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    In Depth With Audio + Perspective

    Hear Their Words, Make Your Choice On $20 Billion Taxpayer Debt Prop 1B For Port/Transportation Infrastructure

    We Post Extended Audio Of Sen. Lowenthal, Mayor Foster, PoLB Exec. Dir Steinke, Vice Mayor Lowenthal & LB Taxpayer/Neighborhood Activist Pressburg At Recent Hearing

    (Oct. 31, 2006) -- posts extended audio coverage below of newsworthy statements by LB Mayor Bob Foster, State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV), Port of LB Executive Director Richard Steinke, Vice Mayor/Councilwoman (MTA Boardmember) Bonnie Lowenthal and LB neighborhood activist Dan Pressburg at a legislative "hearing" in Los Angeles.

    We put "hearing" in quotes because it wasn't a substantive "hearing" as we understand that term. The "informational hearing" took place after the Senate's legislative session had effectively ended for the year. The subject of the hearing had already been voted on and approved by the state legislature.

    The event was scheduled and chaired by Senator Lowenthal, who chairs the State Senate Transportation Committee. He was the only state lawmaker present. The two people flanking him behind the rail are committee staffers.

    The real issue is no longer within the legislature's control. The decision is now before voters: whether to approve Proposition 1B, a $20 billion taxpayer debt measure written by state lawmakers and put on the ballot without petition signatures.

    Prop 1B would require taxpayers to pay billions of dollars in interest to borrow nearly $20 billion for projects including expansion of port and other "goods movement" infrastructure capacity, "carpool lanes" to local freeways, money for transit agencies, work on some local arterial streets and other projects to be decided after the election by non-elected bodies.

    Sen. Lowenthal scheduled the event after Sacramento officialdom killed two key port-related bills authored by him. SB 764 would have given the public a legal guarantee that expanding port capacity (as Prop 1B would do) won't worsen air quality ("no net increase"). SB 760, which became SB 927, would have placed a fee on cargo containers at the Ports of LB and L.A. so its users, instead of the public, to pay for air quality, port rail and port security projects.

    The City of LB (via unanimous 2005 Council votes) supported both bills. The Port of LB remained publicly neutral while the "CA Ass'n of Port of Authorities" (in which the Ports of LB and L.A. both pay dues using public money) and the LB Area Chamber of Commerce opposed both bills. Democrat Assembly leaders blocked Sen. Lowenthal's "no net increase" bill; Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed Lowenthal's container fee bill.

    The result effectively leaves residents throughout the South Coast Air Basin with no legal guarantee that port capacity expansion (which Prop 1B would invite) won't worsen air quality...and without a continuing new revenue source (paid by port users instead of the public) to clean-up the impacts.

    At the October 18 event, Sen. Lowenthal scheduled as the first witness LB Mayor Bob Foster. In mid-September, Mayor Foster and Sen. Lowenthal held a high-visibility event at which they publicly urged Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign Sen. Lowenthal's container fee bill. Sen. Lowenthal said at the time that he couldn't imagine Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoing the bill. The Governor did exactly that two days later.

    Mayor Foster's Oct. 18 testimony was unlike anything we've ever heard from a LB citywide elected official on Port-related matters.

    Speaking extemporaneously, methodically and with substantive points at his command, LB's newly elected Mayor said he believes port infrastructure projects are essential...but mitigation for their impacts should proceed on a simultaneous, parallel track and the environmental mitigation needs to be funded by a consistent source that is sustainable, durable and reliable. "I would link those two," Mayor Foster said, and added. "My view is...if you go forward with infrastructure improvements without the commitment, and the solid commitment and the funds behind environmental improvement, you won't get very much of the latter."

    Mayor Foster cited a Sacramento Bee editorial published that morning that called much of Prop 1B "faith based," without substantive assurances of continuing funding for infrastructure and environmental improvement. Mayor Foster continued:

    Mayor Foster: ...We all know that the ports are a fabulous economic engine...For the Long Beach area, the infrastructure projects that are of vital importance are the Gerald Desmond bridge, the reconstruction and enhancement of SR 47 (the Terminal Island Freeway) and Alameda Street. You'll hear a lot of people talk about those projects and the need to put them on a high priority list, and I agree; they need to be on a high priority list.

