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City Council Endorsements

  • 3d district: Diana Mann
  • 5th district: John Donaldson
  • 7th district: No on Donelon & Smith, but no endorsement
  • 9th district: Val Lerch

    (April 8, 2002) -- We have tried to apply citywide standards to Council races because under LB's current system, Council seats are effectively citywide positions.

    The 3d district Councilperson has as much power to vote on development, parks, police and pollution in the 5th district as the 5th district Councilperson does. And vice versa.

    LB's current system lets people we don't elect control what happens in our backyards. That means smart LB homeowners should urge their friends and neighbors in other districts to elect candidates who have the right priorities on citywide issues affecting us as well as them.

    The big boys (and girls) already do this to protect their interests. So should we.

    Our endorsements are influenced by two defining citywide issues: (1) LB police levels, and those who kept them too thin and (2) LB's utility tax and those who resisted Prop J's tax relief.

    For that reason, we regret being unable to endorse incumbent 3d district Councilman Frank Colonna or 5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell, although the two candidates are not the same on these issues.

    On the utility tax, Councilman Colonna took a lead role in trying to derail Mr. Ryan's Prop J, co-agendizing with Vice Mayor Baker and 4th district Councilman Carroll a 3% utility tax cut that magically mutated at the Council meeting into a 2.5% cut. Although Councilwoman Kell voted to put the Council counter-measure on the ballot and called it a "winner" (which it wasn't), she didn't lead the fight against the petition initiated measure the way Colonna did.

    On public safety, Colonna and Kell both bear responsibility (with other incumbents) for LB's current police deficit. They voted for budgets forwarded by incumbent Mayor O'Neill that failed to increase police as the Police Dept. 1994 Strategic Plan's preliminary staffing strategy recommended. During their term, the largest recent budgeted increase, 40 officers, didn't come from the Council or Mayor; it came from a federal grant secured by city staff (i.e. City Manager Taboada).

    When outgoing Mayor Ernie Kell left City Hall in July, 1994, he handed incoming Mayor Beverly O'Neill a budgeted police level of 839.4 sworn officers. Last month, the City Auditor reported that in February/02, LB actually had only 841 sworn officers and (based on our math) is expected to have only 881 sworn officers in May when a current Police Academy class graduates.

    This is outrageous. City Hall's own 1994 Police Dept. Strategic Plan's preliminary staffing strategy advised 1,023 sworn officers by two years ago, yet Colonna and Kell never mentioned that when they voted in Sept. 2001 for only 913.5.

  • Colonna and Kell cast their budget votes after Sept. 11...and left LB with fewer than 2.0 sworn officers per thousand for LB taxpayers while Signal Hill delivers closer to 3.0, and even L.A. provides over 2.0. And this is despite LBPD having to handle additional security tasks.

    On public safety, Councilman Colonna seems to be in his own virtual reality. Last year, he proposed, and the Council agreed, to hand an additional $1 million to the "Public Corporation for the Arts" above $750,000 that city management had already recommended. Colonna has since told a candidates' forum on the arts that he intends to support this again at budget time.

    Councilwoman Kell (and the rest of the Council) went along with this last year but Kell has publicly said that while last year was the year of the arts, she believes the coming budget year will be the year of the police. And in a recent Kell campaign mailer, she says she supports an increase in LBPD to 2.0 sworn officers per thousand residents.

    We believe her, but she'll be paddling uphill. After the City Auditor presented his devastating report, the City Auditor and City Manager responded by saying they planned to "update" (read: move the goal posts) on the Police Dept. Strategic Plan. Unless the Council says no, they will set lower police levels with terrorist risks in wartime than City Hall set eight years ago at peace.

    And last month, the Council let the City Manager brush back moves to increase police now. The Manager warned that immediate increases would require him to turn the budget upside down. We wish the incumbents had directed the Manager to do exactly that.

    Instead, they unwisely agreed to defer further police increases to the coming budget process. (Translation: this means their constituents won't see any increases until Oct. 1/02 and Sept. 30/03, if then).

    The totality of all this is not acceptable to us. Accordingly, the only issue now is whether challengers in these races are better on these and other related issues.

    We think Diana Mann in the 3d, John Donaldson in the 5th, and Val Lerch in the 9th are.

