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    Con The Constituents, Ready the Recalls

    (January 27, 2003) -- It's hard to take the O'Neill administration seriously on a budget deficit it helped create.

    However we don't single the Mayor out for this. It's ultimately the Council's fault since they control city spending, not she, and they helped the happy captain of LB's Exxon Valdez steer a once fiscally sound city into a dangerous deficit.

    The mess they created will now take years to clean up. That's bad enough...but now some of the Mayor's enablers have suggested cleaning their mess by risking the safety of your family, your children, your neighborhood and our city.

    They want to reduce firefighter levels and potentially police levels.

    That anyone would suggest this when LB is a potential terrorist target -- with a port, an airport, oil properties, toxics and a major defense contractor -- is beyond irresponsible. It is a betrayal.

    Less than a year ago, the O'Neill administration, Council incumbents and their endorsers assured the public that LB was on the "right track." Every intelligent person now realizes that was a political con job.

    Mae West may have laughed at getting someone horizontal with perfumed falsehoods, but it is the wrong way to run a major American city.

    With last year's election approaching, the Council (without Mayoral objection) "received and filed" city management warnings of the approaching budget iceberg. reported the facts at the time. We also endorsed Norm Ryan for Mayor.

    The Mayor's enablers did all they could to keep the facts quiet until after they regained power with some of the smallest voter turnouts in LB history. They then voted to fatten budget busting public employee pensions and announced, with suitably long faces, what they didn't tell voters when they wanted their votes:

    Their city was floating on fake solvency, spending tens of millions more than it was taking in and expending one time resources that would soon be depleted. Sorry, suckers.

    In other cities, this would prompt Council recalls. That may yet happen here. (The opposite suggestion -- to repeal term limits and assist incumbents who created the problem -- is plainly ludicrous.)

    The deficit results from the City Council spending more than the city is taking in. It is Council created and Council perpetuated.

    It can't fairly be blamed on Sept. 11/01. The Council voted after Sept. 11, 01 to spend at levels planned before Sept. 11. That's half understandable, since the budget necessarily used figures based on pre-Sept. 11 assumptions.

    But what was not responsible -- and we consider one of the worst actions in recent memory -- was the refusal of the Mayor and her Councilmembers to do what many other cities did: reexamine their spending after Sept. 11/01...including that extra $1 million for the Public Corporation for the Arts...and other sacred cows.

    We believe the reason for this is obvious. LB incumbents, including the Mayor, were seeking re-election in early 2002. Continuing to spend and avoid unpleasant truths fed the myth of LB being on the "right track."

    They conned LB constituents then. They must not be allowed to risk the public's safety now.

    A recent Press-Telegram editorial portrayed as "fresh air" an old flatulence from former city management that wanted only three firefighters on fire trucks instead of the current four. The Long Beach Business Journal reported this in the early 1990s. We opposed City Hall's attempt to cut firefighter levels then. And it's far worse to suggest cutting firefighter levels now.

    W.C. FieldsThe notion that three firefighters can protect taxpayers as well as four is W.C. Fields fire fighting. "Never give a sucker an even break" is not what you want to hear when your house is burning. Or the port has exploded. Or a plane crashes in an airport impacted neighborhood. Or toxics threaten your family.

    Or our enemies hit us.

    There's a war on. LB is a potential terrorist target. It speaks volumes that after eight years of the O'Neill administration, and millions in federal and state grants, her City Hall is trying to hand taxpayers fewer first responder firefighters when other cities are trying to provide more.

    Some may suggest comparing LB to Oakland. Those LB officials didn't seek re-election by proposing to turn LB into another Oakland.

    Some may suggest having the City Auditor Gary Burroughs oversee a money saving "study." As has previously noted, it's been over two years since Mr. Burroughs got a report from his own (now former) Deputy City Auditor saying LB Convention Center operations had cost LB taxpayers millions over the years. Burroughs advised the Council to "receive and file" it. We believe Mr. Burroughs is part of the problem and not the solution.

    We want to leave no misunderstanding: will support the recall of any incumbent Councilmember who votes to spend taxpayer money for city staff or hired-gun consultant reports intended to justify future cuts in firefighter or police levels for taxpayers.

    If citywide officeholders join in advocating such cuts, signature gathering for the Council recalls should be combined with a citywide ballot measure, requiring City Hall to provide LB taxpayers with basic levels of police and fire staffing linked to city population (a brake on future reckless development).

    On the same day the PT editorialized in favor of considering the latest scheme for shortchanging LB taxpayers, it endorsed a recall to "throw the bums out" in South Gate.

    Good idea. Could be applied here.

    Con the constituents, ready the recalls.

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