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7th District Council Candidate Forum, Transcript Excerpts

(February 28, 2002) -- Below are transcript excerpts from a 7th district Council forum held on Saturday, February 16 at Birney Elementary School from 9 a.m.-noon.

Candidates Tonia Reyes Uranga, Bobbie Smith, Mike Donelon and Thomas R. Gonzales attended (although Ms. Uranga left at roughly 11:00 a.m.)

Readers in other parts of the city may wish to consider that the 7th district Councilmember has as much of a vote on development in other districts as his/her own, as well as an equal vote on citywide issues.

The forum's format included questions from the audience (submitted on 3x5 cards to a panel of screeners to eliminate duplicates, edit for grammar, etc.)

We provide transcript excerpts below; not all questions, answers and statements are reflected.

LB police levels

Q: We do not have enough police staffing, especially at night. What would you do to remedy the problem?

  • Donelon: ...When I was on the City Council, and we did the West Long Beach police substation, we hired over 131 police officers. Since I've been off the Council, that number has gone down...I think prioritizing in our upcoming city budget money to hire more police officers is going to be an absolute priority, definitely.

  • Uranga: According to the Chief of Police, there are approximately 21 vacancies right now in the department. I'm not so much concerned, although I think that we do need to be at maximum staffing levels, my real concern is...that the police are not where they should be geographically in the city...but along with police staffing levels, we need to take a good look at infrastructure. The Police Dept. has buildings that are deteriorating...

  • Gonzales: I believe that the staffing levels are down and they're more like 41 officer vacancies right now. We're stretched pretty thin in the ranks...I would start to reinstitute the system which worked in the past, Neighborhood Watch...I would also ask and request that the Police Dept...add available teams of officers that specifically target areas to respond. I would ask also that there be more evening patrols...I would try to increase the level of the police officers...

  • Smith: ...[T]ake a look at the budget and see if there's a possibility of reprioritizing funds. The second thing that I would do is look at federal grants, because that was the reason that we were able to hire the additional police in the first place...

LB Airport

Q: Please discuss Airport expansion and its relevance to the 7th district.

  • Gonzales: ...I believe that that issue is a very important issue in this race. I think if you look at the record of some of the people in the past they have expanded their services.

  • Smith: I believe at this time there's a 41 flight limit at the Airport and we are not at that limit at that time. I would like to see us get to that. I'd much rather fly out of Long Beach...

  • Donelon: There will be no airport expansion...But what is very important is to have a Councilmember that lives in an Airport impacted neighborhood, that understands those issues, that understands the importance of the Airport and has for 16 years worked to create a balance between those two entities to allow us to live in relative peace and allow the Airport to do what it must do to succeed and that means to reach the 41 flights...

  • Uranga: We really do need to establish a balance between protecting our neighborhoods and really growing the economy...I don't think that's going to past the 41 flights...I think that the community is going to make sure that we don't go past that...

Queensway Bay

Q: What do you think of the Queensway Bay project? How will it help Long Beach?

  • Smith: Queensway Bay long overdue...We decided go this way a long time ago...and I believe it will be a good thing for the city of Long Beach.

  • Donelon: ...I'm opposed to the current design of Queensway Bay. It isn't what we wanted it to be when we conceived the concept for Queensway Bay...I will do everything in my power to stop it...

  • Uranga: ...I think my invitation to the groundbreaking must have gotten lost in the mail. [laughter] They were supposed to have a groundbreaking last month...My comment would be to throw it out and start over...

  • Gonzales: I am against the Queensway Bay project, because I think it's been a waste of taxpayer money...I intend to get on that City Council and make a difference in the way that the city leaders look at spending our money...

Port and other pollution

Q: Discuss pollution in the 7th [district]. How will you work with the Port, etc. to lessen it?

  • Donelon: ...When I was on the City Council...we implemented a program that exists today, was have monitoring stations in different parts of West Long Beach...The Port of Long beach has gone far above the Port of Los Angeles in trying to deter coke dust and other pollutants...but what I think what's very important is to keep the monitoring stations up and running...dialogue with the community...and most importantly, not beating up the Port because it's an important economic engine to the city, but working with the Port and communicating with the neighborhoods to let everybody know what everybody's doing and their desires...

  • Uranga: ...We have not only people living in the area but we have schools and schoolchildren that gets the tremendous effect of not only coke dust but pollution, we're talking about air, water and noise when we talk about the effects of the Port. I think one way that we can start looking at this is maybe having a Port Commissioner that represents the affected area or even the people that are living near the Port...

  • Gonzales: ...You've got to talk about the bay, about the reconfiguration of the breakwater that would allow a refocusing from the ocean current onto our shores...You also need to discuss and understand the [LA] river, the importance that the river has to the rest of the city, to the bay...We also should look at issues like the 710 freeway of course, and the smoke that comes from the trucks...those are some of the things we need to look at...A parks in perpetuity clause is something...that needs to be put in the Charter...

  • Smith: I would sit down with the environmentalists and get an idea of how they see the issues...Also take a look at all of the things that cause the pollution, the trucks, the ships, etc. and see what we can do in terms of maybe lowering the traffic, rerouting some of it...

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