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    News

    Councilwoman Kell Criticized For Agendizing LB Voter Survey -- Funded By JetBlue -- As "Update" on JetBlue's "Community Outreach Efforts"

    We post verbatim text of survey


    (June 4, 2003, updated June 14 with add'l transcript & text) -- 5th district Councilwoman Kell was publicly chided by some of her fellow Councilmembers, and criticized by LBHUSH2 airport-monitoring homeowners, for placing on the June 3 City Council agenda what her agendizing memo said would be an "update" on JetBlue's "community outreach efforts"...but what turned out to be primarily a survey of LB voters regarding LB Airport, paid for JetBlue Airways.

    The survey, conducted by a firm retained by JetBlue, concluded that LB voters as a whole unequivocally supported LB Airport as an important part of the LB economy and a convenient transportation option for residents.

    LBReport.com posts the verbatim survey, a 65 page document in pdf form, on a link below. The document was emailed to us on June 4 as promised following our request on June 3.

    JetBlue Airport survey, June 3/03The survey was presented to the Council by the survey firm's reps in a "power point" presentation using the Council Chamber's graphic equipment. [Mayor O'Neill's practice has been to let Councilmembers use the graphic equipment to illustrate items they agendize (and Kell agendized the JetBlue item.)]

    Councilwoman Kell agendized the item with the following memo placed in the public Council agenda package:

    In an effort to make even more information available to residents and the City Council, I am asking for a [sic] update from JetBlue on their Operations and Community Outreach efforts.

    On the afternoon of June 3, LBReport.com first learned and reported that JetBlue reps had been at LB City Hall and elsewhere discussing some kind of public opinion survey conducted for JetBlue regarding LB Airport...and our report noted that June 3 was the same day Councilwoman Kell had agendized her "community outreach" item.

    The news spread quickly. By 5:30 p.m., LBHUSH2 leaders Rae Gabelich and Mike Kowal had arrived in the Council chamber visibly displeased at having to drop their daily schedules after being blindsided by Kell's nondescript appearing item...which (as surmised) actually included the high visibility JetBlue funded Airport survey. Ms. Gabelich and Mr. Kowal told LBReport.com that no one from Kell's office, or City Hall had told them any such survey of voters regarding the Airport was part of Kell's Airport "community outreach" item.

    Mr. Kowal said from the podium that 8th district Councilman Rob Webb's office had asked that three Airport related items scheduled for the June 3 meeting -- Kell's JetBlue item, the City Prosecutor's JetBlue Consent Decree item (first reported by LBReport.com), plus city management's CAFR representation (first reported by LBReport.com to contain a reference to Airport flight activity) -- be held until Webb returned from a previously scheduled Council absence. Councilman Webb has confirmed to LBReport.com that he had advised the City Manager and Mayor's office two weeks earlier that he had a conflicting commitment out of LB that would require his absence from the June 3 Council meeting.

    8th district resident and Los Cerritos/Bixby Knolls area realtor Mike Kowal told the Council, "Our district tonight is not represented. Our Councilmember could not be here, and the courtesy wasn't extended to him to speak to these items."

    Of the three items, only the City Prosecutor's item discussing the JetBlue Consent Decree item appears to have been related to breaking events outside City Hall's control. Court approval of the Consent Decree came on May 30, and June 3 was the City Prosecutor's first opportunity to brief the Council and public on the breaking news story. All three items Airport items went through as scheduled notwithstanding Webb's request to hold them.

    LBReport.com has learned that over a period of roughly two days leading up to the June 3 Council meeting, JetBlue reps held briefings and discussions with Council offices and city management regarding the 50+ page survey performed for them which purports to indicate LB voter attitudes about LB Airport.

    LBReport.com was told by JetBlue that the meetings ranged from full briefings to telephone contacts and involved nearly every Council office (either with the Councilmember or his/her staff) and city management. Among those also invited to a briefing was Press-Telegram reporter Felix Sanchez. Those attending were provided with a copy of the survey.

