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Mayoral Candidates Field Host's Questions On Cable Channel 3

We provide transcript excerpts

(January 29, 2002) -- In a live appearance on Charter Communications' "Inside Long Beach" (cable Channel 3) on January 28, LB's seven Mayoral candidates fielded questions from host Mike Murchison.

The nearly one hour forum included opening and closing candidate statements surrounding questions from Mr. Murchison. The program ended with a salute to the late Thomas "Ski" Demski, a former LB Mayoral candidate (who once appeared on a televised debate with a squawking parrot on his shoulder.)

Vice Mayor Dan Baker pledged that "immediately after election as Mayor," he intends to "bring together a wide group of people from all over this city to talk about charter reform." He said LB needs "an elected leader who leads the city and runs the city," and it's "time to move away the City Council-Manager form of government and elect a strong Mayor that will run this city."

Norm Ryan, whose utility tax cutting Prop J passed by a near 70% margin citywide over opposition from the incumbent Council, said he'd "shown his commitment to fight for the resident taxpayer" and would do likewise as Mayor. He said his campaign themes of "respect, reform, renew" are hallmarks of a "resident focused strategy," adding that "Long Beach is in the development business, when it should be in the neighborhood business."

12 year incumbent Ray Grabinski, leaving the Council under term limits for a second Mayoral bid, said he believes the Redevelopment Agency "probably should be a Council committee"

Urging voters to retain her leadership, Mayor Beverly O'Neill stressed that term limits did not bar her candidacy or her write in campaign and said "we have higher property values, increased police security, more economic development...and more retail areas." While acknowledging LB "is not known for having clean beaches and clean water," Mayor O'Neill said these "are things we must take care of" and is looking "forward to turning these challenges into opportunities."

The "Inside Long Beach" Mayoral forum, produced by Ron Petke, will be repeated on Charter Communications Channel 3 on Sunday, Feb. 3 and 10, and on Monday Feb. 4. All airtimes are at 7:00 p.m.

We provide transcript excerpts below. For convenience, we have grouped questions by candidate, meaning they are not in their original order. Not all candidates or their statements are transcribed. Our photos and transcripts of the telecast are used below courtesy of Charter Communications Channel 3.

Vice Mayor Dan Baker

Baker debate pic

Q: What major success stories would you tell voters that you've been directly involved with? Queensway Bay is in your district. What would you have done differently, if anything, if you were Mayor to have this project on line?

A: Some major success stories in my district have been the creation of two wonderful new pocket parks. Working in conjunction with great neighborhood groups, private business ventures that contributed their time and money to the developments. Great neighborhood associations are out there on a daily basis cleaning up alleys, painting out graffiti, planting trees, really making our Long Beach neighborhoods what they are, the vibrant distinct communities that we all cherish.

Queensway Bay has been an ongoing saga for this city for some time. As the Mayor, I think I would have directed this process a little differently. We all in the city kind of feel like we're stuck with what we have. Perhaps if there was intervention several years back when this first started to go downhill, we would have made the decision at that point to cut this project off at its knees and start over with a new idea, and that still may happen, and when we get to that point, I can guarantee you this Council is not going to extend one other thing for this development, and we will go out to the community and hear their thoughts about what should go on on that parcel.
Q: Are you in favor of the proposed mix of retail and restaurants for what was once the Long Beach Plaza mall?

A: You're talking about the CityPlace development. I think the best thing the city did was to knock down that prison-like structure we had in the middle of our downtown area. It was unfortunate that years ago that the structure was ever built, because they took out some wonderful old buildings...I like what's being proposed there. I think it will be wildly successful. I think it mixes well with the downtown residents that we're bringing in.
Q: Are there any charter changes that you would want to discuss, advocate, pass, if you become Mayor?

A: Immediately after election as Mayor of Long Beach, I intend to bring together a wide group of people from all over this city to talk about charter reform. I believe the time is here. We need an elected leader who leads the city and runs the city and I think it's time to move away the City Council-Manager form of government and elect a strong Mayor that will run this city."
Q: Do you think that the city should have citywide elections and fewer Council districts with full time Councilmembers?

A: Well, I mentioned earlier, I am very much in favor of bringing together a group of folks from all over the city to look at charter reform. Not only do we need to look at the idea of whether we should have a manager or a mayor who runs this city, I expect that we will also discuss the form of government as it relates to councilmembers, whether they're full time or part time, reducing the number of districts, and whether we give the mayor a stronger veto or a vote on the city council, those are all issues that I want to bring up as a discussion with community members and bring a recommendation back to the people of Long Beach and let them vote on this issue.

Norm Ryan

Ryan debate picQ: ...You referenced your success with the utility tax drive. How do you respond to voters who ask where are the other areas of experience that you would bring as Mayor?. Do you need experience as a candidate in running for Mayor of Long Beach?"

A: Oh, I don't think so, and in fact Mayor Beverly O'Neill is my model for somebody who didn't have to be a Councilperson or an elected official to run for Mayor. In my capacity as a managing director of public finance, I review about 130 city, county and state agency budgets a year. I'm in a great position to compare and see what other cities are doing that's probably a little more optimal than what we're doing. So the experience I get from the private sector, especially the type of work that I do, dovetails nicely into how cities operate...
Q: How would you get the business associations, the various organizations such as the Chamber [of Commerce] to work together to come up with a solution that helps business here in Long Beach?

