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Councilman Grabinski Announces He's Running For Mayor

We provide transcript excerpts and text of a written statement to the media

Grabinski announcement 6-13-01 (June 14, 2001, and updated with link to written statement text) -- Addressing supporters in the backyard of a California Heights home and vowing to be the "Mayor for the Neighborhoods," 7th district Councilman Ray Grabinski announced on June 13 he is a candidate for Mayor.
Photo by Diana Lejins provides extended transcript excerpts of Mr. Grabinski's remarks, below.

Among those on hand for Councilman Grabinski's announcement were Planning Commission member and WLB leader Nick Sramek, Wrigley area neighborhood activist Maria Norvell and Airport Advisory Commission member Elliot Fried.Grabinski announcement (2) 6-13-01
Photo by Diana Lejins
Grabinski announces, supporters watch, reporters scribble

Mr. Grabinski has been on the City Council since 1986 with the exception of a four year period following his 1994 Mayoral run in which he finished second to then-newcomer Beverly O'Neill. In 1996, he moved into the 8th Council district, ran for that Council seat and lost to then-incumbent Jeff Kellogg. He then moved back into the 7th district and in 1998 beat one-term Councilman Mike Donelon to regain his former Council seat.

Councilman Grabinski's district encompasses parts of WLB, Wrigley, California Heights and southern Bixby Knolls.

Incumbent Mayor O'Neill, confronting term limits as Mayor, has announced she will wage a write-in campaign to retain office. Councilman Grabinski, term limited as a 7th district Councilman, is permitted to have his name appear on the ballot as a Mayoral candidate.

LB fiscal reformer and Prop J/utility tax cut author Norm Ryan recently amended paperwork with the City Clerk, positioning himself for a possible Mayoral run; he has not to date formally announced as a Mayoral candidate.

Other announced Mayoral candidates include Vice Mayor/2d district Councilman Dan Baker and ECO-link chair Diana Mann. provides salient portions of Councilman Grabinski's remarks and the colloquy that followed.

Since our tape recorder didn't capture his opening remarks, our person on scene requested that Mr. Grabinski reiterate them for us; we've noted that section in our transcript.

Headings below are our own to make it easier to locate issues of interest.

[Reiterated intro]

Reasons for running

The reason we're meeting in the neighborhoods is because I really want to be the neighborhood Mayor. I think that the neighborhoods have not been put in the right kind of priority that they should be.

Neighborhoods are everything to the community. And we're here in a backyard in my neighborhood because we're going to go to every one of the other 49 neighborhoods one at a time, talk to all the people, hear from them, listen to them, about what's on their mind, what they want to have happen and the changes they want to see made.

Because I believe the people in Long Beach are looking for stability in energy prices. I think they're looking for some movement, some changes on getting things done in the neighborhood, potholes being fixed, street trees being trimmed, sidewalks being fixed. Infrastructure was the number one issue and I think we've missed the mark completely on that. We fixed some sidewalks, but the city never had potholes when I grew up in it, I mean this is a recent phenomenon that we have to do something with.

The neighbors deserve the same kind of work that the downtown is getting. Downtown is a neighborhood just like the other 49 neighborhoods but it's very important that the neighborhoods are always taken care of. The public shouldn't wonder what's going on and why they're not getting their services.

They've given us the message. I heard the message at the Pyramid, listening to the people there, and I've heard it around the community in the past.

And it's time for a change...and I hope to be that change.

[End reiterated intro, begin real time transcript]

...I started out in the neighborhoods 22 years ago, fighting an oil refinery and along with the rest of the neighbors that formed the California Heights Action Group, a lot of bad landings,

Those kinds of challenges are still around and I want to work with everybody who lives in the city of Long Beach to resolve some of those issues and put the neighbors at rest so they don't feel like they have to sign petitions and have propositions to make the local government understand what their needs are.

And having said all that, thank you all for being here and I'll answer any questions...

Recent CSULB Pyramid "Listening to You" event

[Comment acknowledges Councilman Grabinski's participation in June 9 CSULB Pyramid "Listening to You" Town Meeting event; he responds] "...It was a big committee that put it together and I think it's a great example of how most of the wisdom comes from the community. If you listen, it's all there.

