(Sept. 21, 2006) -- Taking a high visbility position consistent with views he advocated during his recent election campaign, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster did something that predecessor Mayor Beverly O'Neill didn't do in twelve years in office: he publicly and unambiguously supported port-related clean-air legislation backed by the Long Beach City Council, clean-air and neighborhood groups but opposed by the leadership of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and port-related industry interests.
"The simple fact is we can no longer have our citizens' health subsidize goods movement. We can no longer tolerate increased asthma cases for our children so that someone in Kansas can get a lower priced television," said Mayor Foster at a Sept. 20 Wilmington press event urging Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign SB 927.
SB 927 is an amended version of SB 760 by State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) that would levy a $30 fee on each cargo container processed through the Ports of LB and L.A. with revenue spilt between clean air projects (overseen by the CA Air Resources Board [a change from the originally intended SCAQMD], rail cargo projects (overseen by the CA Transportation Commission) and security measures overseen by the Ports.
Flanked by Senator Lowenthal and LB Councilwoman/AQMD Boardmember Tonia Reyes Uranga, L.A. Councilwoman Janice Hahn and multiple clean air, health advocacy and neighborhood groups (we list some salient reps below), LB Mayor Foster said:
"We want to continue [the port] as an economic assert, but it must be cleaned up," Mayor Foster said, adding, "The two ports, the ports of L.A. and Long Beach, have done a great job. They really have, initiated a green port policy, they're making dramatic strides. The truth is, it's necessary but it's not sufficient...[SB 927] is a dramatic piece of legislation. The Governor needs to sign this bill. It's important for every citizen's health in this area that he sign this bill. I urge him to do so."
Among those attending in support at the press event were representatives of the Coalition for Clean Air, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Long Beach Alliance for Children With Asthma, the Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters, the American Lung Ass'n of CA, the CA Nurses Ass'n, Plug-In America, CA Safe Schools, Planning & Conservation League, and prominent activists Jesse Marquez of the Coalition for a Safe Environment and NLB neighborhood advocate Dave San Jose ("90800"),
Sen. Lowenthal, a LB City Councilman (mid 1992-late 1998) introduced Mayor Foster (took office mid July 2006) as having "staked out a role as a leader in our community, as a person who really stands up for the people of Long Beach, no-nonsense, speaks his mind." Sen. Lowenthal added that he was proud that "both the City Council of the City of Long Beach and the Mayor support SB 927."
Sen. Lowenthal said he considers the bill "the most important piece of legislation before the Governor" but Mayor Foster called that statement modest. "I think this is the most important piece of legislation facing southern California in the legislature. It means more to people's health, more to people's well-being than anything I can think of," Mayor Foster said.
LBReport.com posts extended transcript excerpts below.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, the LB Area Chamber has joined industry interests in urging the Governor to veto the bill, which the CA Chamber has labeled a "job killer."
The event comes as Gov. Schwarzenegger and Democrat members of the state legislature (including Sen. Lowenthal) have urged voters to approve a November multi-million dollar bond measure, labeled for transportation infrastructure which would provide millions in public money to expand port capacity...with roughly half that sum for environmental mitigation).
As previously reported by LBReport.com, a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of CA showed the proposed infrastructure bond measure with thin public support (just over 50%)...even before election cycle opposition to the measure begins.
Asked LBReport.com at a post-event availability if they would still support the November bond measure if Governor Schwarzenegger vetoes SB 927, L.A. Councilwoman Hahn, Sen. Lowenthal and Mayor Foster said they would...but Mayor Foster attached a significant and substantive caveat to his support:
"We've got two choices to clean this port up. Either the federal government takes its responsibility as a national asset and puts a nationwide container fee to get this done or we're going to have to put the cost on where it belongs, which is on the people consuming the goods and services. 70% of the goods coming out of here wind up outside of California. I meant what I said. Our kids' asthma rates are three times the statewide average. That asthma is subsidizing somebody's low cost TV in Kansas. That's not acceptable." Mayor Foster said.
