They Earned It:
8th district: Yes on Rae Gabelich
6th district: Yes on Lewis Lester
4th district: No on Dennis Carroll
Rae Gabelich for 8th district Council
[LBReport.com has added links to responses from our readers...and also a link so you can respond to our editorial, below. The links are at the conclusion of the editorial.]
Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Lord Acton, 1887.
(April 4, 2004) -- LB's coming elections will decide more than who wins. They will show if those holding power are accountable for what they did.
If they are not, then we believe corruption, decay and decline will follow in LB as they have in other cities.
LB is already in worse condition now -- undeniably worse -- than it was four years ago. If those most blameworthy are not removed after what they did, no one will be (short of an outraged recall).
The only issue now is whether to elect new Councilmembers who took action to protect neighborhoods and taxpayers, or settle for those who did nothing but expect voters to believe them now.
8th district candidate Rae Gabelich and 6th district candidate Lewis Lester took action...and we believe their actions speak louder than the other candidates' words. Ms. Gabelich and Mr. Lester confronted City Hall's machinery with facts and tenacity. No other candidates can say this.
Ms. Gabelich founded LBHUSH2 to tell uncomfortable truths about LB airport when incumbent Rob Webb didn't, couldn't or wouldn't. We like Mr. Webb but we believe he has forfeited a second term. In 2001, he initially voted to delay, then joined in a notorious vote that publicly pretended to adjust LB Airport's flight slot allocation rules while privately, City Hall had hatched a backroom deal to fill all of LB Airport's then-available large flight slots with JetBlue. That reckless vote (8-1, Carroll dissenting seeking delay) broke faith with the public and laid the groundwork for LB's continuing airport problems.
Ms. Gabelich would never have done what Webb did. She has demanded that City Hall tell the truth and keep its promises. That's not a single Airport issue, it's a transcendent issue that should apply to everything LB City Hall does.
She does not apologize when putting neighborhoods first. "This is not the 'City of Commerce,' it's Long Beach where people live," Ms. Gabelich frequently reminds audiences.
Her advocacy has been simultaneously gutsy and gracious. Her efforts forced City Hall to do an EIR on the airport terminal expansion that it initially tried to evade. She has represented the 8th district better on the airport than incumbent Webb...who has been reduced to telling voters that he supports what Rae does (his own campaign flier shows him posing with one of LBHUSH2's signs without crediting her.)
With all due respect, Rob, you're no Rae Gabelich. Ms. Gabelich didn't let Dennis Carroll bully her into silence. She would not have let Carroll co-agendize a request for a report on LB Airport's filled flight slot effects on health and home values, then obstruct its delivery by interceding with the now-former City Manager on grounds an FAA proceeding was pending. After the FAA proceeding ended by May 2003, everyone forgot about the report except Ms. Gabelich...who pestered Webb to agendize it. When Webb finally did so in October 2003, Ms. Gabelich watched in horror as Webb let the Council slither away from its previous vote, requesting only a report on the report, then settling for less than they'd originally voted for.
Ms. Gabelich would not have let Carroll derail a Council vote on the scope of the Airport terminal EIR, which had been expected in Dec. 2003, by sending it to a biased advisory backwater until some time in 2004, ensuring its delay until after the Council election.
Candidate Terry Jensen has publicly acknowledged Ms. Gabelich's airport work, telling voters to put change first and vote for him or Ms. Gabelich, just not for Webb. That sounds gracious, but it's actually a clever way of portraying himself as standing with her, when he didn't stand with Ms. Gabelich or LBHUSH2 at any Council meeting. This, on the biggest issue to arise in the 8th district in two decades.
Mr. Jensen understandably wants to change the subject to the budget, but that also proves too much because he hasn't led on the budget the way Ms. Gabelich has led on the airport.
We assume Mr. Jensen understands budgets, but in our view he's sometimes been too quick with answers. On the Queen Mary, Mr. Jensen declared that he'd read the lease and what was needed was to enforce it. That's fine...except that (as reported by LBReport.com and the Press-Telegram), the other party has raised defenses based on what some bigwigs at City Hall allegedly did. We think Ms. Gabelich got it right when she said she believes the City Auditor should be audited.
On public safety, Mr. Jensen hasn't found the time -- even after indicating he was seeking office -- to tell the Council how he'd provide taxpayers with those 130 more officers the Chief of Police said he needed. That's what he'd have to do if he were on the Council...and if he thinks City Hall can't deliver the officers now because of budget constraints, then his view on police isn't much different than what current Council incumbents are saying.
Mr. Jensen also gave what we consider a troubling answer on whether he'd vote to reduce fire staffing, launching into City Hall style flapdoodle about "operating at 100% efficiency" and leaving that decision to "experts" after setting an expected "standard of service."
