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    Wanted: Councilmembers Who'll Show LB Laws Are Not For Sale

    (Feb. 21, 2006) -- Tonight, members of the LB City Council will show whether they believe this city's laws should be reversed, basically cooked to order, to suit special interests.

    The issue arises over LB's policy on dog breeding, an issue some people consider trivial.

    We believe LB's laws should not be for sale...and to us, principle isn't trivial.

    What's happening here is City Hall wants to reverse a current LB law banning dog breeding, out of lust for convention-related revenue. (Much of this doesn't go to taxpayers but does benefit mainly downtown interests; taxpayers get only half of LB's hotel room tax, something the Council could and should fix.)

    In our view, a Councilmember who'd change LB laws to suit some high-rolling outfit isn't likely to protect neighborhoods or taxpayers when the next big spender rolls into town and wants something at the public's expense. We doubt candidates seeking votes would say, "If you vote for me, I'll change our city's laws when outside interests with convention money object to them. My door at City Hall will be open to them because as long as I'm in power, convention business will come first!"

    Yet this type of craven attitude appears pervasive here. Using CA's freedom of information law (Public Records Act), obtained documents showing the real origin of City Hall's proposed reversal on dog breeding. They indicate that at its inception, the move had nothing to do with reducing animal killings at LB's Animal Shelter. It is intellectually dishonest to suggest otherwise.

    The documents show that the Chairman of the Board of the NY-based American Kennel Club wrote LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill on three occasions between June 2004 and March 2005, urging Long Beach to reverse its law banning dog breeding and suggesting the action might help make the city the permanent home of the group's national shows beyond 2006 and 2007.

    "We are planning to return to Long Beach in 2006 and 2007 and would seriously consider Long Beach as the permanent site for our show if you could reexamine the breeding ban and develop a mutually satisfactory alternative...Our experience tells us that bans on breeding are not necessary if there are strong guidelines in place to ensure responsible practices," AKC Board Chair Ronald Menaker told LB's Mayor in a March 2005 letter, paralleling two similar letters in June and August 2004.

    In a July 2004 reply, Mayor O'Neill assured the AKC Board chair that "[w]e are addressing the concerns you have expressed."

    [To view City Hall's groveling responses in full, see our January 2006 coverage at: Documents Show American Kennel Club Indicated Reversing LB's Dog Breeding Ban Might Help Make LB Permanent Site For AKC Nat'l Shows Beyond 06-07.]

    For the record, we have no quarrel with the AKC or the Long Beach Kennel Club. They have been straightforward in advocating their interests. Our fight is not with them. It is with LB elected officials who seem fixated on doing what these groups and other disproportionately influential local special interests want...instead of doing what's right and what LB residents have urged them to do.

    On November 1, someone put an item on the City Council "consent calendar" where it wouldn't be publicly discussed unless specifically requested by a member of the Council or public. LB's Health Dept. (which operates LB Animal Control) sought Council approval to draft an ordinance permitting dog breeding with a city license and subject to restrictions.

    An accompanying staff memo stated that "over the past three years, City of Long Beach residents who wish to breed their dogs, as well as national organizations that promote the continuation of dog breeds through responsible breeding, have approached the City, requesting a reconsideration of the City’s total ban on dog breeding...The Department of Health and Human Services is very aware of the pet overpopulation problem in our society and recognizes that thousands of animals are euthanized each year in animal shelters across the country. However, with proper restrictions that allow for limited, controlled breeding of dogs by permit, it is unlikely that the amendments to L.B.M.C. Sections 6.16.080 and 6.16.190 will add to the dog overpopulation problem in Long Beach. As responsible dog owners are permitted to breed their animals under stringent requirements, it is hoped that fewer unwanted dogs will be dropped off at the shelter."

    There's no credible evidence, and it defies common sense to believe, that inviting an increase in the net number of adoptable dogs will somehow ("it is hoped" is the best city staff could say) reduce the number of dogs killed at LB's Animal Control facility.

    The only other argument we've heard is that LB's current ordinance is uneforceable as written. That's credible...but should be dealt with by rewriting the ordinance, not trashing LB's policy.

    On November 22 (two days before Thanksgiving), a draft ordinance to reverse LB policy was agendized. Despite opposition from some members of Friends of LB Animals, Vice Mayor Jackie Kell took a defensive tone, implicitly accusing others of not understanding the facts. Kell, currently waging write-in campaign to try and retain power in the 5th Council district, supported management's proposed ordinance change, didn't mention its convention-revenue origin...and went on to make the motion for it.

    As we editorialized at the time and reiterate now:

    Councilwoman Kell's conduct parallels her ill-advised motion for the infamous May 2001 Council vote (8-1, Carroll dissenting) that recklessly changed LB Airport's flight slot allocation rules. Only after the vote did the public discover why: JetBlue took all of LB's then-vacant flight slots. Councilwoman Kell's role in that action laid the groundwork for virtually every Airport-related problem LB faces today.

    Changing LB law to suit outside interests, and not telling the public the truth about it, may be the way LB City Hall used to run, but it can't get away with that now with the internet and more savvy LB residents.

    We reiterate our view: if LB's current policy on dog breeding is unenforceable, it should be made enforceable, not repealed.

    We urge a substitute motion and a second at tonight's Council meeting to force a vote on a new LB dog breeding ordinance that upholds and strengthens LB's current policy.

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