Sen. Lowenthal added that he "cannot imagine the Governor vetoing this bill." (extended quotes below).
As previously reported by LBReport.com, in August 2006 the Assembly's Democrat leadership [apparently piqued by Lowenthal advancing a bill to reform the Gerrymandering of election district lines] blocked major Port-related clean-air legislation by Lowenthal (SB 764) that would have set pollution baselines and required "no net increase" in port-related air pollution. Now dead for the legislative session, SB 764 would have provided a legal guarantee that pollution wouldn't worsen as the Ports expand and was considered among the most important bills statewide to environmental groups. It was also strongly opposed by industry interests.
The Assembly's Democrat leadership did let Sen. Lowenthal move his container fee bill (SB 927) to final passage via a "gut and amend" procedure...and during the process Sen. Lowenthal amended it to shift container fee funds away from the regionally controlled SCAQMD to the state-run CA Air Resources Board...whose staff entered into an MOU with CA RR's strongly opposed by SCAQMD and clean air groups.
Asked by LBReport.com in early September if SCAQMD still supports SB 927 despite being shoved aside as a funding beneficiary, SCAQMD Boardmember/LB Councilwoman Reyes Uranga indicated the agency backs the measure while seeking input with CARB on its implementation...and her words at the press event effectively dispelled any doubt about SCAQMD's support for SB 927:
"We're tired of picking up the tab...of a goods movement industry that has been very detrimental to our children's health. We're tired of paying with our hearts, with our lungs, and with our lives. And I know the Governor loves California, but does he love the people of California enough to sign this bill? [applause] And I tell the Governor: Show us some love. Sign SB 927!"
In fall 2005, Sen. Lowenthal was among the earliest supporters of then-Mayoral candidate Foster...who was also backed by the LB Area Chamber, much of LB's business establishment, several current and former LB Harbor Commissioners...and L.A.'s current, outspoken Harbor Commission President David Freeman. In April, PoLA President Freeman told LBReport.com in unambiguous terms that Mr. Foster had personally pledged to him that he would make cleaning up the port one of his top priorities.
Others wondered if Foster -- backed by the Chamber -- would stand by that pledge after taking office. His public words two months after taking office left little doubt.
LBReport.com provides extended transcript excerpts below:
State Senator Alan Lowenthal: ...I think this is a historic occasion...We're talking about what I consider the most important piece of legislation before the Governor...Mayor Foster has been newly elected to the City of Long Beach as its Mayor, but already has staked out a role as a leader in our community, as a person who really stands up for the people of Long Beach, no-nonsense, speaks his mind, and I'm very, very proud that both the City Council of the City of Long Beach and the Mayor support SB 927...
Mayor Bob Foster: ...And [to Sen. Lowenthal] thank you for all your hard work in bringing this very important bill to the Governor's desk.
I think Sen. Lowenthal was being a bit modest. I think this is the most important piece of legislation facing southern California in the legislature. It means more to people's health, more to people's well-being than anything I can think of...
The port as you can see is a great economic asset. We want to continue it as an economic assert, but it must be cleaned up. The simple fact is we can no longer have our citizens' health subsidize goods movement. We can no longer tolerate increased asthma cases for our children so that someone in Kansas can get a lower priced television. [applause] That simply has got to stop. There just simply is not enough resources to do the job of cleaning these ports.
The two ports, the ports of L.A. and Long Beach, have done a great job. They really have, initiated a green port policy, they're making dramatic strides. The truth is, it's necessary but it's not sufficient. A lot more has to be done. It needs to get done quickly, and this bill will produce a half a billion dollars annually to be used for matching funds and other important items, to be able to clean up the air, help with congestion and increase port security.
It is a dramatic piece of legislation. The Governor needs to sign this bill. It's important for every citizen's health in this area that he sign this bill. I urge him to do so. [applause]...
[Mothers of children with asthma speak, two in Spanish [subsequently translated/paraphrased], one in English]
Oty Nangaray (LB): [from translated/paraphrased Spanish] We're not against the economic development, we're only against the direct impact of what the business of the port on us. My family is suffering from asthma, and I only want to be healthy...
