(Feb. 4, 2007) -- Several candidates seeking to become LB's next elected Councilmember for the 6th Council district -- with an equal vote affecting developments from Bixby Knolls to Belmont Shore and policies citywide -- attended a grassroots meet-and-greet arranged by NLB activist Dan Pressburg on Saturday February 3.
The Pressburg brunch at NLB's historic Dairy and Creamery has become a citywide pre-election tradition. Candidates compete for attention with biscuits and quiche while residents and reporters pose questions in free form style. In photo, Mr. Pressburg is interviewed for Charter Cable by Art Levine.
Our attempts to get all the candidates in one spot simultaneously (hoping to provoke some exchanges) flopped...but we did manage to put questions separately to three candidates we spotted. We post their responses below.
Among the VIPs attending was former 6th district Councilmember Laura Richardson, elected to the state Assembly's 55th Assembly seat in November. Her district encompasses LB and Carson...and she's opening her main district office in LB at 4201 LB Blvd. (near Hof's Hut).
So...has she endorsed a candidate to succeed her? Not yet...but she promised to let us know shortly.
Also attending was 9th district Councilman Val Lerch...who had an unexpectedly close re-election brush with a union-backed candidate in 2006...and appeared to be keeping an ear on things as the candidates expressed their views.
Ahmed Carl Saafir
Mr. Saafir's campaign material listed his presidency of LB's Civil Service Commission and other past and present civic involvements. On January 31, he held a candidate press announcement (which we attended) at Lincoln Park outside City Hall...and his campaign is digitally-ready. His aides brought a press packet with printed material...and a CD.
Mr. Saafir also has a campaign web site up at www.ahmedsaafir.com, citing community involvements including past presidencies of the NAACP and the Atlantic Community & Economic Development Corp. It includes a photo of him flanked by Police Chief Anthony Batts and Civil Service Commission VP Phil Infelise [doesn't represent them as endorsers.]
Mr. Saafir fielded questions on January 31 and at the Feb. 3 Pressburg brunch...and our first question was typical of what we ask candidates in all Council races:
Q: Can you name three votes by the former incumbent that you disagree with?
Mr. Saafir: No, not really. I think she's done a good job. She really has. At the same time, there are additional things I'd like to build on, including the 6th district Central area plan.
Q: Mayor Foster has asked the Council to come up with ways to fund 100 more police officers. Do you support it and how would you pay for them?
Mr. Saafir: Additional police officers are necessary but it's going to have to be done in phases so it doesn't impact the budget in such a way that it causes us to have a deficit. But it's very important that we have more police officers, and preventative programs. We've got to have some preventative program so that we don't grow additional need for police officers.
Q: What kind of phases are you talking about? It sounds like a timeline perhaps. And what kind of preventative programs are you talking about?
Mr. Saafir: We need a timeline in annual terms can be an integral part of our budget so that we can develop phasing it in each year. Because as our city grows, which it is constantly growing, we need to augment the police department the police department the same way.
Q: And the preventative programs?
Mr. Saafir: We need to have programs for youth, as our youth development is taking place, as our youth are growing and as they go from elementary school to puberty we need to have programs that are right in line with that development, because that's as important in our development economically as it is for young adults to be part of that same picture.
Q: Do you think the verdicts and sentences [four to date] in the Halloween night trial were just?
Mr. Saafir: Well, I think that the judge has made his decision and, as I said all the time, let the judicial system work. And now that the judicial system has worked, we must all find our resolve with his decision.
Q: Is there anything that I haven't asked that you'd like our readers to know about why you're running and what you want to do?
Mr. Saafir: I'm running to provide the community with the community-based leadership, the long-proven leadership that I have provided through the organizations that I've been involved in, and I think that we can continue the engineering necessary to make this community in par with other districts in the city. I think that's part of our planning, and we'll continue to plan and bring it up.
Mr. Austin is a former district representative to former State Senator Kevin Murray (D., Baldwin Hills/L.A.). His wife, Daysha, is a long-time staffer/legislative analyst in the 6th district City Council office under former Councilwoman Richardson and continuing in the interim.
Mr. Austin's press packet indicates he's been a LB resident since 1995...and lists among his inspirational leaders Rosa Parks, Willie L. Brown, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bill Clinton. It also lists several Democrat party awards and an organized Labor award...although no candidate web site yet (or we'd cite it).
In 2005, Mr. Austin emailed a letter to LBReport.com sandpapering 9th district Councilman Val Lerch for refusing to vote on a proposed LB City Council resolution opposing Propositions 74-76 [longer teacher probationary period, easier dismissal; annual consent from public employee union members when dues used for political purposes; more Governor power to reduce spending] as a "slap in the face to the hardworking city employees and to working families in his district..." Mr. Austin signed the email in his capacity as an Executive Board member of the CA Democratic Party, 55th Assembly District.
Q: Can you name three votes by the former incumbent with which you disagree?
