(June 3, 2002) -- We urge LB voters -- especially ELB and Bixby Knolls/Cal Hts residents -- to use the pens the pundits thought would re-crown Beverly O'Neill to instead write-in LB fiscal reformer Norm Ryan for Mayor.
We were asked recently whether a write-in vote for Mr. Ryan is a vote for Vice Mayor Dan Baker or for incumbent O'Neill. This is absurd. A vote for Ryan is a vote for Ryan.
Mr. Ryan finished first in ELB's 4th district. He finished second in ELB's 5th Council district within 1% of O'Neill. If ELB supports Mr. Ryan on June 4, he will be LB's next Mayor.
We believe if voters remain asleep to the O'Neill machine, by 2006 LB could resemble a rust belt "company town," run by aviation, travel and corporate interests and enabled by local apologists and cronies, with more airport flights, more crime, more traffic, more risks to our health and safety and lower property values than LB deserves.
There is much to admire in Beverly O'Neill. We are sure she has good intentions for LB. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. She has substituted mythology for substance in ways that would have already earned her an exit in other major cities.
With a cowed Council, her imperious eight year rule has failed to provide taxpayers with even 2.0 police officers per thousand residents despite millions in federal grants, turned crime declines into crime increases, applauded downtown projects that are shadows of their promises, watched park land consumed for non park uses, destroyed the Naval Station for a Port container yard, watched City Hall's Gas Dept. send LB consumers oppressive bills, advocated a profligate pay raise for the City Manager (who now makes more than the Governor) and regurgitated absurd Aquarium predictions that have turned a promised independent attraction into a subsidized city appendage that eats tidelands money.
And for reasons best known to Ms. O'Neill, she has not publicly sought reimbursement for taxpayers from those responsible for the Aquarium fiasco.
She has risked turning LB's publicly owned Airport into a public threat by reversing past city policy and working to fill judicially imposed LB Airport flight slots, something not legally required. Filling the slots made it inevitable some carrier(s) would ask for just one more and trigger a domino effect that could strip away our protections. Simply put, we believe the O'Neill administration's policies loaded the gun that others are now holding to our head.
LBReport.com has reported (when others haven't) that AQMD's Multiple Air Toxics Exposure Study (MATES-2) shows much of LB's air carries higher cancer risks than refinery adjacent areas in the southbay and other LA and OC beach cities. More airport flights should firmly establish LB as southern California's premiere environmental injustice, a polluted doormat for transient travelers and corporate interests.
On public safety, the O'Neill administration has also been a wrong-way Corrigan, accomplishing what others thought impossible: the most recent full year federally reported data currently available show LB can now boast even more violent crime per capita than New York City. Source: LB crime stats analyzed by Morgan-Quitno press report, reported in LBReport.com at LB Falls Further Toward Unsafe In Morgan Quitno's Latest Rank of Safest U.S. Cities.
Not even that national embarrassment, or LB's post Sept. 11 security needs, have roused Mayor O'Neill from her virtual reality. Recently, she even indicated she favors handing another $1 million bonus (plus $750,000 in other public money) to the "Public Corporation for the Arts" -- money that should be used to provide police her city needs and deserves.
We cannot afford more of this and we don't have to take it any more.
Norm Ryan has been right on these issues when the incumbents have been wrong. He has angered City Hall's Gods precisely because he has spoken the truth to their mythology.
Consider the outrages Ryan has had to endure for his public spirited actions. City Hall claimed Ryan needed more signatures for his utility tax cut measure than the law required. They misspent taxpayer resources to propagandize against his measure until he sued and a Superior Court publicly ordered City Hall to stop. They tried to derail Ryan's measure with a competing measure (Vice Mayor Baker was a co-sponsor) for only half the taxpayer relief.
They failed, because (like the coming June 4th election) voters have the real power. In November, 2000, nearly 70% voted for Ryan's measure which led in every Council district. O'Neill and Baker opposed what nearly 7 in 10 LB voters wanted.
