|(Dec. 17, 2014) -- At its December 16 City Council meeting, the City Clerk agendized, and the City Council allocated, $200,000 for an April 14, 2015 "winner take all" special election to fill the 4th district Council seat vacated nearly two years early by now-Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell.
The election's taxpayer cost became an issue in the April 2012 election cycle in which O'Donnell sought (and ultimately won) a third Council term. A PAC supported by multiple LB Area Chamber figures (which backed candidate John Watkins) told voters that if re-elected, O'Donnell would leave his Council seat early that would require taxpayers to spend a six figure sum for a special election. In April 2012, Watkins finished third; O'Donnell finished second with a term-limits-bypass write-in bid and, with support from organized labor and with his name appearing on the ballot, O'Donnell outpolled first-place April finisher Daryl Supernaw in a June runoff.
Council approval for the $200,000 sum for the special Council district election came after presentations were scheduled earlier at the same Council meeting in which multiple elected officials and civic figures bestowed officials recognitions and commended the now-former 10 year Council incumbent for his record.
Long Beach has a long history of Councilmembers seeking and winning Sacramento office...but O'Donnell is the first and only LB Councilman ever to seek -- and win -- reelection to a third Council term by using LB's write-in term-limits bypass procedure...and then seek (and win) Sacramento office in the middle of his third Council term, creating the need for a taxpayer paid special election to fill the remainder of that term.
O'Donnell was elected to the LB City Council in the 2004 election cycle at the same time as (now former) 8th district Councilwoman Rae Gabelich, defeating incumbents endorsed by then-Mayor Beverly O'Neill, the LB PressTelegram and other establishment figures.
O'Donnell's (and Gabelich's) election came in the wake of an O'Neill administration action that did what city officials said the city would never do: it put LB's Airport ordinance at risk. The LB ordinance, twice upheld by federal reviewing courts, is considered one of the most progressive in the country by allowing increased flights as aircraft become quieter. The ordinance protects the city from operations at its airport that would otherwise be out of city control, including unlimited numbers of flights at all hours of the day and night.
In 2001, an item quietly appeared on a City Council agenda proposing what was portrayed as a minor change to LB's flight slot allocation rules that wouldn't touch the LB Airport ordinance but would let carriers hold slots longer before flying them. City officials said it would encourage new carriers to fill LB Airport's then vacant flight slots (an action the City wasn't legally required to take.)
The Council voted 8-1 (Yes: Lowenthal, Baker, Colonna, Kell, Richardson-Batts, Grabinski, Webb, Shultz. No: Carroll).to approve the action...and within days JetBlue took all vacant flight slots for aircraft over 75,000 pounds, leaving no other slots in that category available. LBREPORT.com (then in its first year of operation) learned and reported that JetBlue and city officials had held secret meetings prior to bringing the flight slot change measure to a Council vote.
City officials organized public meetings in the 4th and 8th Council districts and professed continued support for LB Airport ordinance, but voters had seen enough; they elected O'Donnell and Gabelich.
(Some carriers raised issues that were resolved through skillful lawyering by LB's City Attorney's office (by Bob Shannon and Mike Mais) assisted by specially hired aviation counsel with the cooperation of JetBlue (which relinquished some slots to assist the city in resolving the matter.)
Beyond noise impacts (the primary concern in the 1990s), Airport impacts are now understood to include health impacts on families and children not fully understood previously, including toxic pollutants and particulate fallout from jet and piston engines. Much of Long Beach is encircled by four freeways, and the City is adjacent to the region's largest stationary pollution source: the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, with pollution from ships, trucks and railroads.
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