    LBReport.com was not among those told about the survey or briefed. At the June 3 Council meeting, we requested a copy of the complete survey, which was emailed to us on June 4 (as promised). LBReport.com has posted the survey verbatim in pdf form on a link at the conclusion of this article.

    When given the floor to introduce her agenda item, Councilwoman Kell said:

    "Since the Airport is located in the 5th district, and we are very interested in what goes on with the airlines that are based there, we are going to have a report presented by JetBlue Airlines presented to the City Council and our residents as an informational tool, so that we may be more apprised about some of JetBlue's community outreach efforts in Long Beach. A citywide survey was taken by JetBlue and they would like to share the results with us." [The survey wasn't taken by JetBlue but by a firm commissioned by JetBlue.]

    We post below some extended excerpts of what took place. Our transcript is unofficial, prepared by us. We have also posted the voter survey in its entirety on a link below, which can speak for itself. Not all speakers or statements are included; ellipses indicate deletions; bracketed material included by us for clarity; colloquy was extemporaneous and should be read accordingly.

    Brian Godbe (survey firm rep): ...Godbe Research and Analysis has been in business since 1990 and we have specialized in doing market research for government agencies like cities, school districts, counties, special districts, transportation agencies, and we've done government affairs work for corporations that have issues that are in front of cities.

    Probably the best testimony to the accuracy of our work is for cities like yourself and school districts and counties that have had revenue measures on the ballot, or considered placing them on the ballot, that we've done surveys for, to find out the feasibility of a tax measure. Of those that we have recommended the cities and the counties and school districts place on the ballot, 83% of them have been successful. That's generally the 2/3 level which as you probably know is very difficult to attain in a tax measure. That's the kind of government work and government affairs work that we've specialized in doing over the years...

    Josh Williams [another rep from the survey firm]: ...This is one of the bellwether questions of the survey, let me read it to you and then we'll talk about the results:

    I'd like to read you the opinions of two residents of the City. Smith and Brown disagree on their opinions regarding the Long Beach Airport. As I read their opinions, please tell me which one is closer to your own opinion. We randomized the order of the two so there wasn't any position bias. Brown thinks the Long Beach airport should be shut down because it creates traffic, increases the number of people coming through our City, and degrades our air quality. Smith sees the Long Beach Airport as a valuable asset in our community because it stimulates the economy, enhances tourism for our city, creates jobs, and provides a convenient transportation option for residents and visitors. Whose opinion is closer to your own opinion?

    And we can see here, overall support for the Smith position, which was in favor of the Airport, was 83%. Overall opposition to the Airport was 11.7[%] or 12%. Let me end with about 5% that were undecided or a combination or neither.

    We actually break this down by district, and one of the reasons that I think this cross-tabular table is important is because it shows that we really, if anything, it tells us there's not a whole lot of discrepancy in support of the Airport versus opposition. The lowest district supported the proposal by 78% for and 17% in opposition, still four to five to one in favor of the Airport. Support went as high as 90% in one district, but I guess the important kind of cross-tabular analysis is there isn't a huge distinction between any of the districts, that an overwhelming majority support the Airport in each district...

    ...The next question we ask, I'm just going to read the question itself:

    The Long Beach Airport does not have enough permanent facilities to meet the current demand for parking, waiting areas and facilities, services such as car rentals. In the upcoming months, the Airport is developing a plan to replace temporary facilities at the Airport with more permanent structures. The permanent structures, if built, would not expand the capacity of the Airport, only replace the temporary facilities that exist today. Do you support replacing temporary facilities at the Long Beach Airport with more permanent structures?

    And then we asked is that definitely or probably, either yes or no?

    And we can see that we have approximately 79% that said either definitely or probably yes, with over half saying they definitely would support that. Opposition to this question was at about 13% with 7 1/2[%], 8%, saying "do not know" or not answering the question.