When City Hall sent oppressive gas utility bills to LB consumers, Ryan helped break City Hall's code of silence on City Charter section 1502, that requires rates similar to surrounding areas. Yes, Vice Mayor Baker was the first incumbent to call for public discussion of Section 1502, but that came after Ryan and other activists had raised hell about it for months and demanded rebates, which neither Baker nor O'Neill have publicly supported.
Mr. Ryan has applied his municipal bond expertise to show -- often in painstaking detail -- why he believes LB's latest downtown development follies will again take taxpayers to the cleaners. Baker has voted for them.
And Ryan supports giving the public the power to say "no" if any future Council tries to raise LB Airport's flight limits in ways that exceed what LB's current law allows.
Baker also understands the importance of the Airport issue. As we reported on LBReport.com, he has supported holding a referendum on any Airport expansion projects, likening it to Orange County's vote on El Toro.
For the record, the El Toro vote wasn't an advisory referendum, it was a substantive measure the politicians had to obey. We do not favor an empty ballot measure that would let politicians do as they please. We support a substantive measure, requiring a 55% (school bond style) vote of the people to approve any Council voted increase in flights beyond what LB's current law now allows or to settle any airport flight level litigation.
That said, if this were a two person race, we'd clearly prefer Baker over O'Neill. We admire his polished, professional advocacy. His record shows he is willing to process what parties want into real world political decisions. That doesn't always produce outcomes to our liking, but it has led Baker to dissent on important issues when he was right and the Council majority was out of touch with the public.
Baker was the sole Council vote against O'Neill's proposal to raise the City Manager's pay to nearly $200,000 (including deferred compensation). He agendized a proposal to study the breakwater and presented it with impressive advocacy. And when Baker chaired a Council meeting on Scherer Park in O'Neill's absence that could have turned acrimonious, he showed that civic fair play works: he let park protection appellants use the Council chamber's video equipment to make their case, something O'Neill has regularly refused (with Council complicity) by sheer arrogation of power; there is no explicit city ordinance on the matter. Baker's actions showed he respects a civic system that O'Neill fears.
That said, Baker is also an incumbent. He cast many votes for policies favored by O'Neill. And Baker co-sponsored a counter-measure that tried to derail Ryan's Prop J utility tax cut by offering only half the taxpayer relief.
A number of thoughtful LB residents are also genuinely disappointed with Baker for previous campaign contributions accepted and later given back, and revelations that a group (listed as independent and not provably linked to Baker or his campaign, with links denied by both) supported his April, 2002 Mayoral bid with some contributions allegedly exceeding LB's Political Reform Act limits.
But Baker has already paid a political price for whatever happened regardless of what the facts ultimately show. That message has been sent. (And LB's City Attorney has filed a civil suit against the pro-Baker independent group. Yes, Shannon also filed against independent pro-Ryan involvement by the CA Republican Party, which the CA Repubs call bogus because they say Prop 34 lets them communicate with their members; the legal issues will eventually be sorted out in court.)
We think this election is too important to be decided on merely legal grounds. It will be healthier if LB sends message on policy grounds.
And on policy grounds, we say Ryan has been right when O'Neill and Baker haven't been.
In a delicious irony, O'Neill's machinery has succeeded (again with Council complicity) in changing LB's election ballots in a way that benefits a write-in candidacy. That now leaves voters free to use this to write in Norm Ryan for Mayor.
And if ELB and Bixby Knolls/Cal Hts. write in Ryan in large numbers, he will be LB's next Mayor.
If you agree with us, the best thing you can do (besides voting yourself) is to tell your sleepy neighbors and friends -- you know the ones, the 80% who didn't vote in April and will later wonder how we lost LB's current flight limits -- to protect their homes, their families and their pocketbooks and Write In Ryan.
Email or phone them. Do it. Do it now before you forget.