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    DeLong vs. Loftin Face Off In 3rd District Council Runoff, Contrast On Studebaker/Loynes Development, Council Words vs. Power Over Harbor Comm'ners On Pollution, LNG

    (May 18, 2006) -- Substantive differences emerged -- including whether LB's non-elected, non-recallable Harbor Commissioners (whose Port poses health, safety and security risks and could vote to permit 80+ million gallons of LNG within two miles of downtown LB) should be subject to some type of elected accountability -- as 3d district Council candidates Gary DeLong and Stephanie Loftin had their first face-to-face runoff duel on May 10.

    On April 11, Mr. DeLong finished first (approx. 43%) and Ms. Loftin second (approx. 20%) in a four-candidate contest (a fifth candidate dropped out). The third and fourth place finishers (Norm Ryan and Charles Legeman), who drew a total of roughly 30% of the vote, have both endorsed Ms. Loftin...and a key vote on LB's City Council now hangs in the balance on June 6th. provides below some salient transcript excerpts (prepared by us) from the May 10 Belmont Heights Community Ass'n sponsored forum.

    Differences were apparent over a proposed Home Depot-anchored development at Studebaker/Loynes. Ms. Loftin opposed; Mr. DeLong remained undecided...but Mr. DeLong said he agrees with Ms. Loftin on a number of wetland-protection issues...and both candidates said they oppose siting a proposed 80+ million gallon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility proposed by a Mitsubishi-Conoco subsidiary to be located in the Port of LB.

    But differences emerged when an audience question asked candidates DeLong and Loftin what they would do in their capacity as Councilmembers to stop the proposed LNG facility...since the decision [on using Port property] rests with LB Harbor Commissioners [who are currently non-elected and non-recallable under LB's 1980s-era City Charter.]

    Mr. DeLong, who is supported by several current or former LB Harbor Commissioners, replied:

    Mr. DeLong: One of the things that we need to do on the City Council, whether it be LNG or any interaction activity at the Port of Long Beach such as pollution or on and on, we need a better working relationship with the Port of Long Beach. We need a better partnership with city management and the Port of Long Beach. We need to work better with the Harbor Commissioners of the Port of Long Beach. And that's not happened today. So what I will tell you that I will do, is I will meet regularly. I will make sure that we are on the same page. We will compromise, we'll negotiate. What we will do is that we'll move forward on behalf of the city. But it's by developing relationships and working with people and collaborating, that's how you get things done, not by giving ultimatums or directives. So I will work with the Port of Long Beach. LNG is not going to fly. It's a bad idea, and certainly all of us should continue to communicate that to the Port.

    Ms. Loftin: ...With regard to the Harbor Commissioners, the City Council appoints them, and the City Council needs some sort of way to un-appoint them if they are not responding to our directives. It's not, not leasing the space to the LNG plant...It's truly a bad idea and we need to have some sort possibly Charter Amendment where we have some control of the Harbor Commissioners. They need to be told that if you do something that's way against everything that everybody in this city wants, your job will be gone. [applause]

    The Port issue arose at a candidate forum prior to the April city elections when Bry Myown (opposing the LNG proposal before entering the race for the subsequently vacated 2d district Council seat) pressed Mayoral and 3d district Council candidates collectively on whether they supported giving the public some elected accountability over Harbor Commissioners and Port lobbying. Framed in those terms, all the then-candidates for Mayor and 3d district Council nodded their heads in that time.

    On the issue of the proposed Studebaker/Loynes development (to be anchored by a Home Depot), the candidates said:

    Mr. DeLong: ...I've been very consistent. I don't support it or oppose it. I'm waiting to see what all the alternatives are. When we have all the alternatives, I will pick one. And I understand that there's a percentage of the people out there who just want to be anti-the Home Depot. And it won't surprise me that at the end of the day, that's not the best use of the land, so I'm going to keep my options open and not support it because it may not be the best use. But I will tell you I'm very concerned about the alternatives. I'm very concerned about a potential to [inaudible] distribution center for Anheuser-Busch, what the land owners bought the land for originally. So I'm concerned about that alternative. The best alternative, as I think everybody in this room, and Stephanie and me can all go for, is if we can figure out a way to keep it open space, if we can open, and not have any traffic at that site. I think that's probably all of our preferred alternative. I have not seen an option for getting that done but if somebody brings a viable alternative over to make that happen, I want to have the ability to seize that alternative. So I have not taken on that project. I'm going to continue to wait and see what our alternatives are. And I realize that doesn't please everybody. Let me say one other thing. The advice I've gotten on the campaign trail from my campaign manager and others is to say 'come out against it.' Come out against it. It costs you nothing. You won't lose any of your supporters or their support. Where are they going to go? None of your opponents support it, and you might pick up some of these people that the only reason they won't vote for you is that you won't come out against it. But I won't pander.

    Ms. Loftin: Well, there are other alternatives than a 24-hour Budweiser trucking thing. And as a matter of fact, once really examined there it's currently zoned light industrial...There are other alternatives to that site that aren't necessarily open land and certainly not a trucking terminal and I suspect that neighborhoods would be way up in arms with that.

    Ms. Loftin, a LB lawyer, edged out Norm Ryan in April by sixteen votes and is endorsed by several Democrat state lawmakers.

    Mr. DeLong is endorsed by outgoing Mayor Beverly O'Neill, the Press-Telegram, Business Journal, LB Area Chamber of Commerce, several current and former Harbor Commissioners and retired Gov. George Deukmejian. .


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