Jay Beeler

It happens to many people around the time you turn 40 years old. When you are reading the morning newspaper the text suddenly gets fuzzy. Time for reading glasses.

Being unfamiliar with the racks of inexpensive reading glasses at local drug stores, I made an appointment with optometrist and city councilman Thomas Clark at his office on Abbeyfield, just west of Bellflower.

My new reading glasses were so strong I could read the small print on medicine bottles. In short order I switched over to drug store reading glasses, saving the expensive pair for font sizes smaller than those used in the L.A. Times.

In subsequent years I’d see Dr. Clark at weekly Long Beach Rotary luncheons, where he shared his thoughts with me on a revised form of city government. This wise and dedicated civic leader was constantly seeking ways to better our city.

As a public relations professional, I was appointed to a “Blue Ribbon Committee” to evaluate the roles of the mayor and council, which ultimately established a full-time mayor and part-time councilmembers.

It was recently suggested that Long Beach needed full-time councilmembers. With his passing on May 6 at the age of 93, that kind of thinking would not be popular with Tom, who would envision nine amateurs constantly telling a few dozen professional department managers on how to do their jobs.

In those pre-Beachcomber days, I soon learned that one of the real powers behind the mayor’s throne was the city attorney. He was the one who kept councilmembers out of legal trouble and strongly influenced their decision-making.

That’s still true today – to a fault. Every City Hall and department decision is now made by first asking “Will we get sued?” versus “Is this honestly in the best interests of our citizens?”

Since we began publishing the Beachcomber in July 2000, we soon learned of another dynamic in city government: public safety unions. If you wanted to be endorsed by the LB Police Officers Association and have access to their campaign funds, you had to be questioned and recorded on videotape by the POA’s Political Action Committee.

Under those circumstances, how would you respond in advance to any questions about police compensation and benefits? That kind of conduct by the POA was wrong – and we’ve hammered that point across many times.

When we see cops engaged in criminal conduct – like breaking a citizen’s arm or overtime fraud – we’ll fight the constant stonewalling and sue the city to get to the truth, as now backed by state law. That’s the kind of honesty and integrity that our former part-time mayor/councilman supported in his long and successful career.

Long Beach needs more elected officials following in the great legacy of Tom Clark.


Humor time:

Twenty years ago, we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Lately we’ve had NO CASH, NO HOPE AND NO JOBS. Please, don’t let Kevin BACON die!



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