Judy Rae

On Local Government – John Gran’s “own goal”

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by Bob Pinzler

Redondo Beach City Councilmember John Gran has been served with papers that begin the process of recalling him from his District 4 seat. He was “charged” with forsaking his fiduciary responsibilities by not voting for a $24,000 study to determine whether it would be more financially responsible for the City to contract its fire services to the County of Los Angeles, rather than to retain its own department.

The issue came to a head when Gran, who had backed a preliminary study of the proposal, changed his mind and joined colleagues Laura Emdee and Christian Horvath in refusing to spend the money. (Whether they colluded in this vote, thus violating the Brown Act, is for another time.) Even when the Firefighter’s union offered to pay for the study themselves, Gran demurred.

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In the lengthy City Council discussion that led to the decision, much was made of the impact of this $24,000 expense on a problematic city budget. This despite approval after approval of recent consulting contracts that dwarfed this particular one. 

So, what other path might Gran have chosen? Since he must be assuming that a study will show the benefits of contracting, a better bet for him would have been to delay it. 

One old adage of the government business is that if you want an idea to die, assign it to a commission. While he probably knows that there are powerful members of the Budget and Finance commission who believe in the contracting plan, this could have been sent to the somewhat moribund Public Safety Commission. There it would probably languor while Gran got on with his business, which includes a likely re-election campaign in 2021.

Another adage is not to wake a sleeping giant. In every city, and especially in small cities like Redondo, firefighters are held in high regard. They are also politically active. By making the firefighters his enemy, Gran has now made his reelection tougher. They will knock on doors, spend money on mailers and harass him at Council meetings. It will not be fun. It will also be expensive for him.

Two elements of this process still have to be determined. First is whether enough signatures can be collected to authorize the recall vote. In this case, it is 25 percent of the registered voters. If that can be obtained, Gran would be in a very difficult position, since that number would be far more than voted for him in the last election.

The second element is Gran’s replacement, who has to appear on the same ballot. Many recalls are won because the people running to replace the sitting official is more attractive than the one being recalled. Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger? He enabled the recall of Gray Davis.So, now Gran has to deal with months of unsettling activity in his life, greater expense and, perhaps, the shame of losing because he didn’t do what he could have to make this recall not happen. 

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