    3d district: Diana Mann

    Diana Mann, the gutsy, take no prisoners chair of ECO-link, is taking on Councilman Colonna. He has incumbency, but on issues we consider important, we think that's an anchor around his neck. We believe Ms. Mann is right on the merits on these and other issues.

    Ms. Mann supported Prop J (which passed by 65.4% in the 3d district). Councilman Colonna didn't support it and tried to derail it.

    She opposed Queensway Bay. He supported it.

    She opposed taking Scherer Park land for non park usage. He voted to approve it.

    Councilman Colonna also voted to raise the City Manager's pay above what CA pays its Governor. And he used district discretionary funds to have a slick, professional video produced touting the supposed environmental wealth of the LB breakwater. Clever move, but too clever by half, because the video (which has apparently been given to LB libraries) doesn't seriously discuss the breakwater's environmental detriments, demolishing its credibility. And Councilman Colonna showed fear, not confidence, when he voted against even studying a change in the LB breakwater.

    Minds are like umbrellas. They work best when they're open. That principle is Diana Mann's strong suit. She is a fire bell in the night on things that matter to taxpayers and other living things. And she has said so when others haven't.

    She has cited an important AQMD study indicating southeast L.A. County has higher cancer risks due to pollution attributable to mobile sources. LB inhales what the 710, 91 and 405 spit out. That means increasing capacity on the 710 will choke the rest of LB unless Councilmembers stand up to Port interests whose diesel trucks are a big reason the 710 is in the shape it's in now.

    We have not seen Councilman Colonna do this but we have watched Ms. Mann do exactly this. Accordingly, we think she will be more likely to tell Port interests they must implement meaningful pollution mitigation before she votes to spend any public money that could send more poisons into public lungs.

    Ms. Mann has also done a service by warning that some studies show cancer and other health problems in clusters in areas surrounding airports. LB runs an Airport in addition to the Port. The Council needs voices willing to point out the health and safety implications of those uses. We think peoples's lives should come before company bottom lines.

    Councilman Colonna is a savvy businessman and no dope. He has skillfully managed to find common ground even on contentious issues including a major planned hotel in his area. His campaign (no doubt in part due to Ms. Mann's candidacy) has professed concern for environmental matters.

    Well, good. But we are disappointed he didn't go where his good business brains should have led him on police levels and the utility tax, and where health and safety concerns haven't yet taken him on Port and Airport pollution.

    For those reasons, we favor Diana Mann for 3d district City Council.

    5th district: John Donaldson

    We like Councilwoman Jackie Kell. She works hard. Her office is responsive. She has done many things right. Once alerted that something is wrong, her instincts invariably send her in the right direction.

    Our concern is that her civic smoke alarm doesn't go off until smoke has already begun filling the room.

    We want the 5th district's alarm set for greater sensitivity, and John Donaldson's alarm has been properly calibrated from the start.

    Mr. Donaldson supported Prop J's utility tax cut. Councilwoman Kell didn't and voted for put a competing measure on the ballot.

    Mr. Donaldson has called for ending Councilmembers' district "discretionary funds" (which he calls "slush funds") totaling $1.5 million and using that money to help put more police on the street. Councilwoman Kell has continued spending that money, too often for projects at schools that LBUSD should pay for.

    Mr. Donaldson's strong suit is his role in supporting consumers when City Hall sent the public oppressive natural gas bills in 2001. Mr. Donaldson urged the Council to publicly confront City Charter section 1502 which requires the city's gas rates to be based on those in surrounding Southland areas.

    Unwisely, the Council maintained a code of silence on this. In response, Mr. Donaldson formed a grassroots LB consumer group that ultimately brought a class action lawsuit (now pending) that if it succeeds could result in LB consumers getting rebates in the mail from City Hall.

    Yes, LB's gas department is under new management now, and has skillfully reduced LB gas prices to very commendable levels. But we think it was a blunder for Councilwoman Kell not to have been in the forefront of this issue when it was exploding and affected so many homeowners.

    And now other issues are exploding and pose real threats to the 5th district.

    On police, LB's 6th district Councilwoman recently suggested ELB has more police than it needs and central city areas need more. This is a divisive, dangerous argument and the only responsible answer is to increase LB's thin police level so politicians won't cover their bad budgeting by shuffling police around like political pawns.

