(Nov. 22, 2006) -- While the Long Beach Press-Telegram assured Long Beach voters through multiple election cycles that City Hall was "on the right track," portraying taxpayer sinkholes as successes, a LB taxpayer was doing the job of ten journalists armed only with a computer and state freedom of information law.
Former ELB homeowner (now LB refugee/Missouri resident) Traci Wilson-Kleekamp blew the whistle after figuring out that for an extended period of time, LB City Hall wasn't collecting rent from City Hall's operator of the city-owned Queen Mary for what seemed like no reasonable reasons. She nagged reporters and posted on the internet what she found -- and didn't find -- in City Hall's records. She persisted in this until the PT and we reported the story.
The net effect turned up the heat...and City Hall (under newly named City Manager Jerry Miller) belatedly sought rent allegedly back due; the QM operator denied the rent was due and filed for bankruptcy protection.
On Nov. 21, 2006, City Hall announced a tentative settlement (subject to Bankruptcy Court approval) in which the QM operator will pay City Hall up to $9 million (almost $5 million from priority proceeds, the rest hopefully forthcoming thereafter) as part of the bankruptcy proceeding.
In writing the story (admittedly on deadline), the Press-Telegram failed to to mention Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp...as if City Hall had pursued the public money due the public on its own.
In our view, if it weren't for Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp, LB taxpayers would likely still be getting shortchanged in the millions...and it wasn't the first time Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp did what LB public officials should have done.
A few years earlier, again using public records, she questioned figures on hotel room bookings claimed by LB's Convention & Visitors Bureau (under former management)...an entity funded mainly with public money.
In April 2006, LB voters spoke on the Queen Mary and other matters, refusing to reeelect LB's then-incumbent City Auditor. (The Press-Telegram endorsed the incumbent; LBReport.com was the only LB media outlet to endorse the challenger.)
Asked by us for comment as the QM rent/rent credits story broke last night, Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp replied without hesitation. "Maybe now they'll give me my documents."
By this she means a boatload of remaining records she requested years ago under the CA Public Records Act, only to be stonewalled by LB City Hall. While professing "transparency," LB City Hall went to court to obtain a "stay" blocking Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp's lawyers from pursuing the records until the bankruptcy matter is concluded.
That day is coming...and we want to see what City Hall didn't want to show.
In the meantime, regarding the way LB City Hall treated public money and a public asset for too long, we say what City Hall's apologists should be big enough to admit now. Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp was right.
Thank you, Traci.