And we've had a tendency over the last ten or twelve years, and it has nothing to do with who's in office, it has to do with what's happened in the city over the last decade or so. We went through some bad times and I think we've become disconnected, and the event at the Pyramid was an attempt to bridge that gap or to begin to. And I think it did. I think a lot of people walked away feeling that they had an opportunity to speak, to be heard and to be respected which I think is another thing that the public feels they're not getting enough of from City Hall.

Campaign matters

Q: Talk about the timing of your announcement. Were you waiting for the Pyramid?

Yes, I purposely didn't want to announce before that because we had said we wanted to keep that separate from politics and I heard a bunch of rumors about "Oh, he's going to announce the night before, the day before, the day of" and none of that was going to happen. We worked very hard to make sure that the committee reflected as large a part of the community as possible and that I wasn't the focus of it.

And I'll tell you candidly it's not easy for a guy who likes to talk as much as I do to sit for five hours and listen but when we did the Day of Listening before for the young people it was a great learning experience and so was this one. So the timing really has to do with the fact that campaigns take a great deal of time, a lot of people and usually a large amount of money. And I'd be a liar if I said that I haven't been working on this already before the announcement, talking to people, lining people up, preparing myself, my family and everyone else for what turns out to be a ten month sprint.

From now on, there's nothing between us and victory except all the people that we have to see, talk to and win over.

Q: Any estimates of how much it's going to take?

In 1994, I think it took $300,000 for the three top contenders and would guess it's going to take more than that this time. But at least that for someone who's going to be a contender.

Q: Why this and [audibility difficult] not the 7th district?

I'm termed out.

Q: Yeah, but you could run a write-in.

Yeah I can, I can run a write-in, it's technically legal, but I don't think it's what the public wants. I think the majority of the people voted for term limits and the reason they voted for term limits is because they want people to work the job two terms and get out.

And I actually, technically, would only serve six years of the eight years because they passed this in 1992 and I was on the Council for two years and I got off. And I think a lot people thought that when I was re-elected I had two terms coming, and I was one of those people, but it didn't work out that way.

Q: But you had two terms before, correct?

Yes, before term limits.

Q: [audibility difficult]...You're saying you could run as a write-in candidate unless you go around the law or circumvent the law [audibility difficult]. Are you suggesting we throw it out or are you suggesting that Beverly O'Neill is going around the law?

No. I think that's what it'll appear to a lot of the people in the public because that was written so that would be the only way someone in office could run. And it was obviously written as a way to penalize the two term person. So, I think what that means is that it's going against the majority to do that. And I could, but I choose not to.

LB City Hall-run utility's natural gas rates

...Q: Talk about natural gas rates. [audibility difficult]...will be a central issue?

I think it's not just the natural gas rates. I think it's the shock that everybody who lives in town went through with the astronomical rise in the rates and getting people back to the point where they feel comfortable in their homes without having that same kind of thing happen again. It was bad enough that the rates went up, but it was inexcusable for us to not notify the people at least a couple of months ahead of time.

Some of the people in the city knew about it and our response was totally inappropriate. Everybody here who lives in Long Beach had the opportunity to cut their usage back for probably close to 90 days. They weren't told and they ended up using all of their appliances normally and then were charged rates that were five and six times what they normally were.

We don't know yet what the ramifications of all of that are. We don't know the seniors who were hurt by that, the families who were hurt by it on low income, probably did without [audibility difficult]. Seniors should not have choose between whether or not they can feed themselves or heat their house. We handled that very badly and that should never happen again.

And I can tell you that as Mayor, that kind of thing will not happen. We should have been on that from the get-go. I brought my bill in December and waved my bill in front of everybody, and that gas had been purchased in at least November and perhaps October, and if my gas bill was doubling, somebody knew that our bills weren't going up just 30 or 40 percent, they knew they were going up double. And not letting people know was inexcusable.

That's a betrayal of public trust and I think that is one of the big reasons that this neighborhood campaign that I'm talking about is so important because if people don't feel confident about what's going on in their city and who's running it, they couldn't feel more uneasy. And it doesn't do any good to have a beautiful house and put all the effort into making your neighborhood a great place to be if the very basic things that you need every day, your electricity and your gas, can go up and down so quickly.

So stabilizing all of that I think is really important. And I still don't think we've made a really good effort to calm the fears of the public. I think there's still a great deal of doubt out there and that once again is inexcusable.