No. Ms. Gabelich got it right when she said that in other cities in which fire trucks carry only three firefighters, the crew may have to wait outside while a building burns until a second truck arrives. In LB, LBFD's four-person staffing saves lives and property because firefighters don't have to wait, they can enter on arrival.
We do not want LB's Fire Department run like some HMO, bragging about "efficiency" on matters of life and death.
On firefighter staffing Councilman Webb gave a non-committal, tap dance answer instead of the firm commitment Ms. Gabelich did. If the LB Firefighters Union is to be taken seriously, it should publicly rescind its endorsement of Webb and endorse Ms. Gabelich.
And no, contrary to Mr. Jensen's quip that the airport won't matter much if the city goes broke, the truth is that all governments have budgets and even those that go broke (like Orange County did) survive. In contrast, only some cities have an airport...and a recklessly governed airport can do permanent, irreparable harm cause families to lose their net worth and go broke.
Mr. Jensen agrees that the airport must be judiciously managed, but only Ms. Gabelich has the airport expertise and tenacity to distinguish her from other candidates and the incumbent. She is today the leading candidate because she has earned public support with what she has done, leaving others to promise what they say they will do.
Lewis Lester for 6th district Council
Lewis Lester has shown what he can do by doing it. He founded LB Citizens Against Redevelopment Merger and Expansion to prevent downtown from siphoning away resources and diluting community input in the central 6th district. Mr. Lester, a soft spoken man, does not suffer foolishness gladly. His presentations routinely leave opponents charred and burning.
Incumbent Councilwoman Richardson bristles at the charge that Redevelopment merger will harm central LB and says it will do the opposite. She has not been shy about pressing for a greater share of LB resources, including police, in the 6th district.
She can think on her feet and her instincts are often right. She was so impressed by a recent Council presentation by Ms. Gabelich on air pollution that she extemporaneously proposed a citywide study of LB's air quality as impacted by ports, freeways and the airport...and that's now being done (although it's underfunded by management and will use old data).
Councilwoman Richardson advocated hiring Len Wood, a respected civic fiscal consultant, to advise the Council on City Hall's massive debt. She volunteered to hold what others considered a hot potato, a newly formed budget oversight committee.
But Mr. Lester notes that despite heading the budget oversight committee, Councilwoman Richardson voted for the 2003 Council budget that busted city management's three year deficit reduction plan...and her budget vote did what Mr. Wood warned not to do by using deadly one time resources to sustain current ongoing spending at a rate exceeding what management originally proposed.
Mr. Lester has demanded financial accountability from the RDA, seeking a no-nonsense outside audit. We expect he will do likewise on Council spending.
He is furious at what he charges is a double-standard that considers conditions in the 6th district acceptable that wouldn't be tolerated elsewhere in LB. He blasts calls for more "affordable housing" in the 6th district and doesn't applaud traditional City Hall remedies that he says bring blight, not renewal.
We respect Regina Chaney, and wish she had been more vigorous in her race. We wish that she and Dee Andrews had used numerous opportunities to take action on issues that arose at the City Council.
On balance, we think Mr. Lester has earned a head to head runoff on the merits with Councilwoman Richardson.
No on Carroll in the 4th district
We have previously urged voters to remove 4th district incumbent Dennis Carroll but we stop short of endorsing challenger Patrick O'Donnell.
We can't endorse Mr. O'Donnell for the same reason we won't endorse Mr. Jensen: he didn't take any visible leadership action at the City Council or in the community (apart from his candidacy) when his Councilmember took actions that should matter to him.
Mr. O'Donnell did speak at one airport EIR scoping meeting...but a few weeks later when Carroll moved to derail the airport EIR into an advisory backwater that would spare him from casting a hot button EIR vote before the election, O'Donnell booted the opportunity to oppose this at the City Council where Carroll had to cast a recorded vote.
Then there's Carroll's failure to hold a meeting of the Public Safety Committee he's chaired since July 2002 to discuss a police staffing report that the Council -- with Carroll's own vote -- referred to that committee for an in-depth analysis in March 2002.
Then there's Carroll's failure -- as Councilman and Public Safety Committee chair -- to take any visible action after the Chief of Police publicly said he needed 130 more cops in September 2003.
We're not surprised that incumbent Carroll has been silent about police levels for taxpayers, but why has Mr. O'Donnell?
City management has recently changed its long standing policy and now refuses to release crime totals by Council district -- something it routinely did for years. City Hall contends LBPD's crime reports by Council district may contain inaccuracies because some LBPD crime reporting districts span Council district lines.
We consider this a crock on two grounds. First, LBPD has the crime location addresses and could assign the data to the proper Council districts if it wanted to (although it would be a royal statistical pain). Second, City Hall continues to release crime data "citywide" which is even less accurate since it homogenizes the entire city across district lines. Based on "citywide" data, City Hall says crime is decreasing.
