal was possibly motivated by Measure WW, which would require hotels in Long Beach to supply employees working in guest rooms without a coworker present with an electronic contact device, meant for summoning on-scene assistance and reporting threatening conduct.

First district Councilmember Lena Gonzalez said she was concerned with the timing and process of the proposal and was worried if there would be any legal implications moving forward as a conflict of interest.

“We did do the legal research, we do not believe that this proposal is in any way illegal or that the council is prohibited from moving forward if it wishes to do that,” Parkin said.

He said it does not violate the Political Reform Act, an initiative attempting to reduce the amount of monetary resources spent in an election. The act was passed in the June 1974 election in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

Councilwoman Gonzalez and Jeannine Pearce said they believed the council should hold off on this topic until further outreach t was completed, since some businesses around their districts said that they were not contacted about this proposal. The council offered to revisit this topic after the Nov. 6 elections.

If this proposal moved forward, it would have impacted small businesses like motels and hotels that have 50 rooms or less that weren’t notified on the changes made due to a lack of outreach. The motion was declined with a 4-5 vote and the members of the council will revisit the topic in a future meeting.

Streamlining city council meetings

Fourth district Councilman Daryl Supernaw brought  a proposal forth that would make city council meetings move at a more efficient pace in order to address important topics at a convenient time for members of the Long Beach community.

The Long Beach City Council normally meets on a weekly basis except for the last Tuesday of each month. According to Supernaw, on average, City Council meetings in 2018 ran four hours and 20 minutes. One-third of the meetings this year lasted six and a half hours or more, with each meeting ending around midnight.

Because of this, Supernaw said discussing important business at night diminishes public participation.  Some of the changes Supernaw suggested included: setting a meeting curfew, setting time limits for council member comments, restructuring the public comment process and receiving staff reports prior to the meeting.

Supernaw said that city staff and any member of the Long Beach community can submit ideas to the councilmembers’ staff that would help the City Council meetings be more efficient over the next 90 days before they revisit the topic again.

Mungo offered a substitute motion that would allow for the community to also offer “e-comments” on a topic before the item is put on the agenda since the councilmembers are not able to see the comments until the item is on the agenda.

The motion passed 8-0 and will be revisited within 90 days.

Update on Justice Lab Progress

The council was provided with an update on the Justice Lab, a program that helps residents get out of the criminal justice system and back on track with their lives. The program was launched in January 2018 and went through a pilot period to determine the program’s potential for success.

Alma Castro, project manager for the Justice Lab, explained how their team conducted a people-focused and data-driven analysis in 2017 to understand the experience of individuals who frequently interact with law enforcement for low-level offenses.

“After analyzing over 100,000 offenses in Long Beach during a five year period, the ‘i-team’ determined that 85 percent of repeat offenses are not serious crimes, or rather low-level misdemeanor offenses,” Castro said.

The Justice Lab has eight initiatives designed to help break the cycle of incarceration, including: a multi-disciplinary Team, an in-jail clinician, the Long Beach Government User Integrated Diversion Enhancement System, a data sharing agreement, a data warehouse and the Long Beach State Rising Scholars Education Lab.

The LBSU Rising Scholars Education Lab is a program launched by students who were formerly incarcerated and believe higher education is a key to successfully diverting individuals out of the criminal justice system and down a better path.

Irene Sotelo, a LBSU student, vice president and co-founder of the program, was formerly incarcerated and voiced her support for the program.

“I believe education is a great step to help those [people] not return to prison or jail,” she said. “I’ve been in and out of the system since I was 12, and now I’m already graduating with my master’s to help those that are getting out of prison.”

The Justice Lab received over $1 million in allocated funds from The Laura and John Arnold Foundation to support these initiatives. The 2019 fiscal year budget for the Justice Lab includes $100,000 of one-time funds in the General Fund in the Police Department to extend jail clinician services. The motion to proceed with this program passed 8-0.

The next city council meeting will convene Nov. 13 at 5 p.m. 

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