Consultancy claims BBB will ‘reboot’ council terms, campaign spokesperson and attorney refute assertions

A local consultancy advocating against Measure BBB, a Nov. 6 ballot initiative that would establish a three-term limit for Long Beach elected officials, released a report this week stating that the initiative would “reboot” councilmember terms and allow incumbents to serve three more times under the measure. A pro-campaign spokesperson and a deputy city attorney said the claims are inaccurate.
The Cal Heights Consultancy released its report Oct. 31, this time retaining the services of Gautam Dutta, a Bay-area attorney that told the Signal Tribune Nov. 1 that he worked on Long Beach council issues related to election reform around 2008 and 2009. Dutta said he provided legal analysis of Measure BBB and wrote in the report that the initiative could only apply “prospectively,” or moving forward, if passed Nov. 6.
“In other words, yes, the clock starts at zero for everybody, including incumbents,” he said. “There would likely be a court challenge, and the court would hold that [the measure] could only apply prospectively and not retroactively to incumbents.”
In an emailed statement to the Signal Tribune Nov. 1, Mark Taylor, Measure BBB campaign spokesperson, wrote that the initiative’s language states that it would not apply the way Dutta suggests if it were to pass.
“The city attorney has been clear from day one that Measure BBB will limit the mayor and councilmembers to three terms and that this limit applies to current office holders,” Taylor wrote.
“The opposition to these measures has consistently tried to mislead voters, and this just the latest example.”
In a phone interview the afternoon of Nov. 1, Amy Webber, Long Beach deputy city attorney, told the Signal Tribune that “there is no way” an incumbent can run three additional terms under Measure BBB, adding that the opposition is “confusing” and “oversimplifying” things.
She said Measure BBB takes into account that the city has had a two-term limit in its charter, section 214, since 1992, and the measure can only apply prospectively from that date.
“So, if you’re the mayor, you’ve served two full terms, and you can only serve one more term,” she said. “If you’re another councilmember and served one term, you can serve two more terms. So, the one twist on it is that if you happen to be an elected official before 1992, which means you’d be pretty old at this point, there were no term limits in effect at that point. The current charter term limit was put into the charter in 1992. So, those people could potentially serve three new terms. But I’m not sure if we have any of those still living.”
In his analysis, Dutta cited the 2000 case Woo v. Superior Court, in which the courts cleared Los Angeles councilmember Michael Woo, who had served two terms as an elected official, to vie for his old council seat, since he was in office before voters approved two-term limits in the city.
“So, he put in a court challenge, and [they] agreed with him that this could only apply prospectively,” Dutta said. “‘You have a right to seek two additional terms under this law.’”
In response to the Woo case, Webber said that “it doesn’t apply to the facts here.”
“It’s actually sort of a complicated thing, because this isn’t like a brand new term limit,” she said. “So, that was the case in the Woo case that they cited. They were talking about a new term limit and how that applies. With this, Long Beach, for many years now– since 1992– has had a two-term limit.”
Long Beach candidates who have successfully achieved additional terms as write-ins are Vice Mayor Dee Andrews, when he was a councilmember, and former Mayor Beverly O’Neill– two examples that Dutta references in his report and Webber mentioned during the phone interview Nov. 1.
Webber said Measure BBB’s intent is to eliminate what many city officials deem a loophole, in which write-in candidates can run for office an unlimited number of times in the city.
“The purpose of this is to make it clear in the measure that the limit was three terms,” she said. “So, like I say, the only possibility that somebody could have three brand new terms is an incumbent who served prior to 1992, when the current term limit was in effect.”
Dutta said he “doesn’t have a horse in this race,” but mentioned that the measure itself is “misleading.”
“The legal precedent in California law makes it clear that changes to term-limit laws can only apply prospectively, regardless of what the measure says,” Dutta said. “When it hits the courts, the courts will only apply it prospectively. So, one can say everything that one will about how they promise it will apply retroactively, but the truth of the matter is that, under the law, it can only be applied prospectively.”
Long Beach voters will have a choice to vote “yes” or “no” on Measure BBB, along with three other charter-amendment measures, Nov. 6.


Leave a Reply

FREE newsletter sign-up! Receive the latest news directly to your inbox every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Success! You're on the list.