Martha Cota (LB): [from translated/paraphrased Spanish]...I have four children suffering from asthma...and myself I'm suffering from asthma. We understand that the port's activities and the containers are bringing economic improvement to this area, but they're also bringing a lot of pollution and a lot of health problems...I want to ask industry and I want to ask the public, if a $30 fee is too much to pay for the illness that my kids are suffering and for the lack of sleep that I go through every night when my kid is sick, and when I have to miss work because I can't breathe. Is this too much to pay?
We understand that these companies make billions in profits, so I want to ask if a $30 fee is too much to pay for health. And I want to ask the Governor, and I want to ask the industry, to come and live in this area, not for 20 years as I have, but for six months, and I want to find out if they're going to start feeling chest pains, and having trouble breathing as I have. I believe that if industry dirties the air, industry should be responsible for cleaning it up as well...
Rosalyn Holtz: (San Pedro) [in English]...I have two children with asthma. They were born in Long Beach and raised in San Pedro. When we first moved to San Pedro I didn't know that there was such an air pollution problem because I lived the ocean, and only learned relatively recently how bad the pollution is. So when they were really little I couldn't tell you that I know that their asthma was related to the port, but now I wonder, and I worry about what their future will be being exposed, having their lungs breathing in every breath of their life, the pollution that they breathe and that we breathe and that everybody else breathes that lives around here. And I worry about whether or not they're going to get cancer, and being a cancer survivor myself, it really makes me worry.
And I want to tell the Governor that I really worry about what's going to happen at our port because we're not protected and hardly any of our containers really get checked.
And so how can I sleep at night with all these worries, and I ask the Governor to try and sleep at night with these worries that all of us mothers and fathers also feel, and I really ask him to please consider the people, the children, the mothers and fathers, and not just the businesses who can make their profit regardless.
L.A. Councilwoman Janice Hahn: ...We in the harbor area are tired of breathing dirty air. We're tired of choking on the economic engine that is the Port of Los Angeles, and this bill by Senator Lowenthal is one steps towards finally cleaning up our air...Senator Lowenthal's bill provides real funding for the biggest problems facing our ports.
And a container fee makes sense. Every container...that comes in or out of this port complex represents pollution, and we know that a lot of those containers are trucked out of here, causing even more damage to the air we breathe.
And every container coming in or out of those port represents risk...and we know that any one of these containers could contain a dirty bomb.
So imposing a fee on these containers to address the very problems that they create makes sense. [applause]...
I hope the Governor hears us today and signs SB 927...
[After noting that the Governor recently signed a bill giving L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa governance role in LAUSD schools]...The recent CARB report blames cargo related pollution for one million school absences every year. If the Governor really cares about our kids staying in school and not having to stay home because of asthma attacks, if he really cares about making sure our kids have a quality of life that allows them to be healthy and learn, then he will sign this bill. This is as much about education as it is about cleaning our air. [applause]
LB Councilwoman/SCAQMD Boardmember Tonia Reyes Uranga: The men, women and children of the 61 cities that I represent on the South Coast Air Quality Management District bear the brunt and the burden of the negative effects of this industry. They're really the first casualties of this industry and they are the first ones that are fatalities in the battle for clean air, for [less] traffic congestion and also for safer highways...
...The kids at [LB's] Hudson Elementary School learn to count by counting the containers that go just 500 feet from their playground...and they count 800 an hour...
We're tired of picking up the tab for this, for picking up the tab of a goods movement industry that has been very detrimental to our children's health. We're tired of paying with our hearts, with our lungs, and with our lives.
And I know the Governor loves California, but does he love the people of California enough to sign this bill? [applause]
And I tell the Governor: Show us some love. Sign SB 927! [applause]
Sen. Lowenthal: ...And I'd like to kind of put things into perspective.
You've heard the statistics, we all know. But basically this is all about 'Show Me The Money."
