(July 24, 2005) -- Norm Ryan, who led the campaign for a petition-initiated Nov. 2000 ballot measure in which nearly 70% of LB residents voted to cut LB's utility tax in half in five years, has filed papers with the City Clerk that create a recipient committee, an exploratory move he says will help him gauge support for a 3d district City Council run.
If he files a formal statement of candidacy, Mr. Ryan would enter a field currently occupied by Gary DeLong and Charles Legeman...and could turn the race to succeed Councilman Frank Colonna (capping eight years on the Council with a run for Mayor) into a contest with sharply drawn lines over the direction of LB City Hall.
Mr. DeLong's campaign reports raising over $50,000 as of June 30 and has launched a campaign website listing a campaign Advisory Council -- stopping short of saying they've formally endorsed his campaign -- that includes multiple Harbor Commissioners (current and former), Planning Commissioners, two Mayoral candidates and the chair of LB Area Chamber of Commerce's governing board among a who's-who of LB VIPs.
Mr. Legeman, active in the LB Yacht Club and the former publisher of the Marina News, heads the Isthmus Corporation (a real estate related firm). He recently spoke at a LB City Council meeting in opposition to a proposal (which passed 8-1, Colonna dissenting) to determine if there's a federal interest in reconfiguring the LB breakwater to allow for some surf in the area. He has also launched a campaign website.
LBReport.com learned that Mr. Ryan had filed initial paperwork on July 22 and contacted him for comment. Mr. Ryan told us, "I've had people tell me I should run. I'd like to get out there and gauge support for this and I've formed an exploratory committee so I can raise some money and see whether it's viable." He continued, "Obviously, I have an interest in running. I've shown by my experience after being elected to the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. The agency went from previously being subjected to three state audits to the point where it's now winning awards."
Mr. Ryan added, "I have a record of keeping my word. I promised assessments would be reduced by a certain amount, by about 2%, and we did it."
In the brief telephone conversation that followed:
LBReport.com: So what do you think the major issues in the 3d district Council race are?
Mr. Ryan: Good services at reasonable cost. People want good services and they don't believe they're getting them or underpaying for them. They want safe streets. They want sidewalks repaired and access to world class libraries and they want this at a reasonable price. That doesn't seem like a whole lot to ask for.
There is a major leadership vacuum at City Hall, a very destructive impulse in Long Beach city government toward incorporating outside views.
LBReport.com: What about suggestions by some to revisit Prop J, the utility tax cut?
Mr. Ryan: Prop. J is under attack and I think some people are looking at raising the utility tax again. I told a city management team not long ago that it shouldn't even be on the table. City Hall hasn't made any case for a tax increase.
City management's three year plan is dead. It's now a four year plan. I originally reserved judgment on their three year plan to see what they'd do...and what they did is show the public that they're not serious about it. Their four year plan may now end up being a five year plan. It's basically a device to keep things going in hopes the situation will get better. Then they'll say "we've done all we can" when the truth is they haven't kept their word. They moved the goal."
LBReport.com: What about those who say taxes should be a "last resort"?
Mr. Ryan: Yes, raising taxes should always be the last resort, but my point is that they haven't done what they promised, and given what I've seen as the new budget is developing, there is no argument to be made for raising taxes. Unless something extremely dramatic occurs, an unforeseeable disaster, I don't see any reason -- absolutely none -- for doing so now.
Mr. Ryan, whose professional career is in the private sector handling municipal financial issues, began his LB public involvement in the 1990s as a Council-approved member of City Hall's "Public Safety Advisory Commission." In that normally placid capacity, he began asking questions about LB's police levels...and received responses he found less than satisfying.
When city management floated a plan to raise taxes/fees citing public safety, Mr. Ryan opposed it, arguing it was an unnecessary gouge and (with former LB resident William Molnar, CPA) offered an alternative without the tax/fee increase, effectively derailing management's plan.
Mr. Ryan and others subsequently announced plans to wage a campaign to cut LB's then-10% utility tax in half. A falling out ensued among some group members while Ryan pursued the measure, as City Hall hurled hurdles at him. City officials first erroneously informed Mr. Ryan that he'd failed to submit enough petition signatures. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association debunked the claim, showing that under the applicable law, Mr. Ryan had actually submitted several times the needed signatures. City management then attempted to mount an "informational campaign," using taxpayer resources to tout the "benefits" of the utility tax, forcing the campaign for the tax cut to expend resources challenging the action in court...where a Superior Court judge said City Hall had illegally used taxpayer resources for election advocacy. The Council also (legally) put a counter-measure on the ballot to try and derail Prop J, the Ryan-backed grassroots measure.
The net effect: in November 2000 -- a high turnout election -- LB voters enacted Prop J by a landslide margin of nearly 70% citywide.
In summer 2001, Mr. Ryan announced his candidacy for Mayor, saying he believed LB City Hall could be better run. He pledged to use his professional, private sector expertise in municipal finance to advance his own budgets instead of relying on management budgets, predicted City Hall-backed development projects would underperform and cost taxpayers money...and indicated he favored firing then-City Manager Henry Taboada.
