(March 7, 2007) -- Several candidates seeking to become LB's next 6th district City Councilmember have publicly supported or remained silent on a May 1 city ballot measure that could raise their Council salary (and other incumbents) to full time level without requiring full time work...and without a recorded vote by them on the pay raise.
In a March 5 Wrigley Association candidates forum for the May 1 winner-take-all special election to succeed now-Assemblywoman Laura Richardson, moderator Alan Tolkoff asked the six (of seven) candidates present to state their positions on the upcoming city ballot measures.
The measures, placed on the ballot without petition signatures by the incumbent City Councilmembers, include Proposition B to create a City Hall-chosen "Council compensation commission" that could increase Council salaries without Councilmembers taking a recorded vote. State and federal lawmakers have used a similar system that has boosted their pay (and accompanying pensions) without the politicians having to take a recorded public vote on the matter.
Council candidate Ahmed Carl Saafir explicitly supported Prop B. Candidate Al Austin said he endorses all of the Propositions [which include Prop B]. Candidates Lillian Parker, Ed Acevedo and Lee Davis didn't voice any opposition to Prop B. Candidate Dee Andrews said he hadn't had time to examine the Propositions yet. Candidate Caruthers didn't attend the forum.
On another timely topic, candidates Saafir, Austin and Parker all told LBReport.com after the forum that they support AB 790 by State Senator Betty Karnette (D., LB) to make witness intimidation a mandatory felony and add up to four years in prison for intimidation done for a criminal street gang.
Asked during the forum what they would do to protect their constituents from the toxic effects of the Port and 710 freeway, and their opinion on the absence of a "no net increase" bill (requiring that port growth doesn't worsen pollution), not reintroduced this year by State Senator Alan Lowenthal:
- Ahmed Carl Saafir [endorsed by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce which has opposed prior no net increase legislation]: "The bill will go back and [we can] put some legs on it...The 710 freeway and the problem with pollution on the westside especially...the AQMD did not approve the meters [monitoring] that should have been established so the people at Hudson [School] and Stevenson [School] would at least be aware that there's respiratory problem in the air. That needs to be redone through our voices so that they will allow those meters and then we can set up the preventative measures. Now, this is not going to solve the problem. You've got to let business do the research and that's what's going on. That's why they've come out with a tugboat that's will have less pollution from the diesel. Also, the airplanes are being made where they have less exhaust that will fall over the city."
- Lillian Parker: It's unfortunate [that the no net increase bill wasn't reintroduced] and I think the first lesson we can learn is to admit that perhaps that was not such a wise thing. Right now the money is being given out without any control...There's no accountability because of it, so I hope that with the "cut and paste" method ["gut and amend" inserting the language later in the legislative session] it puts those [no net increase] in there...[On the 710 freeway], "I would like to wait on the EIR with regards to that."
- Al Austin: I moved to Long Beach in 1995 from the San Gabriel Valley because the air quality was a lot better here [audience chuckles]. It's getting progressively worse. My heart, my motivation, my inspiration and my children [are] here, and I want to do everything I possibly can to help clean up the Port and the air quality here in Long Beach. As a City Councilperson, I will advocate to do that...I was a little disappointed to see [the "no net increase" bill] not reintroduced, but let me tell you something. Senator Lowenthal is a skilled legislator. He knows the game in Sacramento. I trust that he knows what he's doing. I trust that he has the interests of his community at heart. I've seen bills not make the legislative deadline but guess what: at the very end of the session [it can be] reintroduced in another way. You can gut a bill and cut and paste [gut and amend] like nothing, so there are methods to get things done and I believe that Senator Lowenthal has a strategy, I haven't had an opportunity to speak with him about that. I'd like to see the Alameda Corridor utilized more, and I'd like to see the federal government play a bigger role in the Port in terms of funding for environmental impacts.
- Dee Andrews: ...I think what we're doing here is like we're just kind of sitting around waiting, but I tell you, it's coming...We have to be very careful what we're dealing with because what we're dealing with is our youth. They play on that [school] playground every day and that asphalt and those trucks are lined up from one end to the other...We're going to have to really get serious and start writing letters and sending things out to let them know we're not going to lose our youth this way...
On other issues:
Position on LB Airport expansion
Ms. Parker: I do agree the Airport needs a facelift but...I think we need to make sure that it is not expanded in that they'd have more flights that go over the city...I do not want to increase the flights.
Mr. Acevedo: ...We don't want an LAX off Spring Street...An expansion just decreases the quality of life in and around the Airport/
Mr. Saafir: ...Let's do business. Let's expand it. Let's find the best way to do it. There are some new, innovative ways that are being tried around the country and around the world. China has come up with some new ways to cut down on noise and pollution. We have to look at some of these ways. If we're going to grow our city, we've got to grow our Airport. We are a growing city, so we must grow with it.
Mr. Andrews: ...I think whether we want the expansion, it's going to be...I definitely think there has to be a facelift on it, but we have to realize also, through the expansion, what damage it will do to our school kids. What damage will this cause as far as air pollution is concerned. A lot of people...talk about money; let's talk about lives...
Mr. Austin: I support modernization of the Long Beach Airport, but I've got to tell you that the Noise Bucket is something that I think we've got to preserve, to stay within...We [should] put a facelift on the Airport to show off our city in the best light we can possibly do...
Mr. Saafir: [Self-reliance] is the creed of being an American. That's how come we could move west from Plymouth Rock, so we could stand on our own two feet...Rent control? I say let the market, let the business world, let the market balance out and make it fair for everyone. You do not want to remove check and balance from our economic system or we will not have an economic system. Let economics grow, you must let people find their way and help theirselves. This is America and this is what we do to bring ourselves up...
Dee Andrews: Rent control? I think it's just a dream...I do think that we could get together and come up with solutions where the government could give an individual a jump start for condos and something you could say is your own, I think it would be a whole different look on the 6th district.
Mr. Austin: I don't think at this point we necessarily need rent control in the city of Long Beach. The city of Long Beach is probably one of the most affordable cities in southern California at this time...I think I would favor condominium conversions wherever possible because I do think that once people do own, I think they become more invested stakeholders in their community and I'd like to increase home ownership in the community...
Ms. Parker: ...Personally, I agree that we should have some kind of rent control. However, studies have shown that this is not working for the city of Long Beach. It's not embraced by residents and the voters in the city of Long Beach, so therefore we will have to activate other resources for residents that qualify for affordable housing...There are other resources available to them, they just don't know what those resources are...
All the candidates spoke of the need to increase public safety. Candidate Austin cited his endorsement by the Long Beach Police Officers Association, adding that he'd like to see 100 officers added...and sooner rather than later.
Candidate Saafir cited the need to make LB -- including its major corridors from the 405 freeway to downtown -- safer and more attractive for businesses.
LB's next 6th district Councilperson will have an equal vote with other Councilmembers on development issues from NLB to Belmont Shore and spending priorities citywide. He or she will be chosen by Central LB-area voters on May 1.
Amoang those we spotted among the crowd of 100+ who attended the Wrigley candidates forum was 8th district Councilmember Rae Gabelich, retired Vice Mayor/Councilman Doug Drummond and NLB community activist Dan Pressburg.