A Significant LBRC Victory At The Long Beach Water Board In The Fight To Keep Public Money Separate From Mayor Garcia's Political Campaigns
Yesterday, at its third meeting in a row attended by Long Beach Reform Coalition activists, the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners finally reversed course and decided against hiring pollster John Fairbank and his firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz, & Assoc. (FM3).
Hiring Fairbank at public expense—who was so brazen as to openly brag to the Board that he'd already had “the pleasure of raising all of [our] taxes locally here” (in recent years) and imply his polling could be used to "move voters", defeat the City's "opponents", and even corrupt the title and summary of ballot descriptions (which must be written free of political bias by the City Attorney under state law)—would have been not only a clear violation of law, it would have been a violation of the basic tenets of democracy.
As the California Supreme Court stated in its Stanson decision: “A fundamental precept of this nation’s democratic process is that the government may not ‘take sides’ in election contests.”
And this whole episode reminds one of Benjamin Franklin's oft-quoted retort after the Constitutional Convention, answering the query, what had just been achieved, a republic or a monarchy: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” It's our job to keep it. Yesterday, on the local level, we did our part.
And yet, while we are proud that in the end the Water Board made the right decision, we know that the ongoing threat of City Hall illegally weaponizing taxpayer funds for political advocacy against both the interests and the free exercise of democracy of its own residents remains ever-present.
Therefore we are now considering a lawsuit against the City to prevent further violations of that most basic principle of an even playing field for political campaigns before an election. We have local precedent for this. A suit, based on that California Supreme Court Stanson decision, by a Long Beach anti-utility tax activist in 2001 achieved a successful outcome, forcing the City to admit to engaging in advocacy at taxpayer expense, to stop the practice (apparently they've since forgotten!), and even to pay legal expenses.
We will keep you updated as events unfold, and of course we remain ever-vigilant, with our eyes always fixed on this City Hall.
For more on the greater scandal of City Hall politically weaponizing your tax dollars, see the EXPLAINER VIDEO.