(May 30, 2002, 2:00 a.m.) -- Roughly 110 people gathered at Hughes Middle School in Bixby Knolls tonight to attend the final Mayoral candidates' forum prior to the June 4 showdown election.
Vice Mayor Dan Baker (photo left), whose name will be the only one printed on the ballot after finishing second in the April 9 primary, was on stage alongside two term incumbent Mayor Beverly O'Neill (center) and LB fiscal reformer Norm Ryan (right). O'Neill is waging a second write-in campaign after her first place write-in victory in April. Ryan is also waging a write in campaign after finishing third citywide but beating O'Neill in ELB's 4th district and coming within one percentage point of beating her in the 5th district.
With the airport a key issue in ELB and Bixby Knolls/Cal Hts., Vice Mayor Baker told the audience he favors a full Environmental Impact Report detailing the airport's impacts on residents and neighborhoods and added:
"Orange County showed us that voters can and do set policy as it relates to airports. I believe that any discussion of expansion at the airport, and that includes expansion of facilities that will allow more flights in, should go to a vote of the people."
[As separately reported by LBReport.com, Baker issued a written statement on the Airport roughly three hours after the Mayoral forum, reiterating his support for a vote of the people on any plan to increase Airport capacity. We have posted Baker's written statement verbatim at Vice Mayor Baker's Statement re LB Airport.]
Ryan urged "holding fast" to LB's current noise budgeted flight slot limits. O'Neill reiterated the terms of the 1995 court-approved airport litigation settlement agreement which was the basis for LB's noise budgeted flight slot limits and operating standards.
All three candidates opposed reallocating noise currently budgeted for 25 daily "commuter" flights (slots not currently being used for aircraft under 75,000 pounds) to slots for larger aircraft (over 75,000 pounds).
Some of Mr. Ryan's more pointed statements visibly irked Mayor O'Neill. Ryan ridiculed the Mayor's "3 T's and an R" policy (trade, tourism, technology & retail), saying the "idea that trade that we have at the Port is somehow going to enhance our infrastructure, when most of it gets unloaded and then just takes the 710 all the way out to wherever it is going, we're not getting rich from that...We give a lot of lip service to stuff we don't understand, when it's very clear to me that the Three T's and an R has never worked effectively in Long Beach. Either they are flawed concepts or we don't know how to implement them, and it's time we looked at doing something else." [applause]
Mayor O'Neill responded, "[I]n 1995, the city was going under. We were falling in a hole. We would have been bankrupt in two years if we had not had a plan for the future." As for the Port, the Mayor chided Ryan for "pooh-poohing" international trade and said Port related trade was responsible for one in nine jobs in the city of Long Beach, one in eleven in the region.
And the Mayor appeared even more displeased after Mr. Ryan said in his closing comments,
"I've seen time and time again when resources of the city are squandered...I am a native of Long Beach, I went to high school here, I'm raising my kids here, and God willing I will die here, but I will not die in an impoverished town. I will not die in a town that has been destroyed by the greed and corruption of a few insiders."
Her jaw set, Mayor O'Neill responded, "...[T]here are 5,000 [city] employees and they're not crooks. The 5,000 people who work for the city are like the people in this room. And I spent eight years in the trenches and I'm not angry. I'm not angry with the City of Long Beach or the way things are happening. I'm trying to work with the people that we have, the people that work every day for our city and encourage them to do their best. Things did not happen, and things would not change if you did it by saying, 'You do it my way.' You have to work with people, you have to bring them together and you have to have consensus. I think you have to have a common vision. You don't get that by demanding, you don't get that by being angry, and you don't get that by saying 'we're going to do it my way.'"
Vice Baker said in closing that, "I'd like to be your Mayor, a Mayor not based on hostility or hyperbole but a Mayor with a history of action in the neighborhoods and a plan for our future."
Following the Mayoral forum, reporter Frank Stoltze from KPCC radio (89.3 FM) interviewed Vice Mayor Baker and candidate Ryan outside the auditorium. (It's unclear if Stoltze managed to catch Mayor O'Neill who left fairly quickly.)
Mr. Stoltze indicated his report(s) on the upcoming LB election may air Monday June 3, perhaps during morning or afternoon local segments of "All Things Considered," although an exact air time is not yet known.