City Hall spending and neighborhoods

Q: [audibility difficult] spending too much time on downtown related...

Well, I think I mentioned before, downtown is a neighborhood too. And have we spent a lot down there, yes, we have. But on some things, we've made some very poor investments that are never going to be returned to the neighborhoods. And a lot of what we've done, we've done while the neighborhoods have been deteriorating in terms of the streets, you know, the sidewalks, the services that people took for granted twenty years they can't take for granted any more.

And that's not fair. It's not fair for us to be spending an inordinate amount of money on the come, on betting on what will be coming here when you're not taking care of your stake holders. These folks right here. I mean every one of 'em have been paying taxes every year they've been in town. They've been doing all the things we want, taking care of their families, taking care of their homes, participating in the PTA, in community groups, doing everything you'd want, and instead of making sure we're always taking care of them and working on downtown, I think we've done it at the expense of the neighborhoods. And that has to stop.

[Supporter Nick Sramek comments; says in 1995-96 when So. Cal Edison tried to bring containers on their westside right of way, Mr. Grabinski "wasn't even in office. Ray came over there and gave his unending support to help us keep Southern California Edison from putting those containers in there. Unbelievable support and it had nothing to do with him being in office or where he was going or what he was doing but, you know, just to help people in this city." Mr. Grabinski responds:]

And this is a good example. Nick is a lifelong resident of the westside. And Nick could live just about anywhere in Long Beach he wants to. His family has lived there all of this time. They knew there were railroads there when he moved there. They knew there were refineries not far away. So did the school district when they built the schools. So did the city when we built libraries and other facilities.

But once you know that you have those abusive uses in the City of Los Angeles affecting your neighborhood, you're certainly not going to do anything to make it worse. And in this particular instance, the City of Long Beach was going to allow it to be worse at the expense of the neighborhood once again. And that ought to just be a given, that you do not allow development that is going to be harmful to neighborhoods to take place.

City Hall land use and development policies

And the current example is Scherer Park. That is not a question of whether or not a police station should go into a park. It calls the question on the city of Long Beach as to whether or not park use is important to the city. And every report that's ever come out of City Hall has said that we're getting more young people and we need more park space, more open space. End of question.

It should not be a question then of, "Yeah but we need a police substation." End of question. Bad land use choice, don't do it. So they did it once and now they have a chance to correct it. That's all you do is correct it, you don't compound it.

And until this city puts the neighborhoods ahead of everything else, not at the expense of everything else but ahead of everything else, we're going to be in trouble. Because the only reason people move here from Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach and all these other cities to come to neighborhoods like this, is because of the neighborhoods. It's not because of the boxes that we live in, because there are newer houses in other neighborhoods. They come because of what's here, what's in the neighborhood.

And good schools are great, but if you don't have good parks, you don't have a good neighborhood. And if you put a police substation, a massive police substation, in Scherer Park, how do we know that Somerset Park will stay here? Will that become a fire station, a library, or something else? And if that's the case, if that's a possibility, then this city needs to call the question on it.

And now it's just hanging out there. And if you want to go back, look at what happened to 911. Five years ago, we were desperately in need of a 911 center, and this city was telling the taxpayers that we were going to have to raise their refuse rates to pay for it. The taxpayers said no, you're not going to raise our rates, we're not going to pay for it. So the then-City Manager found the money, which is an ongoing story in Long Beach, they always seem to find the money.

But they didn't build a 911 center, because they chose to use a park. Now that bad land use choice has put that 911 center off for another three years. Think about the risk that we're in. If something goes wrong, and somebody can prove that the 911 center was responsible for someone not being able to make a call, someone not getting to an emergency on time, we're at risk of losing a lawsuit over that.

So that was a bad land use choice. And there just should be no doubt. If you want to make those kinds of things not happen in the future, you set a policy that says parks are sacred for the city of Long Beach. Our kids, you know you hear this all the time, our kids are our most important resource. How could they be our most important resource if we think about putting a 911 center in one place and substation in another?

And the really sad part of this is that the police department is pitted against the neighborhood. There's not a soul in here who doesn't want public safety, and all of us, and especially me, have worked really hard to not just make sure we have a good police department, but I was here when we almost lost our police department by one vote to the sheriffs. And we supported the police department not just to have good law enforcement but to make sure we had the facilities for them. [audibility difficult] where they feel they're at odds.