A: First of all, maybe we need to have those associations, maybe especially the Chamber, get in touch with their rank and file. I know that by and large the rank and file supported things like measure J [grassroots utility tax cut backed by Ryan]. They didn't support things like measure Z [proposed trash fee hike to fund new 911 ECOC backed by City Hall]. I remember being on the opposite side of the Chamber on those issues and when it came to what was do-able and what was fair and what would help the businesses in this city, the Chamber wasn't there...
Q: If you're elected Mayor, would you bring up the breakwater discussion again? The second part is, how would you deal with the upstream cities and the contamination trash coming down the L.A. river and ending up on our beaches?

A: I would certainly bring the breakwater argument back up again, because the original argument was simply to do a study...And then once you've established that the breakwater is, or isn't, causing erosion, or causing toxicity to remain within, then you can evaluate how much damage the federal project has done to us and see how much the government is willing to mitigate that damage. Some of that damage mitigation may come from regulatory compliance upstream, probably a little more forceful than it is currently being administered...
Q: Would change the format of the Council meetings and how would you go about doing it?

A: ...I think once we decide the people of Long Beach are our greatest assets, and that they should be given just as much time as the developers on the outside making money off of us, I think you're going to have more progress in this town."

Mayor Beverly O'Neill

O'Neill debate picQ: What do you say to voters who recently passed term limits, and they passed it by an over 2/3 margin?

A: Well, you didn't talk about what the other part of [term] limits was...and that is...they also said that incumbents can run again but their name cannot appear on the ballot. And so I'm going to leave it up to the voters, because if they had not felt that there needed to be a loophole to allow incumbents to run, they wouldn't have put it in there, and people voted on it.

Q: ...Scherer Park, Queensway Bay. Is the process for development of major infrastructure projects to your liking? If not, how would you change it?

A: Scherer Park, the facilities are antiquated, they absolutely need to be changed. This was the site that was chosen by the Council. This is a facility that is much needed. It's still being debated, however.

Queensway Bay is probably one of the most frustrating projects we've had, and I think it's good to talk about what should have been done in hindsight. Much was done along the way. We decided on the direction we were going to go, and rather than changing in midstream when it would cost us millions of dollars and years of time because we would have been sued, we have continued on the project that we are working on, and in three months we will have a decision one way or another.
Q: Priorities have changed with a lot of people post 9-11. Do you think that this city should reprioritize their budget based on what happened to better deal with new scenarios that may impact the city?

A: This past week, I was in Washington lobbying so that we would get the resources that we need...I think that our priorities have changed...and security has become the keynote, even though public safety was before that, 9-11 has changed our view. We need many things in the city to make sure that we are safe."

Q: ...Are you in favor of the Mayor having a vote?...

A: I've been asked that many times over the last few years, and I've always said that I have not needed a vote for authority, but if I need it for accountability, then it's important. I think people know how I stand on the issues that we bring up at the Council meetings...I must say, I don't agree with Dan [Baker] on the change of the form of government. The form of government that we have has been in place since 1921. It is the most popular form of government, and it was actually started because there had been abuse of power...

Councilman Ray Grabinski

Grabinski debate picQ: If you were elected Mayor,...are there any other cities that you would like to take how they interact with their Commissioners, and change the process here in Long Beach...?

A: ...I don't think there's anything as serious as the Redevelopment Agency...dealing with millions and millions of dollars, down the road and we're talking about charter change, probably should be a Council committee. I don't mind there being another body of folks who run the Redevelopment Agency but they deal with so many millions of dollars that I believe the City Council should be a part of that...

[from closing statement]...Long Beach does not need to be Baltimore. It does not need to be Tampa. Long Beach needs to be just what it is: the biggest small town in America...

John Stolpe

As your Mayor, I will assure that public safety will be the number one priority for us in the city of Long Beach. I will also exercise my veto powers as Mayor that when issues come before the Council and they do not benefit the citizens of Long Beach, I will veto those decisions. I will make sure that all debates are in the open, and no backdoor deals like the Queensway Bay land swap...

David P. Wong

...In my present business, I represent my clients on a day to day basis with the city. I have entered this race because I want my new clients to be the residents and businesses of Long Beach, so I can represent their interests from the inside as their advocate. Today I am asking Long Beach to believe in the common sense wisdom and integrity of grassroots democracy and support my campaign and elect me as your next Mayor as the voice of the people.

Bob "Livy" Livingstone

Q: Do you support the 41 [flight] slot allocation at the airport? Would you also promote to fill all those slots if you were Mayor?

A: ...I actually live in the flight pattern. I'm so close that you can see faces when the planes go overhead, but I bought my house knowing that the airport was there. We have built a $111 million convention center, we have all these hotels downtown, but we don't make it easy for people to get into Long Beach. I would be very supportive of JetBlue increasing and trying to get any other airlines in here for tourism. Like I said, I live in the airport flight pattern, I know that it's disruptive, but I just hit my clicker and turn the noise up on the TV for 10 seconds, 15 seconds, and it goes away, so I would be supportive of doing that.

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