    Mr. Godbe: I think it's important to note in this question and the previous question, while there isn't anything contemplated being on the ballot at this particular moment, if this were on the ballot, and I'm sure any of you who've looked at public opinion polling over the years know that this kind of number is a slam dunk. It's amazing how strong these numbers are in favor of this particular proposal...[survey reps' presentation continues to conclusion. Kell defers remarks until hearing from other Councilmembers]...

    Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga: You know, when I saw this agenda item I was really excited to find that we were going to get an update on the operations and community outreach of JetBlue. I was hoping also that maybe we could include some outreach efforts from the Airport itself. However, after hearing this market research, it really doesn't relate to anything in terms of community outreach. I don't understand how this agenda item relates.

    But in saying that, I would hope that at some point we could come back and find out about what your true community outreach is, not from the research firm but from JetBlue the company and find out what theyíre doing to outreach to the community...

    ...On another item [on] overall perception of the Long Beach Airport, it was interesting that you asked two questions...could you just repeat those two questions?

    Mr. Williams: Certainly, certainly...and I'll read the question and Iíll tell you kind of what the objective behind them. [verbatim question text above] I'd like to read you the opinion of two residents...Smith sees the Long Beach Airport as a valuable asset in our community because it stimulates the economy and enhances tourism for our city, creates jobs, and provides a convenient transportation option for residents and visitors. Brown thinks the Long Beach Airport should be shut down because it creates traffic, increases the number of people coming through our city, and degrades our air quality.

    Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga: Well, you have all these beautiful positives and then you have all these terrible negatives and you have nothing in between...

    [survey firm rep, hard to discern voice]: Right.

    Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga: And I guess my concern is, I agree with statement one and I don't agree with statement two that it should be shut down. But I also agree that it shouldnít be growing out of control, so thereís some in between point where if you ask these types of questions, and I understand market research, and that's why I was upset that it was not community outreach, a report on community outreach, because I think you would have gotten, in market research you develop the questions, you craft the questions to get the answer you want. So if you're going to ask me do I want to shut down the airport, well maybe not, but that doesnít mean that I totally agree with everything thatís happening there either.

    So, if you wanted someone to say where do they fall in between this, people more often, because of the goodness of the their nature I think are probably go towards the positive...actually I was surprised that you had 12% [to shut down the Airport]. That to me was pretty high, given the question that you asked: Do you want to shut down the Airport? To have 12% of the people say yes, you know I think if you would have asked something a little more in between...maybe about curtailing growth or if you wanted to do a more reasonable question you probably would have had a much higher response...

    Mr. Godbe: Well I think itís important to note that the two options are the polar opposites. People can say the combination of the two if they want and the number for a combination was 1.5% which statistically is insignificant. They could also say neither of them, so you've got mixed opinions and middle opinions that are allowed in the question, that we present the polar opposites but we allow both of those. The mixed opinions and the neither account for less than five percent. So I think that, there are mid-points and there are shades of gray built into this question but you have to...

    Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga: Well, I think even if you ask people who are here that are going to say that they are concerned about the growth of the Airport, theyíre not going to say...that maybe it should be shut down. I mean they're realistic, but I thought that that was totally fantasy questioning, but thatís market research, what can I say?

    Mr. Godbe: Well, I guess I would also say, respectfully, market research is designed to be accurate. I mean we're...

    Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga: Itís accurate as to the, I mean I took the statistics class. I know that when you ask the question, you craft it so that you get the, anyway, let me go to the next item. The first ballot test, you have a thing about hold room capacity to fly....[N]ow the question you asked..."The Airport is developing a plan to replace temporary facilities at the airport with more permanent structures. The permanent structures, if built, would not expand the capacity of the airport." But the permanent structure is replacing a temporary structure which is expanding the capacity of the airport. So Iím not sure what youíre telling people...

    And then another item: Features and Services of the Long Beach Airport. You had five...and I think the last one, no flights after 10:00 PM...