    And you'll also hear that those have some environmental enhancements because you won't have trucks idling, trucks will be moving rather than idling. But the fact is there'll be twice as many trucks. And ten or fifteen years from now we may have twice as many trucks idling.

    And you look at the costs in terms of health impacts, the dollar value of the health impacts to the environment, I'd submit read the Air Resources Board report on port pollution...You have an annual cost right now from a variety of things. You have premature deaths, you have hospital admissions, you have asthma cases, you have lost days at work...and school absence days.

    When you put all that together you're looking at a range of six to thirty-seven billion -- billion with B -- annual cost to the residents of southern California. And I want to make it clear, those costs are in the system now. So when someone tells you that the clean-ups are expensive and the infrastructure is expensive, we're paying those costs right now, only the wrong people are paying them.

    And the quote [used in the Sacramento Bee editorial] which is actually from a [Sept. 2006] press conference on SB 927 [container fee bill, details below] was that we're having children in Long Beach contract asthma so that someone in Kansas or Nebraska can get a cheaper television set...

    Mayor Foster pointed out that Prop 1B's dollars are subject to appropriations by the legislature and conditions and criteria that the legislature may provide...and added: "I believe that we should not spend any of these dollars unless they're a simultaneously, consistent, well-funded, durable program to clean up the environment."

    Mayor Foster added, "There may be a variety of ways [beyond SB 927] of getting a durable, sustainable funding source that really is associated with goods movement through the Port. I don't have a monopoly on those ideas, and [to Senator Lowenthal] I know you don't think you do as well, but it has to be done...Having Californians go into debt -- and I applaud the bonds -- but I will tell you: having Californians go into debt to clean up something that really ought to be part of the cost of goods sold is really inappropriate, and your [Sen. Lowenthal's] comment about [Prop 1B] being a downpayment, that's all it should be, and it ought to be tied to improvement programs."

    In our view, this latter point, delivered by newly elected Mayor Foster in a way it has not been delivered previously by a citywide LB elected official, was the real reason for Sen. Lowenthal's hearing. It basically served notice on a roomful of suits and regional and port officials (who stand to benefit if Prop 1B passes) that Mayor Foster and Sen. Lowenthal won't go away and intend to press their points if Prop 1B passes. We post in audio form below Mayor Foster's testimony and subsequent colloquy with Sen. Lowenthal.

    Although we support what Sen. Lowenthal and Mayor Foster hope to do, we part company with them in their continuing support for Prop 1B. Sacramento lawmakers and port-related interests -- who now want our votes on Prop 1B -- successfully defeated the "no net increase" and container fee measures to protect us that Sen. Lowenthal, Mayor Foster and the City of LB supported.

    To us, it's clear that those who opposed those bills while expecting voters to support Prop 1B will be emboldened and even more contemptuous of LB if they get their hands on Prop 1B's money after what they did. A legislature and Governor who laughed at LB on port impacts won't respect us if we vote to approve Prop 1B as it stands.

    Prop 1B would allocate barely 1/20 of its funds (about $1 billion statewide, less than half the amount allocated for port infrastructure projects) for environmental "mitigation." This is "one time" money that will be depleted after the "goods movement" projects are in built.

    Sen. Lowenthal has called Prop 1B's "mitigation" money a "downpayment" while acknowledging it's not sufficient to do what's necessary by itself. Since Prop 1B's environmental "mitigation" money isn't a continuing revenue stream (which the container fee revenue would have been), from where will industry-based money come to pay for port-related air quality clean up?

    Sen. Lowenthal confronted the Schwarzenegger administration's CalTrans chief on this, citing the Sacramento Bee editorial cited by Mayor Foster (which termed Prop 1B port clean-up money "faith based"). After some tapdancing, the CalTrans official acknowledged that the Schwarzenegger administration won't release its so-called "goods movement" plan (which isn't legally binding) until after the election.

    Port of LB Executive Director Richard Steinke testified...and Sen. Lowenthal pressed him on future private industry funding. Mr. Steinke indicated that the solution would only occur with industry partnerships, and acknowledged that industry interests had reservations about some previously advanced plans [presumably including Lowenthal's container fee legislation].