    To Councilwoman Kell's credit, she has said in a recent campaign mailing that she supports raising LB's police level to 2.0 officers per thousand residents. We believe her, but we think that with total reported crime increasing in every Council district -- including the 5th -- she should not have let the City Manager recently get away with delaying increases until Oct. 1/02 to Sept. 30/03 (the coming budget year).

    Meanwhile, there's a gathering storm over the airport. Powerful corporate interests have suggested LB does not have the right to protect itself and its neighborhoods as it has. This cannot be handled by simply repeating support for 41 flights and hoping for the best.

    We think Councilwoman Kell was too credulous in inviting City Hall to fill unfilled airport flight slots when we didn't have to, and make infrastructure changes that could now make us a target for more flights, and to quietly let SCAG (with Councilman Grabinski's vote) forecast 3 million annual passengers at LB Airport by 2025 even with 41 flights.

    And that was before Orange County voters killed El Toro (and fired an incumbent County Supervisor). The PT, which has endorsed Councilwoman Kell, foolishly editorialized against an El Toro airport.

    From what we know so far, LB City Hall seems to have invited more Airport use without having a political strategy in place to deal effectively with the consequences. We know City Hall is very capable of assembling an army of political support when it wants to (usually to help the Port).

    But if City Hall (overseen in part by Councilwoman Kell) didn't do so when ELB neighborhoods are at Airport risk, this was like leaving the family car uninsured, parking it with the engine running in a bad neighborhood and then being surprised when the car disappears.

    The 5th district's quiet neighborhoods and high property values will disappear if LB allows others to have their way with us.

    Mr. Donaldson has bluntly urged the Council to say "no" to plans he thinks are lousy for LB. He said so on Queensway Bay. Councilwoman Kell, ever polite, suggested the plan needed something like a unique jelly doughnut.

    The 5th district will need more than jelly doughnuts to wage and win big fights coming on the airport and on police budgeting. Councilwoman Kell may realize this now, but we think at this moment, a vote for Mr. Donaldson will send a healthy message on taxes, public safety priorities and the need for reform. A runoff on these issues would be good for ELB and the entire city.

    9th district: Val Lerch

    Val Lerch, a veteran neighborhood activist seeking NLB's 9th district Council seat, is not one to suffer foolishness gladly. Much to his credit, he has publicly told the Council that he is not willing to accept someone mystery person's deletion of a minimal 2.0 officers/1,000 level from LB's latest citywide "Strategic Plan."

    That is exactly why he needs to be on the City Council where he can vote to put that healthier police level in place.

    He is endorsed by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce and the PT, but he are confident he will go where the truth leads even if it's on a collision course with what they recommend.

    We wish he had not so forcefully supported taking part of Scherer Park for NLB's police station. However, we also think he not have let things get to that point in the first place, which was the root of the problem.

    And the solution now is a Charter Amendment to protect LB park land, which the Council can put on the ballot and should.

    Val Lerch understands what NLB needs. We support Mr. Lerch in the 9th.

    7th district: No endorsement, but No on Donelon & Smith

    We don't want Rubberstamp Mike back on the City Council.

    When Mr. Donelon held power from 1994-1998, he supported a now discredited sports complex in El Dorado Park, destruction of valuable facilities at the Naval Station and a LACDA project that could have been better.

    And Donelon voted for city management-supported budgets that implemented the O'Neill police deficit and have contributed to leaving LB underpoliced today.

    These actions convince us that regardless of what he says now, Mr. Donelon is not the best person to stand up to city management on police, the airport or most other things that really matter.

    The very fact that Mr. Donelon has wasted the public's time on a skateboard park while the rest of the city confronts serious safety and quality of life problems speaks volumes.

    We do not support school board incumbent Bobbie Smith because, like the other long term school board incumbents, we think she has been part of the problem and not the solution while in office

    That leaves Ms. Reyes-Uranga and Mr. Gonzales. We don't think either has assigned sufficient priority to providing LB with more police and greater protection from Airport and Port impacts.

    There'll be a runoff, and we'll respectfully withhold an affirmative recommendation in the 7th until then.

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