    I'm not sure how you'd phrase that question, because if you would have asked, "Do you feel the airport or JetBlue are doing enough to restrict flights after 10:00 PM?" you might have gotten a different response. But what is this? Were you asking them do they feel that no flights after 10:00 PM, I mean we know now that right now we...

    Mr. Williams: Right. The purpose of the these questions are [sic] to, just like in a political campaign, people learn more information about a given proposal. So, if you heard that there were no flights scheduled after, let me read it...

    Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga: And if that were true, that would be a different story, but there are flights after 10:00 PM and I guess that's the thing, is that when you say "if there are no flights after 10:00 PM, would you be inclined to support the Airport?" Sure, but is that true?

    Mr. Williams: If you read the question, it says "does not allow flights to be scheduled to arrive or depart after 10:00 PM." So, the point being, is if you heard that, would you that make you more or less likely to support the measure? I guess maybe we need to emphasize "scheduled" there.

    Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga: Well, I guess we need to discuss that in item 32 of the agenda then [item was City Prosecutor Reeves discussing his office's Consent Decree with JetBlue relating to late night flights], because that's coming up...Thatís why when I'm talking about outreach, community outreach, I was really excited to think, hey, you know what? This is a real good educational tool. Let's cross that bridge between those people who really don't know about the Airport, and may be inclined to find out a little bit more, use it as a, not just a slick political thing to say this it what we need to do but, hey, if you can educate people about what's happening there I think youíll go a lot further than trying to pull the wool over their eyes, which I think some of these questions do.

    My last thing, thatís all I wanted to say, is issues regarding the Long Beach Airport Proposal. You talked about that the majority of them did agree with Long Beach bringing jobs into the community and the Airport has played an important part in that growth. But, no information on the types of jobs, whether they were good jobs or not, and actually if any of the people in Long Beach were actually benefiting from those jobs...

    ...And [my] last question is, what political measure are you going to put on the ballot and why did you gather this information I guess I need to know?

    I know that a community outreach effort is to inform the community, not to try to win some political battle. I mean, hopefully it's about building relationships and so I would hope that someplace down the road that we would get a community outreach report and not a marketing report.

    Mr. Godbe: Obviously, JetBlue has its internal staff that can speak to that in more detail. I mean our charge is to assess, in a scientific manner, what the community as a whole is thinking about these issues.

    Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga: Based on your questions.

    Mr. Godbe: Based on the questions in this survey, that's absolutely true.

    After Councilwoman's Reyes-Uranga's cross-examination, Councilwoman Kell and Mayor O'Neill could be seen conferring off mike...and after Reyes-Uranga concluded, Kell moved the survey reps off mike by inviting Airport area business leader Curt Castagna (Aeroplex) to speak in his capacity as chair of the LB Airport Noise Committee.

    Mr. Castagna discussed work done by the committee to mitigate noise, and commended JetBlue for recently implementing a new take off procedure after consultations locally that he said produced quieter operations.

    "Tonight we'd like to recognize JetBlue for their recent commitment in taking proactive measures to negate the impact of their operations on the residents of Long Beach...Through the leadership of JetBlue's Captain Charlie Andrews, a coordinated effort was undertaken with the manufacturer of Airbus, the FAA air traffic control, and through the assistance of our committee and Airport Noise staff, JetBlue was able to design and implement engine and air frame departure procedures that safely allowed their climb out of Long Beach while reducing the actual noise impact into the community. The implementation of this procedure was established on May 2 [2003], and it has a positive effect. Since that time, JetBlue has not violated the noise ordinance and as well as a documented reduction in their noise impact readings.

    Our committee would like to thank JetBlue for making this significant investment in time and resources..."

    Mr. Castagna also cited upgrades and measures taken by UPS, Airborne Express and Gulfstream to mitigate noise. And he added:

    "The success of these types of measures would not be possible without the understanding of the Airport staff who recognize our need to maintain timely and accurate noise data reporting.