This is all about whether we, at the end of the nation's tail pipe, where 40% of the goods come through these two port complexes, where we have to suffer all the impacts to provide goods and services to the rest of the nation without anyone taking into account our needs.
...We have a public health crisis. 2,400 people a year the CA Air Resources Board estimates die annually due to goods movement...That's more people than die in wars. That is a national disgrace...
We also know that you can't drive the freeways because there's all this congestion.
We also know that now we have the real problem of port security.
Both ports, the Port of Long Beach, the Port of Los Angeles, the state Air Resources Board, the Governor's "goods movement action plan" have all come up with wonderful plans. But where's the money?
Both Ports over the next five years totally have estimated that they will be able to contribute, with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, approximately $400 million to cleaning up the air.
If we pass the bond, and I support the bond, the bond calls for over $2 billion for infrastructure improvements, over $1 billion for air quality improvements, hundreds of millions of dollars for rail improvements, so we're talking about close to $4 billion out of $19.9 billion for goods movement and the air quality impacts of goods movement, but that also calls for a match.
We're talking about now the Air Resources Board estimates $6 to $10 billion to clean up the air due to goods movement. We're talking about the L.A. EDC [Economic Development Corp.] saying the infrastructure alone in Los Angeles County needed to promote new jobs is over $10 billion.
$400 million over five years is a drop in the bucket. The bond, if it passes, is a downpayment. We need a true partnership. We need the public sector to join with the private sector to say 'we are investing in southern California. We are cleaning up the air in southern California. We are getting those trucks off the freeways in southern California. We're going to make our ports safe in southern California. There is no longer going to be asthma throughout southern California, cancer rates that are unacceptable in southern California.
We will be heard! Governor: join with the Los Angeles Times, join with the Press-Telegram, join with many local Chambers of Commerce and support SB 927!
[Citing multiple supporters cited in our text above]...We stand united and say, Governor -- we are sworn to protect the public's health and safety of our community -- step up. There will be no diversion of cargo. This is a great investment in the future. Sign SB 927. [applause, cheers, chants "Show Us The Money!"]
[Quick availability with Mayor Foster, Sen. Lowenthal and L.A. Councilwoman Hahn momentarily in one group]
LBReport.com: If the Governor vetoes the bill, will you still support the infrastructure bond?
Councilwoman Hahn: I will...
Mayor Foster: I will...
Councilwoman Hahn: [continuing] I will, absolutely. I think the infrastructure bond is another good step towards improving our infrastructure and there is money in there for port security, not enough, and money for clean air, so absolutely.
Sen. Lowenthal: I see [the bond] as a first step. If the Governor vetoes the bill, I am going to immediately sit down with Mayor Foster, Mayor Villaraigosa, Councilwoman Janice Hahn, the ILWU, we are coming back with a stronger bill next time. We are not stopping now.
LBReport.com: And on the specific November ballot measure, you would vote yes or no?
Sen. Lowenthal: I still would vote yes on the ballot measure. That's a billion dollars [for mitigation measures]
Mayor Foster: I would yes as well and I will support it, but I have a caveat. We've got two choices to clean this port up. Either the federal government takes its responsibility as a national asset and puts a nationwide container fee to get this done or we're going to have to put the cost on where it belongs, which is on the people consuming the goods and services. 70% of the goods coming out of here wind up outside of California. I meant what I said. Our kids' asthma rates are three times the statewide average. That asthma is subsidizing somebody's low cost TV in Kansas. That's not acceptable.
Sen. Lowenthal: I hope we do pass that transportation and air quality bond, that is merely a downpayment...
Mayor Foster: ...It is, that's all it is....
Sen. Lowenthal: . That's all it is. That will not solve the problem. That is the public sector stepping up and saying we will pay our share. Show me the money; where is the private sector?...
Councilwoman Hahn: It's the containers that pose both risks and they ought to help pay for the mitigation, period,. That's the smart way to do it.
Mayor Foster: It's the right way to do it.
Sen. Lowenthal: I also cannot imagine the Governor vetoing this bill.