Rare Wednesday vote for Obagi, Jr. recall, cannabis in Redondo Beach

District Four Redondo Beach city councilman Zein Obagi, Jr., speaking at an event earlier this year, faces an intent for recall ten months after taking office. Photo by Wayne Craig.

by Garth Meyer

The Zein Obagi, Jr. recall and cannabis initiative to go before voters Oct. 19 will be a rare Wednesday election in Redondo Beach. 

The date was proposed by Mayor Pro-Tem Nils Nehrenheim and passed with votes from Todd Loewenstein and Obagi.

“There has not been a Wednesday election in the time that I’ve been city clerk,” said Eleanor Manzano, clerk for the past 15 years.

Nehrenheim told the Easy Reader that he and Loewenstein talked before the July 18 meeting and picked Oct. 19 for the special election.

“This is one more opportunity to increase awareness and educate the community,” Nehrenheim said. “There’s a lot of special elections held on different days. You can ensure you get as much participation as possible. If someone forgets on a Tuesday, there is a safety net of an extra day to get it in. Instead of Tuesday (Oct. 18), we can make the reminder Tuesday night (at the Oct. 18 council meeting).”

To run another ballot in the expected high-turnout, mid-term election Nov. 8 would be a suppressor to Redondo’s recall and cannabis votes, Nehrenheim said. 

“The mid-term is going to be a massive election. Voter apathy is a significant issue. There’s a lot to get educated on and distract the voters. People get tired of going through it all and end up skipping over them. Oct. 19 is (for) just our community.”

In turn, Nehrenheim surmised that Redondo’s double-vote, on its own day, could raise the turnout for each. 

How it came about

The Oct. 19 date was approved with a near-midnight 3-0 vote after councilmembers Christian Horvath and Laura Emdee walked out. 

Horvath left in protest, and Emdee as a “tactic” to deny a quorum as Obagi, Jr. still had to drive back to San Diego that night for a work obligation. He returned to council chambers though, to make a quorum.

If the Redondo council had not approved an election date that night for the Obagi recall, it would have run up against a July 26 deadline to do so. Otherwise, the decision would default to L.A. County, which would have run it Nov. 8. 

The Redondo city council had no meeting this week. 

Requirements

An election may be held any day of the week. 

The only requirement in this case was that the Obagi recall fall inside a window of time no less than 88-125 days after certification of the signatures. 

If another election is already set for a date in that window, the recall must be held then. However, if a special election is called before that, it takes precedent. Oct. 19 is before the Nov. 8 general election, thus the recall is eligible to go on the earlier date.

The calling of the cannabis vote for an October special election is what allowed the Obagi recall vote to be held outside of Nov. 8. 

A special election for a recall can only be called if no other election already falls within the 88-125 day window. 

Risk?

Is it a risk to put these two issues together on one ballot?

The city council had previously voted 5-0 to send the cannabis matter to next year, with stated reasons being it would allow time for the public to see the city’s own retail cannabis ordinance in action.

Thus, voters would deem the initiative unnecessary. 

The council passed its ordinance on this just last week.

“I wasn’t weighing any type of risk,” Nehrenheim said, of putting the two ballots together in October. “We need to have a conversation in this community about special interests that want to take over our council and our laws, on how we run our city.”

Opinion

At the July 18 council meeting, earlier in the night, City Attorney Mike Webb gave his opinion that the proposed, combined October special election was not properly agendized, according to state law. 

“It was ridiculous,” said Nehrenheim. “All the verbage that we needed was there. I couldn’t tell you the political motives (for Webb’s opinion) but this was properly agendized.”

Webb’s Brown Act opinion followed some public comment in the past month suggesting the October election decision and the June 21 mayor pro-tem vote had violated the Brown Act. 

“Any interested person, including the District Attorney, may file a court action seeking to invalidate actions of a legislative body on the ground that they violate the Brown Act,” Webb said. ER

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