Supporters of incumbent Mayor Beverly O'Neill said LB City Hall was "on the right track" was well run...and its development plans were just coming to fruition.
In September 2001, Mr. Ryan travelled to Sacramento to join other LB activists in opposing a City Hall plan to facilitate some developer-desired uses in the "Queensway Bay" (now "Pike @ Rainbow Harbor") area by removing tidelands trust status from some commercial footprints. (The action was by City Hall, not the developer.) In return, City Hall offered state taxpayers areas near the L.A. river and a publicly inaccessible downtown freeway median. Under the Davis-administration, the State Lands Commission approved this...but (as previously reported by LBReport.com) a state appeals court recently ruled that state approval was not justified by the record.
Mr. Ryan surged past multiple candidates in the Mayoral race and made it into the runoff, but he and then-Vice Mayor Dan Baker were bested by two-term incumbent Beverly O'Neill who ran a successful write-in campaign in one of the lowest turnout elections in LB history.
Once reelected, Mayor O'Neill acknowledged that City Hall was, in fact, facing a major fiscal crisis with Council spending exceeding revenue by tens of millions of dollars a year...and the Council thereafter without public explanation terminated Mr. Taboada. In March 2005 (as reported by LBReport.com) city management acknowledged that elements of LB's downtown beach/waterfront are losing money have done so for some time.
Mr. Ryan went on to win election to the Water Replenishment District of So. Cal. governing board. He also serves as president of the Lowell Elementary School PTA.
In 2003, following the death of LB School Board member Ed Eveland, Mr. Ryan entered the race for the open seat. Among multiple candidates was LB businessman Gary DeLong. Messrs. Ryan, DeLong and the rest of the field were bested by former LBUSD principal Jon Meyer...and Mr. Ryan still fumes over unidentified fliers late in the race for which he holds the DeLong school board campaign responsible.
Mr. DeLong, President/CEO of his own LB-based telecommunications management and software development firm, was appointed to City Hall's Economic Development Commission by Mayor O'Neill. He serves on the Boards of Directors of the Aquarium of the Pacific, ChildNet Youth & Family Services, Long Beach City College Foundation and Long Beach Public Library Foundation. He's also on the LB Area Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Council which [as described on the Chamber's website] "[m]onitors, analyzes and develops policy recommendations on local, state and federal legislation affecting the business community and serves on a liaison capacity with elected officials."
The DeLong for Council campaign recently issued a press release announcing that it has exceeded its fund raising goals to date, collecting a bit over $53,000 as of June 30. It has also launched a campaign website (www.DeLongfor3rdDistrict.com).
The DeLong campaign website and press release letterhead both list members of an Advisory Council -- not representing that they're formal endorsers -- that includes [our titles for identification] LB Harbor Commissioners James Hankla (also retired LB City Manager/retired ACTA CEO), John Hancock and Mike Walter; retired LB Harbor Commissioners Roy Hearrean (co-chair of the DeLong campaign's Advisory Committee), John Calhoun and Alex Bellehumeur; City Auditor Gary Burroughs; retired 3d district Councilman and Mayoral candidate Doug Drummond; Mayoral candidate and SCE President Bob Foster; LB Area Chamber of Commerce immediately-past board chair Lou Anne Bynum; Redevelopment Board member Tom Fields; realtors Dick Gaylord and Shirley Saltman; former Aquarium figure Jim Gray; retired LB Fire Chief Terry Harbour; University Park Estates leader Ben Goldberg; LBCC superintendent-president E. Jan Kehoe, Ph.D.; former Grand Prix, now SeaFest maven Chris Pook; LB Planning Commissioners Mitch Rouse, Nick Sramek and Mort Stuhlbarg.
"I am honored that such a distinguished group of community leaders have joined our campaign. This support is the result of reaching out to the community, one person at a time, and sharing our vision of a better Long Beach," said Mr. DeLong in an emailed comment. He added, "Part of that vision is a city that is financially well managed, and recognizes that the residents and businesses of Long Beach are its customers, and that we need to do a better job delivering customer service."
Last year, Mr. DeLong began sponsoring a Sound Off! feature on LBReport.com which included an interactive element. In addition to expressing his views on LB issues (Douglas Park and an independent Redevelopment Agency board), the op-eds invited readers to vote on whether they agreed or disagreed with Mr. DeLong's views. LBReport.com tallied the votes and posted updated results as received.
Candidate Charles Legeman, former publisher of the Marina News and current president of Isthmus Corporation recently appeared at the LB City Council to speak against a proposal to determine if there's a federal interest in reconfiguring part of the LB breakwater to restore some surf to LB beaches. The item, also opposed by 3d district Councilman Frank Colonna, passed 8-1 (Colonna dissenting).
Mr. Legeman -- who noted he was not a Peninsula resident -- argued that the breakwater makes LB's beaches more attractive by eliminating potentially treacherous surf.