(July 7, 2006) -- All of us recently celebrated the 4th of July, an event 230 years ago in which people risked death to defy royalty that taxed them without representation and used their property as playthings.
Today, Long Beach has elections manipulated by special interests, representation mocked by Gerrymandered fiefdoms, residents' homes risked to benefit others (frequently domiciled elsewhere)...and a ruling class that holds basic services hostage to higher taxes so it can bestow ever greater benefits on itself and favored friends.
This has created an atmosphere similar in some ways to a tea party in Boston that royalty didn't understand two centuries ago...and some in LB's ruling class do not fully grasp now.
We believe recent actions by Councilmembers Bonnie Lowenthal, Tonia Reyes Uranga and Val Lerch have put them at real risk of being recalled. We say this with some sadness. We have praised these Councilmembers on other occasions. We are simply reporting here what we sense is in the political wind now.
The notion of recalls will likely prompt laughter in some quarters. The elections just ended. The inaugural balls are about to begin.
Let them party if they wish, but in CA public officials hold power at the public's will. It doesn't matter that they were recently re-elected. Ask recalled former Governor Gray Davis about that. The recently-re-elected LB incumbents are tapped out for money just as Davis was after his reelection...and like Davis -- who seriously underestimated the public's anger on several issues -- these LB incumbents are perched on powder-keg votes.
All three voted for the infamous pension spike that victimized LB taxpayers. Mayor-elect Foster used that vote to help defeat now soon-to-be-former Councilman Frank Colonna. [Lowenthal and Reyes Uranga endorsed Foster].
All three voted in May 2006 to give a "golden handshake" worth $31,000 in taxpayer-paid health insurance benefits to exiting Mayor Beverly O'Neill who presided over the pension spike vote that victimized LB taxpayers.
All three are trying to sprinkle perfume on a supersized 14-lane 710 freeway calculated to increase Port "goods movement" capacity, handing it to their constituents whose homes weren't eaten but will be permanently impacted.
All three have held public safety and libraries hostage to a management-manipulated tax increase to, in effect, pay for pensions, perks and other misplaced budget priorities they their budgets funded instead of providing police, fire and libraries taxpayers deserved.
All three spurned the advice of Mayor-elect Foster by certifying a seriously flawed EIR for permanent Airport facilities, the equivalent of inviting construction on a cracked foundation. A Councilmember who certifies a flawed EIR in the center of the city is capable of repeating that conduct anywhere in the city, a principle that puts residents citywide at risk.
Councilmembers B. Lowenthal and Reyes Uranga are already opposed by some major downtown interests. If a grassroots recall gets rolling, some bigwigs will pile on and help collect the necessary signatures. (They'll probably also try to install a stooge...but in a grassroots driven recall, that won't work). Councilman Lerch was nearly toppled by a union-backed near-non-entity...and in a recall, the same interests will smell blood and come after him.
LB taxpayers and homeowners have every right to advance their interests in the same way as the Chamber of Commerce and unions do. LB taxpayers and homeowners citywide would be smart in assisting their brothers and sisters in neighboring districts in removing incumbents who cast unhelpful votes. Leveling the playing field on this is long overdue.
Recall petitions can't be served on newly installed Councilmembers until 90 days from July 15 (meaning in mid-October) but that sets the scene for a perfect storm. Those recall petitions will hit just as supporters of the status quo demand a LB tax increase (parcel, sales, who knows?) to pay for the incumbents' bad votes. The louder the calls for the tax, the stronger the response from recall petition signers. (This will also help kill the tax, which needs a 2/3 vote).
Is that what these Councilmembers really want?
Mayor-elect Foster was statesmanlike in trying prevent the Council from certifying a flawed Airport EIR. A five-vote Council majority spurned that opportunity. One who did is leaving now (Kell) and another is likely to leave for Sacramento at year's end (Richardson). That leaves Lowenthal, Reyes Uranga and Lerch to pay the price.
As we reported elsewhere, we started receiving blazing emails within hours of posting our story on the Council-approved "golden handshake" for outgoing Mayor O'Neill. People are furious about what the Council did when they hear about it. We have urged rescinding that Council action out of fairness to taxpayers. In our opinion, O'Neill does not deserve that discretionary benefit after she oversaw the pension spike. That's in addition to her roles in the LNG, Aquarium and Queensway bay fiascoes, the shortchanging of taxpayers on police levels (spanning 12 years), telling the public their city was "on the right track" when it was actually heading into a fiscal trainwreck, capped by her conducting a visibly unfair Airport EIR hearing.
We hope there are five Council votes to undo the Airport certification so Mayor-elect Foster won't be saddled with the long-term consequences of that bad vote.
We hope there are five votes to rescind the golden handshake for Mayor O'Neill, which sets a terrible example in refusing to apply accountability.
If not, we wouldn't be surprised if some LB residents use powers bequeathed to all Americans over 230 years ago, cite a long list of local abuses and usurpations and remove those complicit in them...with the aim of forging a new Council majority built on protecting and defending taxpayers and homeowners, not gouging and dismissing them.