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    Grassroots Activists Announce Plans To Form Political Action Committee -- "This Land" -- Aiming To Make Changes At City Hall

    (Sept. 17, 2002) -- In a significant development that could change LB neighborhood activism from parlor talk to political action, a number of prominent LB activists have announced plans to form a Political Action Committee (PAC) to put money where the activists' mouths are...and where they believe the public's hearts and minds are.

    The PAC, which will be called "This Land," will be led by ELB homeowner and activist Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, who led a successful fight to save Stearns Park from a city management planned 911 Emergency Communications and Operations Center (subsequently relocated to city property at Spring/Redondo). Ms. Wilson-Kleekmap now operates an internet listserv forum (called "thisland") known for its "take no prisoners" approach to civic issues.

    In an internet posting, Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp said, "I believe we all envision 'this land' being the 'sledge-hammer' against business as usual local politics."

    In addition to Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp (4th district), other early supporters transcend traditional geographic and political boundaries. They include Bixby Knolls activist Ron Noe (8th district), south Wrigley public safety activist Lewis Lester (6th district), central city neighborhood activist Bry Myown (2d district) and veteran downtown neighborhood leader Don Darnauer (1st district).

    The eclectic initial support resembles the similarly diverse -- and powerful -- civic coalition that surrounded passage of the Prop J utility tax cut, in which liberal environmentalists and park advocates joined with conservative tax cutters and homeowners combined to produce a stunning near 70% voter victory that overcame fierce City Hall opposition.

    Mr. Noe said, "We aim to be a very influential player in LB politics and a strong advocate for the neighborhoods and taxpayers. Hopefully, we'll be able to affect changes in the exclusive, stifling and money-siphoning status quo system that is hindering our city. Party politics be damned...we will not be like any other PAC. If I thought this were to be untrue, I wouldn't be a part of it. This is all about ethics, respect for the legal process and fiscal responsibility."

    Mr. Lester told, "This is a huge move on our part, and not a moment too soon. It's absolutely necessary if we plan to bring an end to the city's budget crisis and the outrageous salaries being authorized by the City Council." Mr. Lester added, "Thisland [the listserv] has fueled a growing interest in City Hall politics all across this city. The momentum is building very rapidly, and if we are going to change the body politic we have to expand our reach and do more... this is just the beginning."

    Mr. Darnauer said he believes the This Land PAC will provide a useful format in which to bring solutions (sometimes first raised on the "thisland" listserv) to the people.

    Ms. Myown, a longtime supporter of neighborhood activism on local issues, said she hopes the This Land PAC will help "LB residents positively influence political change at levels that matter to the people who live with the consequences."

    And Kathy Ryan [no relation to Norm Ryan], a LB resident new to local politics, told her involvement is "to create an awareness of, and participation in local government."

    Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp added in an internet posting:

    Top of the list is the current financial state of the City, ethics, public safety and This Land -- which continues to be whittled away from us piece by piece to developers and other interests that don't meet the needs of our families and children.

    Apathy, disinterest and not taking local politics seriously has allowed local unions like the police and fire to call ALL the shots -- leaving the public out of priority list loop. As a result, "we the people" the average Joe -- haven't been financial/political players. Having a PAC that is open to everyone regardless of political affiliation allows us to pick and choose our battles and be players in the game that most profoundly affects ALL of us.

    It's about TIME that we have a say about This Land where we also pay the damn taxes & the public & elected servants. Bottom line, City Hall won't take our advocacy seriously unless we can unelect, deflect, recall, refute & reform their unfocused decision-making with VOTES. It takes money to push the agenda. Not millions -- but enough to be seen, heard and taken seriously.

    We won't endorse the worser of two evils -- we may not endorse at all. Our agenda will be based upon how much money we raise and how motivated we are as a PAC to fight for or against the battles we choose. IMHO, choosing the battles will be fairly easy. They'll be about This Land called Long Beach and about the people who live here.

    For once we will have a PAC that is about the quality of life & issues that impact the people who live here... it will NOT be about those who might come i.e. tourists! The focus of our advocacy will about redirecting City Management & our elected leaders to start focusing on serving the residents who live and work here, instead of those who just work here [consultants, developers etc.] and will retire on our tax dollars.

    If it succeeds, the This Land PAC could change the local political landscape in which PACs dominated by powerful public employee unions (including the LB Police Officers Ass'n and LB Firefighters Ass'n) and the LB Area Chamber of Commerce have largely monopolized the field. The LB Area Chamber of Commerce's PAC was organized only a few years ago but has been successful in helping elect its favored candidates to office.

    One LB grassroots group, "Long Beach Area Citizens Involved" (LBACI), has openly advanced a progressive civic agenda, applying years of diligent work and experience from initial defeats to score victories. It has helped elect several candidates to office (including Alan Lowenthal to City Council and the CA Assembly), enact ballot measures (including a police complaint commission and local campaign reform) and bring views once considered controversial into LB's mainstream (cleaning and beautifying the L.A. river and environs). Establishment backed candidates now court LBACI's endorsement much as they seek the Chamber of Commerce's blessing.

    Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp says the This Land PAC will be less ideological than LBACI and more vigorous than traditional LB interest groups.

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