Lessons learned from his unsuccessful 1994 Mayoral run

Q: Where there any lessons from your last Mayoral run? Maybe do things differently this time around, or any things that came out of the last go around that you can apply, good or bad?

Right, I think It's kind of interesting. I think one of the big lessons is timing. You should always pick the best time. If I'd have known there were going to be eleven candidates, I might have thought twice about it. If I would have known I would have come in second, I surely would have thought twice about it. Would I think twice about it because of bringing up the issues? No. I think it was well worth the run.

I worked with a dynamite group of people, was an absolutely wonderful group of people for a year, to bring issues forward that were very important, some of which quite frankly were acted on after the campaign. And it certainly doesn't do anybody who's in government any bad, it doesn't hurt to lose an election, to find out that that's not all you do. And so I learned from that.

And I think the other thing that you learn about campaigning is that you can never work hard enough, never see enough people, you can never appreciate what a real luxury it is to live in a free society and to have the opportunity to represent a city like Long Beach. I came 3100 votes away from winning that race. And I walked away not feeling like I was in second place. I was very grateful that almost 50% of the people were confident enough to vote for me.

But I did learn some things, and those will all be used in this campaign and (laughs) I'm not going to share all of 'em with you right now.

NLB police facility/Scherer Park

Q: [audibility difficult, refers to location for NLB police station]

...They're going to have to move all of those people into trailers some place while they try and configure a police station in that park. And when they built the westside police station, they had a flat piece of property. They didn't have any other challenges besides that. Plunked down what was then about a $7 million facility.

I would venture to tell you that the chances of this going to lawsuit are probably 80-90%, and the lawsuit will be brought much the same way it was in El Dorado Park, and that there's a very good chance the citizens who bring the lawsuit will beat their own city again, but not just out of money, they'll beat us out of time, because it's not about the police substation and the park. It's about a bad land use choice. We're saying there's no other place for this to go if we make that land use choice, and that's wrong. That's inherently wrong, because what we're doing is backing into a spot and, you know, we're showing the kids by our actions and our inaction that this is the only way we can do it...

And this leads to the conflict in the neighborhood. Why is Gigi "Fast Elk" Porter, why do we know her name? Why isn't she helping to do something else in the community? Because she feels like she's got to defend her own park. Why did Traci Wilson-Kleekamp get involved in what was going on in the city? Because Stearns Park was going to be the home of the 911 center.

And then we have people in this city, in positions of power, who will berate these folks for picking up the standard and trying to keep those places open space for kids. How does that work? How do you get at odds with your community so badly that it's an us or them situation? Bad choices.

Prop J/utility tax cut

[Question about Mr. Grabinski's record on Prop J, Norm Ryan's petition initiated utility tax cut measure. A written statement he provided to the media (to see entire statement click here) states in part, "Last year, I supported Measure J."]

Well you remember when they brought it forward, the city was not supportive of it, made him go out and get the signatures. And then when there was a question about whether or not it would be the 5% or anything different, I was a part of the compromise. And I was just one of four that was a part of the compromise. And then, people kind of picked sides. And I went back, not once but twice, to try to make the compromise work. And the people who supported Prop J were the ones who were always willing to compromise. And the city was the one that came up with the 2 1/2 or 3 [percent rate reduction for a counter-measure, Prop I], where you and I still don't know how that works. They came up with that.

And I did not support The Wave [city sponsored newsletter, touting the alleged benefits of the utility tax, enjoined by a Superior Court judge after Mr. Ryan brought suit], the thing that happened with The Wave. And I was on record as saying I supported the public. I'm not going to go against the public on this.

And in that regard, yeah I did support Prop J. It was going to pass, I was supportive of the compromise. There not being a compromise, I was not going to go against it.

And I still think that was a big loss by the city. Not just losing that opportunity for the compromise because that would have put everybody on the same page, there wouldn't have been us or them; there wouldn't have been the sense of somebody winning and somebody losing.

And we didn't, remember, just do that once. We went back to the Council twice more, and couldn't get the compromise that the public was looking for.

And they bent quite a bit. I want to give Norm [Ryan] and George Economides and all those folks credit for being as open and as fair as they were. They could have said forget it, we think we got this won, we're gonna go for the whole 5%, but not once, but three times, they dealt with us on trying to work out a compromise. ...

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