Mr. Austin: No votes come to mind that I would have necessarily disagreed with. The approach to the Cambodian town issue was rather divisive and probably could have been handled a little bit differently, I would have handled it a little bit differently, been more inclusive of the community and maybe would have waited to introduce it until [we could] get consensus on that.
Q: The Mayor has said he wants to work with the Council to find ways to fund 100 more police officers.
Mr. Austin: I support that.
Q: How would you fund them?
Mr. Austin: Well, we're going to have to do that very creatively. I think we're going to have to take some painstaking approaches, and I think there's going to be some sacrifices from all the stakeholders involved. We may get to a hundred. We may not. We may need to look at some innovative ways to reduce crime through -- I'm a big proponent of recreational opportunities and recreational programs, particularly in the central area where we have such density and a high population of teenagers. So more police officers would certainly make us feel safer but at the same time we may need to engineer some creative approaches to help with public safety,
Q: Would that include a tax increase?
Mr. Austin: It possibly could, anything's possible.
Q: Would you support a tax increase?
Mr. Austin: Well I would have to see the proposal for a tax increase. To be honest with you, I was in favor of the [L.A. County proposed] half-cent sales tax increase that was on the ballot [Nov. 2004]...I think it passed in Long Beach with a majority. I was in favor of that at the time and I think the majority of residents here were as well.
Q: Do you think the verdict and the sentences [four to date] in the Halloween night beating trial were just?
Mr. Austin: I do think justice was served. I think we have to take into account that nobody came out necessarily winners in this. The victims, I mean obviously, I have deep compassion for what they went through. The reports of other youth being involved in this, and the fact that I don't think that you can necessarily define actually who did what. I think that the verdict was I guess fair across the board. Like I said, I'd like to see us engineer more programs for our youth and continue to have a dialogue, and we've been working with the School District to develop comprehensive conflict resolution approaches to prevent things like that from happening in the future. I think it was an aberration...it didn't embody what Long Beach is all about, that isolated incident.
Q: Is there anything I should ask you that you'd like readers to know?
Mr. Austin: I'm the only candidate in this race who will be able to hit the ground running with practical experience in public administration and policy. I've worked in the field of advocacy and representation and service for most of my adult life, the last fifteen years. Obviously, labor representative, worked with two of the largest labor organizations in the country, as well as I worked on staff for [State Senator Murray] in the legislature for four years. I have the experience, I have the background, I have the organization in place right now and will have the organization and relationships to hit the ground running and be an effective City Councilmember.
Ms. Parker brought along campaign material indicating she was "born, raised and lives in and serves the 6th district...From our community, for our community...a third generation 6th district resident." Her flier listed multiple community involvements...but no web site yet (or we'd cite it).
Q: Can you name three votes by the former incumbent that you disagree with?
Ms. Parker: I think that Redevelopment needs to stay where it is, that is in the community's hands. I think that interacting and having the community more active in the decisionmaking process is another.
Q: The Mayor has asked that Council try to come up with ways to fund 100 more police officers. Do you support it and how would you suggesting funding it?
Ms. Parker: I do support coming up with more officers...
Q: A hundred more, he said.
Ms. Parker: Yes, absolutely. I do support that. because I think that the officers want to be able to interact with residents more and I think that doing that is going to help curb crime so yes, of course. And I think that we just need to sit down, look at the budgets...and see where we can get different funds to be able to fund that progress. I do agree that the extra money from the oil tax [May 2007 ballot measure] is going to be good. I support the oil tax for public safety, as well as I think public safety [is something] where prevention and intervention should be included when we visit those areas, so the funding for those things, I think, are an integral part of public safety.
Q: Do you think the verdict and sentences [four to date] in the Halloween night trial were just?
Ms. Parker: I don't know all the particulars, I wasn't able to sit in the court system and listen to all the evidence
presented so off the surface, I have to say that I trust and believe in the judicial system that's there, especially working for the police department, rely on the judicial system to make these decisions. What I think is that...Long Beach has had some issues and perhaps we have not looked into them and taken care of the issues...but I think now that Long Beach is ready to start dealing with the issues at hand. So we need to move forward and accept the responsibility in order to have the healing process and then have some proactive ways of dealing with these issues in the future...
Q: Are there things you'd like to say to our readers?
Ms. Parker: I'm running because I want the community to have a voice...The sixth district, we want to make it more attractive for the different businesses and give different options to the community. They need to make over the minimum wage so that they can feel that they have substantial living wages so that they can own their own homes and things of that nature, so empowering the residents is going to be the major [focus]. Public safety, working with the Mayor's office and...to make sure that the relationship [with other Councilmembers] is one that's conducive to their concern about the needs in the sixth district as I'm concerned about the needs in their district.
Brunch host Pressburg tells us that candidates Lee Davis and Charlotte "Sadiyah" Gibson also attended...but in the unstructured format we regret not linking up with them at the event. We hope to add their comments here shortly; revisit this page, click reload or refresh on your browser for updated text.
To our knowledge, announced candidates Dee Andrews, J.A. Caruthers and Ed Acevedo didn't attend.