    "I think the goods movement industry has to recognize that they have to be a partner in this. I think they have to see value..." Senator Lowenthal replied, "We cannot just expect that public sector is going to pay for this." Mr. Steinke responded, "I would agree with that 100%." We post Mr. Steinke's testimony and ensuing colloquy with Sen. Lowenthal in audio form below.

    LB Vice Mayor/1st district Councilwoman (and MTA Boardmember) Bonnie Lowenthal spoke. She said she supports what Mayor Foster said...and went on to make a significant statement of her own.

    Before delivering prepared remarks supporting Prop 1B, Vice Mayor Lowenthal said, "So many of the projects that we hear about talk about "mitigation. My personal view of mitigation is that it is akin to harm reduction, and there is nothing that says that mitigation must result in a net increase in air quality. So I think we need to perhaps change the language that we use when we're talking about mitigation, because if we don't have a net increase improvement, a net improvement in air quality, then that's not a project that we should be undertaking." [Prop 1B doesn't require this.] We post Vice Mayor Lowenthal's testimony in audio form below.

    Sen. Lowenthal also invited public testimony....and LB neighborhood activist Dan Pressburg came to the podium. Mr. Pressburg said Prop 1B should be defeated...and cited the demise of Sen. Lowenthal's "no net increase" and container fee bills. "Since there is no legislation to protect us as yet, we are at the mercy of the Port and its promises," Mr. Pressburg said. Such protective legislation should be in place first, before expecting voters to approve port-capacity expansion, Mr. Pressburg said. Senator Lowenthal listened politely. We post Mr. Pressburg's testimony in audio form below.

    Senator Lowenthal concluded the hearing by calling Prop 1B a step in the right direction but added, "if it is the only solution to the problem, the problems will get worse, not better." We post the Senator's concluding remarks in audio form below.

    We agree with Senator Lowenthal's assessment that Prop 1B alone could make matters worse. Unfortunately, voters are voting on Prop 1B alone. Voters won't be voting on Mayor Foster's words or Senator Lowenthal's future desires.

    With barely 51% support in a mid-October poll, we believe Prop 1B can be defeated. Voters from southeast L.A. County through the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire have the power to do this. We have the most to lose if Prop 1B passes, because it will fuel "goods movement" expansion without protections in place against worsened pollution or ongoing revenue from industry sources to clean it up.

    The City of Long Beach, via a City Council vote, endorsed Prop 1B months ago before the defeat of Sen. Lowenthal's "no net increase" and container fee bills which the City of LB (via Council votes) had also endorsed.

    And again, we acknowledge that Senator Lowenthal, Mayor Foster, Vice Mayor Lowenthal and the PoLB Executive Director continue their public support Prop 1B. We post their October 18 statements in full in audio form below.


    We've posted the audio in downloadable MP3 form. This lets users access the sound immediately while on line and/or save it for future quick on-demand access from their hard drives.

    To launch the sound while online, LEFT CLICK the link below. The files are large but should load fairly quickly with a broadband/DSL connection; this will take longer with a conventional modem.

    RIGHT CLICK on the links below to save the desired file(s) to your hard drive. RIGHT CLICKING should open a box with the option "save target as" (or similar) allowing you to save the MP3 file to your hard drive for future quick access.

    And remember to turn your speakers on. .

    The audio is via a CD provided by the Senate Transportation Committee to Mayor Foster's office, which made a copy available to us at our request. We showed up late for the 9 a.m. L.A. hearing...delayed in part by container trucks on the 710 freeway.

    LB Mayor Bob Foster Testimony/Colloquy with Sen. Lowenthal (18:01)7.21 MB
    Port of LB Exec. Dir. Richard Steinke/Colloquy with Sen. Lowenthal (9:33)3.83 MB
    LB Vice Mayor/MTA Boardmember Bonnie Lowenthal (5:36)2.24 MB
    LB Neighborhood Activist Dan Pressburg (5:46)2.31 MB
    Sen. Lowenthal Concluding Remarks (4:25)1.77 MB

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