We're not surprised that Council incumbent Carroll has been silent about this, but why has Mr. O'Donnell?
Then there's Carroll's co-agendizing (with Webb, Colonna and Kell) a request in May 2002 for a report on airport's filled flight slot effects on residents' health and home values. Nearly two years later, that report still hasn't been delivered. Carroll admits he intervened in 2002 to put it on hold until an FAA proceeding ended. After that FAA ended, it took Ms. Gabelich to embarrass Councilman Webb into agendizing the issue in October 2003...after which the Council agreed to accept a management report on LB's air quality as impacted by ports, freeways and the airport, underfunded and relying on old data...and not addressing home values. Thanks, Dennis.
Incumbent Carroll has organized his reelection like a trial lawyer, methodically preparing a cover for every pot. Fine. In our view, they're still crocks.
It was Mr. O'Donnell's job to cite Carroll's record, demolish it and send a message that matters. Waving celebrity endorsements is no way to run a race with so much at stake. (Mr. Jensen has also done this, which find unpersuasive, but the rest of his race has been smart.)
We hope Mr. O'Donnell proves us wrong and wins...but if he fails (like Bill Simon versus Gray Davis) we predict Carroll will be more bilious, less responsive, more dangerous and more vulnerable after the unpleasant votes we expect him to cast after July 2004.
Acknowledging Councilman Baker
Councilman Dan Baker earned points with us when he stood up to the Port on pollution, stood up to now former City Manager Taboada on a pay raise, ultimately called a special session to review Mr. Taboada's performance, then stood up to the Mayor (as part of the "Gang of Four") by seeking deeper spending reductions, urged an open mind on ways to reconfigure the breakwater and respected the public's right to use the Council chamber's video equipment.
We wish he were more outspoken in questioning -- or bluntly opposing -- a proposal to build an LNG terminal in the Port of LB which is in his Council district.
Yes, he voted with his colleagues to increase pensions...but he has also shown independence...and his decision to force a showdown over Mr. Taboada was a seismic event with continuing aftershocks.
We assume Councilman Baker has angered some at City Hall. It's not clear yet where that will ultimately lead.
The invisible candidate
There's one person whose name isn't on the ballot but whose actions are.
In the 1990s, a then-Councilman quipped that Mayor Beverly O'Neill's "State of the City" address sounded like "The Good Ship Lollipop." That ship lurches forward, with some crew members increasingly detached from reality, seriously suggesting that the Mayor be given more power. They seem oblivious to the fact that for nearly ten years, LB's incumbent Mayor has had a major substantive Charter duty: forwarding budgets from city management to the Council with her recommendations. She has had a direct hand in LB's fiscal disaster.
She had a voice she didn't use. She had a veto she threatened to use but didn't invoke. She blithely forwarded budgets that created LB's current police shortage by failing to follow City Hall's own Police Strategic Plan staffing strategy. She applauded the backroom deal that recklessly filled LB Airport's flight slots, blindsided the public and left LB at future risk.
On Sunday April 4, the Press-Telegram editorialized in favor of removing all incumbents, hanging them out to dry while leaving the Mayor unscathed. They cannot have it both ways. By advocating the incumbents' removal, they have as much as advocated her removal.
We take no pleasure in writing the following. We believe that if County voters don't buy Sheriff Baca's LB bailout sales tax hike, in our view LB will be on the road to court intervention and bankruptcy. These are terms that Councilwoman Kell had to pry out of LB's tongue-tied City Auditor last year when he called them worse case scenarios if Councilmembers didn't adhere to city management's last-chance three year financial plan.
They didn't...and the Mayor said nothing.
By their collective action, the Mayor and Council ignored alarms sounded by respected fiscal analyst, Len Wood, who warned against spending one-time resources to maintain ongoing Council spending that exceeds revenue. They did this for political purposes...because making painful spending cuts before the election would have riled voters and threatened incumbents.
The Mayor sent the Council, and the Council adopted, a budget six months ago that blew past the restrictions in management's three year financial plan. It effectively hid coming cuts from voters until after the elections when, to borrow Larry Elder's phrase, "the fit will hit the shan."
Last year, City Hall quietly extended police and fire contracts for less than a year, a transparent device to get past the 2004 elections. Plans to shortchange the public on fire protection are already being put in place via a Council vote that retained a six-figure consultant for a so-called efficiency report (our translation: closing fire stations, reducing firefighters).
As we said at the outset, LB's coming elections will decide more than who wins. They will show if those holding power are accountable for what they did.
Show them you're not fooled.
- Rae Gabelich in the 8th.
- Lewis Lester in the 6th.
- No on Carroll in the 4th.
There's a gathering storm approaching the Good Ship Lollipop.
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