    And of course the consistent policy controls provided by you in this Council in upholding the noise ordinance, which has demonstrated its merit in protecting both balanced airport operations and the residential quality of life."

    When the public was given the floor, the public quickly returned to the JetBlue survey. LBHUSH2 founder Rae Gabelich was incensed at the way Councilwoman Kell had brought the JetBlue funded survey to the public Council meeting:

    JetBlue Airport survey, June 3/03"I feel like I just listened to a JetBlue infomercial," Ms. Gabelich said, adding "Never in any time that we have come before Council to discuss our concerns over Airport expansion have we tried to degrade or put down the operation of JetBlue. We support what they do and what they provide for the community, but we do not support growth at this Airport..."

    She then turned to Councilwoman Kell:

    "And Jackie, I am really sorry, but I think this is a terrible misuse of taxpayers' money [using the Council meeting to present the JetBlue funded survey]. If they wanted to present this to the community, then they should have gone out and put on a show at the Convention Center...

    [addressing herself directly to Kell] Did you know that this report was about a survey that was done or did you really believe that it was about community outreach? Because I can tell you that if this had been promoted, or publicized, you would have a full auditorium."

    Councilwoman Kell did not publicly answer Ms. Gabelich's query, but in a telephone conversation with LBReport.com prior to the start of the Council meeting, Councilwoman Kell said she was aware when agendized the item that it would involve presentation of a JetBlue funded public opinion survey. She said she had not seen the survey before agendizing the item but was told it would be a factual presentation. She acknowledged that she and others were briefed on the survey before the Council meeting.

    Other members of the public, including LB realtor Joe Sopo, came to the podium, critical of the Council proceedings. Mr. Sopo commented, "If the Airbus is so clean, I'm sure that the Council won't mind if we have a health risk assessment included in the [Airport terminal project] EIR. And I'm glad we got to the part [of the survey] that only 10% of the people who do use Long Beach Airport live in the City of Long Beach..."

    However LB Area Convention and Visitors Bureau chief Steve Goodling came to the podium and praised JetBlue for the "community partnership that JetBlue has brought to the tourism efforts here in our city." Mr. Goodling said:

    JetBlue Airport survey, June 3/03

    [JetBlue CEO] David Neeleman quickly assessed the market potential of Long Beach. Since then, [JetBlue] has been a great partner of the tourism effort here. They have hosted two client familiarization trips, where we have flown clients out from New York City and Washington, D.C. The New York City fam trip last year has already converted into five definite group pieces of business because of that effort. In addition, when JetBlue recently opened up Atlanta, they joined us at an Atlanta trade show as a partner in our booth and promoted Long Beach as a destination for meeting planners out of Atlanta. As well, they've also brought out press to our city so that we could showcase all that is happening here, and we've gotten an article as well from that. So I just want to share with you the partnership and, quite honestly, the outreach that JetBlue has offered to us, and done for us, in many cities, and they've elevated the name of Long Beach to the point where in some places now, especially in New York, people know there is a Long Beach that happens to be in L.A. County and not a Long Beach that is somewhere north of Santa Barbara which some people used to think...

    As the item wound to a conclusion, Councilwoman Laura Richardson said diplomatically, "I think we just experienced a one-hour example of what semantics means...I think probably in hindsight, had we just said we're going to give a report on a study done on what people think about the Airport in Long Beach, we wouldn't have heard probably 50-70% of these comments because there just was clearly a misunderstanding of what the purpose was tonight..."

    Councilwoman Richardson added, "In the briefing I had today regarding this issue, I want to reassure the public that's here, there was no discussion about talking about making the airport bigger, about doing more flights than what has already been discussed here multiple times. There was no discussion about that at all. So, I got no impression that that was the desire of the presenters today to kind of slip something in..."

    Councilwoman Kell moved to receive and file the survey...and it was.

    To view the survey in pdf form (65 pages, approx. 2.5 MB), click Survey of Long Beach Voters Conducted For JetBlue Airways.


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