(June 5, 2006) -- For years, LBReport.com has reported on the use of what we call "stealth lobbying" (not secret but below the radar advocacy) by LB City Hall and the Port of LB to advance policies in their interests and, more importantly, without revealing their advocacy publicly so the policies they're advocating using public money can be publicly set in a democratic manner, not undemocratically decreed without the consent of the governed.
Today, on the day before the election that will decide who will become LB's next Mayor and three Councilmembers for the next four years, the U.S. Conference of Mayors -- a private group in which LB's outgoing Mayor Beverly O'Neill has been president for the last year and in its leadership for several years -- will take up a resolution entitled, "Revitalizing Cities Through Eminent Domain."
This comes after after the Mayor's group, a private group funded basically by taxpayers' money (spent by City Halls on dues and memberships) -- along with the "National League of Cities" and the "League of CA Cities" (two other private lobbying groups funded in similar fashion) joined in filing a "Friend of the Court Brief" urging the U.S. Supreme to rule against the rights of private property owners. The Mayors' group and the Leagues wanted the Court to hold that it's constitutional for a city to take someone's house by eminent domain -- not just to expand a public use like a school or park -- but to take someone's home and give it a corporatation for that entity's private gain -- to build themselves a desired development -- on grounds their private development might benefit the public by increasing tax revenue to the city.
On a narrow 5-4 vote roughly a year ago, the Supreme Court upheld this appalling principle in Kelo vs. City of New London (CT). The Mayors' group and the Leagues promptly issued press releases crowing about their "victory." They're now resisting efforts in Congress and state legislatures to deter or prevent City Halls from taking the type of actions that groups to the Supreme Court to uphold, trying to block efforts to protect property owners from these abuses of government power by either killing the measures outright or advancing diversionary, watered down sops.
Early last night (June 4), we emailed campaign operatives from the Bob Foster and Frank Colonna Mayoral campaigns the text of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' "Revitalizing Cities Through Eminent Domain" proposed resolution. We asked them if that issue should have come to the City Council first and what actions as Mayor they'd take regarding the "Conference of Mayors" proposed resolution. As of 11:30 a.m. today (June 5) neither has responded. We'll update what they say if and when they say it.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Leagues are both trying to persuade property owners that states like California give homeowners "protections" via the "Redevelopment process" which requires "findings" of "blight" before taking someone's property. Only the most credulous would believe this in view of multiple abusive California cases showing the abusive (and too often in our view counter-productive) use of Redevelopment. That's why CA homeowners have now collected thousands of signatures to force on the November ballot at a homeowner protection measure to put real property owner protections in the state constitution beyond the reach of craven politicians. (The "CA Redevelopment Association," in which LB's Redevelopment Agency is a dues-paying member, opposes that measure).
LBReport.com has been consistent -- long before this election cycle -- in opposing "stealth lobbying" by LB city officials who have used and continue to use public money to lobby for and against public laws on controversial policies without public discussion. We find this highly offensive, tantamount to running government without the consent of the governed. LB voters elected a Mayor to speak for our city, not for herself at our expense.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, the Port of LB (currently governed by non-elected, non-recallable Mayor chosen, Council approved Harbor Commissioners) has used stealth lobbying via its DC lobbyist to defeat container fees to fund homeland security measures. The PoLB, through its membership in the "American Ass'n of Port Authorities" (another private lobbying group like the Mayors group and Leagues), recently helped defeat an effort to require the 100% inspection of incoming cargo containers. The Port and City Hall, which still unwisely share the same DC lobbyist, have both unwisely tied needed 710 freeway improvements to a costly taxpayer rebuilding of the Gerald Desmond bridge, which would remove the only safety valve now protecting LB residents from even bigger container ships bringing even more uninspected containers requiring more trains and trucks to carry them.
To our knowledge, only one candidate for LB public office in this election cycle has testified in opposition to this: Bry Myown.
Ms. Myown did this before she was a candidate. She did when it meant facing down the Mayor and incumbent Councilmembers. She did it on these issues when she was told nobody would care.
She did it on the 80+ million gallons of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) that the incumbent Mayor and others thought was so smart in the Port roughly two miles from downtown Long Beach. Mayor O'Neill prematurely applauded this and stealthfully tried to fast-track the Port's actions...until Ms. Myown blew the whistle on them.
Ms. Myown has shown unfliching principle and intellectual horsepower on all of these issues. She has done more than anyone else we know to educate residents, businesses and city officials and protect them on serious issues surrounding the LNG proposal. In our view, she has been repeatedly proven right on the merits.
In highlighting her name -- Myown -- her campaign focuses on the fundamental issue in the 2nd district election and citywide: Whose city is it anyway?
And in that city, whose home is it anyway? Yours...or City Hall's?