(March 31, 2007) -- LB taxpayers citywide owe 5th district Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske a debt of gratitude for her non-taxpayer paid internet journal (weblog or "blog") communicating LB-related developments and her perspectives.
Although we don't always agree with her (or vice versa) we're impressed with her use unflinching embrace of the internet...and we've posted a link to her blog on our front page (www.lbreport.com). [We offered other Councilmembers the same opportunity; none has shown the web gumption thus far].
Councilwoman Schipske's blog recently broadcast a newsworthy political incorrectitude. A March 29 posting ("What We Did In DC") describes a recent Capitol Hill meeting attended by her and two other members of LB's Federal Legislation Committee (DeLong & Gabelich) with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R., HB-LB-PV).
Some of her report is denied/disputed by Congressman Rohrabacher's chief of staff who attended the meeting and offered a counter-version of events below. So does Councilman Gary DeLong, who was also in the meeting. For the record, Councilwoman Schipske stands by her account of what happened. She wrote in pertinent part in her blog:
[We met with] Congressman Dana Rohrabacher regarding: LA River dredging; Los Cerritos Wetlands; breakwater study and the interoperability radio communications. Congressman Rohrabacher reminded the City Councilmembers that he only represents 12% of Long Beach so we shouldn’t expect him to be “carrying our water.” He opposes restoration and preservation of the wetlands and suggested we pave them over and put affordable housing on them instead of doing one more thing to help the birds who doing nothing more than “s…t in the water and leave their feathers in the water.” As to the breakwater study — he does not support using federal funds unless we want to take the money out of dredging the LA River (even though they are appropriated under different sources of funds).
Congressman Rohrabacher's chief of staff offered this counter-account of what took place:
Cong. Rohrabacher indicated he knows our district is blessed with the wetlands but he's not going to support using federal funds to buy more wetlands. He said he'd support having the Ports use mitigation credits for this purpose. He supported doing this at Bolsa Chica. He would like to see the results of tests with regard to the newly dug channel [letting sea water into Bolsa Chica] because he suspects bird excrement may cause problems for people in the area; when one finds e-coli [excrement bacterium] now we often don't know from where it comes.
Cong. Rohrabacher doesn't oppose restoring and preserving the wetlands...and he didn't say they should be paved over. He said Long Beach should look at areas near the wetlands as areas that may be suitable for new housing. He didn't say it should necessarily be affordable housing. He said building new housing tends to make all housing more affordable.
And as to not expecting him to "carry water" for LB, Congressman Rohrbacher will certainly be helping LB while keeping it in proportion with his district. His district includes 20% of Long Beach (not 12% as Schipske said); Long Beach is roughly 12% of Congressman Rohrabacher's district. He's not saying he won't help Long Beach. He's put in earmarked requests for Long Beach and he'll continue to advocate for Long Beach interests.
Cong. Rohrabacher doesn't support additional federal funds to study possible removal or reduction of the breakwater. If Long Beach wants that federal study, it should come from other federal funds for the city, not necessarily out of L.A. river funds.
Councilman Gary DeLong summarized the Congressman's wetlands/housing stance as: "He supports creating housing and preserving habitat."
Reacting to the spiraling brouhaha, Councilwoman Schipske stands by her description. Does that include the reference to bird poop?. Yes, she told us with a chuckle, while expressing more concerns about the substance of the meeting.
We're also concerned...because of what apparently did not come up at the meeting but should have.
Ask Councilwoman Schipske what the most important LB issues are and she will say security is at or near the top. She's right...and LB City Hall should have taken that DC opportunity to support Congressman Rohrabacher's principled support of legislation -- that he authored -- that would clear away federal impediments (if any) to local ports imposing container fees to fund port security measures. Such legislation promotes local control -- a stated policy of the City of LB. It would ease the burden on taxpayers. It would help reduce risks to LB residents, businesses and visitors.
That legislation, which could benefit people in LB and beyond, was killed in 2005 by the efforts of the lobbyist of the Port of LB.
As LBReport.com reported in August 2005 (when others didn't), the Port of LB's lobbyist boasted to LB's Harbor Commissioners that his firm helped defeat Congressman Rohrabacher's container fee enabling measure. On July 14, 2005, it reached the House floor where it was defeated 111-310. Congressmembers Rohrabacher, plus Ed Royce (R., El Dorado-OC) and Loretta Sanchez (D., OC) were among those to their credit voting "yes." Congressmembers Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., Carson-LB) and Linda Sanchez (D., Lakewood) were among those shamefully voting "no."
In 2006, bill by State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) proposed to allocate 1/3 of a locally imposed container fee for port security measures. LB Mayor Bob Foster urged Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign it. Industry groups, including the "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" in which the Port of LB is the second largest dues paying member, raised spurious objections, including a claim that security is a federal matter. (That claim should anger every LB resident...put at risk locally by the Port's insecurity.)
Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill...and at some point thereafter, LBReport.com believes someone put a giant body snatching seed pod next to Senator Lowenthal. He still looks like Alan Lowenthal but he now sounds to us like a Port expansion apologist.
In 2007, the body-snatched Sen. Lowenthal introduced a substantively different container fee bill that his office now calls a "Port Investment" bill. It allocates no container fee revenue to security.
Get it? No security money from Sen. Lowenthal's gutted container fee measure. And no federal enabling legislation for a state container fee bill. All this, while the American Ass'n of Port Authorities (without dissent from the Port of LB) lobbies against Port users paying additional fees for the security risks they create.
On April 3, the City Council is scheduled to "receive and file" an obfuscatory, non-informative memo on the DC lobbying mission. It fails to discuss any of this.
We urge principled Councilmembers, or member(s) of the public, or both, to pull this item for discussion, after which some principled Councilmember(s) should agendize an item to amend LB's federal legislative agenda to support a federal container fee enabling measure for security (not just infrastructure).
We expect Port-expansion apologists (among whom we now sadly include Sen. Lowenthal) to try and lobby Cong. Rohrabacher to limit a federal container fee enabling measure to expanding infrastructure. We don't think Rohrabacher will cave in as easily as Lowenthal did...and we urge the Council to insist that container fee revenue go to security, not just Port expansion pork.
We urge the Council to publicly call on LB's Harbor Commissioners to support this and instruct the Port's lobbyist not to undermine these efforts. And we think the Port should provide the City with written evidence that its lobbyist has clearly conveyed this to Congressional Committee chairs, ranking Committee members and influential House and Senate members...and to the American Association of Port Authorities (so it will not represent its position as Port of LB policy on this).
We doubt this would get much attention without Councilwoman Schipske's unflinching blog report. But to us, and we hope to her, security trumps all...and deserves LB DC advocacy at least matching, if not exceeding, other federal issues.