Candidates Vie for Second District Seat

By: 
Kirt Ramirez

About 100 people turned out to watch the District 2 city council candidates talk about their personal backgrounds and answer questions during a forum at Mann Elementary School Feb. 3.

The event, put on by the Bluff Heights Neighborhood Association and moderated by Gazette Newspapers Executive Editor Harry Saltzgaver, lasted almost two hours and was the third such forum/debate hosted by different neighborhood groups in recent weeks.

The seven candidates in alphabetical order are:

  • Small Businesswoman Cindy Allen
  • Mental Health Provider Jeanette Barrera
  • School Safety Officer Jesus Cisneros
  • Small Business Owner Robert Fox
  • Long Beach Teacher Eduardo Lara
  • Accountant/Entrepreneur Nigel Lifsey
  • YouTuber Ryan Lum

The candidates agree that homelessness, affordable housing, parking and other issues need to be addressed, with each one having his or her way of tackling the problems.

Though the candidates sometimes overlap in various areas, a few pointed questions from Saltzgaver showed some distinct differences.

Saltzgaver asked the panel: “Currently the city council members may give their office holder account funds to another councilmember for use in another district. Do you support removing the ability to give away these district funds?”

Cisneros, Fox, Lara and Lum support removing the ability to give away the district funds, with Lifsey being on the fence. Allen was the lone supporter in keeping the system in place.

Cisneros said, “We should all manage our money correctly instead of giving our money to other districts.”

Fox said: “I oppose the officeholder accounts being weaponized as they are today for politics,” adding money given for a specific cause should not later be spent on something the person did not support. “This is a matter of integrity and morality. This kind of action is just wrong from the beginning. These office holder accounts were only for such things as planting trees in the median strips or to fix up the curb. They are not supposed to be used for politics and that’s what’s happened in this city right now. If we’re going to reform the city, we must eliminate the weaponization of those accounts.”

Lara said: “When you earmark officeholder accounts to other council members or races, it puts an unfair influence on our democratic process … Keep those officeholder accounts in terms of the spirit of what they were intended … to create programming within our own communities and not necessarily bolster someone else’s political career.”

Lum said: “I believe in complete transparency and funds going from one person to another who may have different political views than what you intended to go to, I am not in agreement with that.”

Barrera said: “It was never intended to endorse or push other people to let them be more seen. It should be an even playing field. In other countries this is not allowed where you are allowed to pour your money as an already-elected official into somebody else … because of this system, it (prevents) other working class people or just people from your neighborhood from running. So for those reasons I definitely do not agree with this policy.”

Lifsey was in the middle. “I do think there is a place where the accounts ought to be shared, ought to be transportable … on the other hand that might present a conflict,” adding council members must act with integrity and ensure any transfers are done with integrity and in the spirit of what the money was intended for.

However, Allen said: “I believe that you have elected people that are in office and you trust that they’re going to do what’s best with their shareholder accounts. For instance, Suzie Price has donated $400 to my account and she has endorsed me and she believes I am the very best candidate to run this district. And just like I would do if you were to elect me – and with my shareholder funds – I’m going to do what I believe is in the best interest of my constituents, which is you.”

Another question asked by Saltzgaver:

“Do you support making Measure A a permanent tax? Measure A is the sales tax.”

Lum was undecided. “My vote is still open on that issue.”

Allen is for it. “I’m absolutely for transparency of these funds and I am in support of Measure A,” citing 121 new safety officers, improved parks, infrastructure, etc.

Lara said it’s important to look at the issue from multiple points of view. “It is not perfect, it is not ideal by any means, but we also need to have a holistic view of the whole process …”

Lifsey said he’s against high taxes but the “mayor painted us into this corner where we kind of have to vote yes on Measure A in order to make sure that our sales taxes stay here in the City of Long Beach.”

But the rest are strictly against it.

Barrera does not support Measure A “because I believe to take a dollar from our general fund and allocate 70 cents straight to the police department is ridiculous.”

Cisneros said, “No more taxes, I believe in better management.”

Fox said, “I would vote no on Prop A. We are the highest-taxed city in the United States equal only to Chicago. 10.25% sales tax is a business killer. If you want to attract business, this is not the way to do it. I would call for a systematic fiscal audit of this city … There’s money in the budget, but it’s not allocated correctly.

“The highest paid worker in Long Beach is not the city manager or the mayor or the fire chief or the police chief. It is a battalion chief making $402,417 per year. This is our problem. Overtime in the police department has become absolutely crazy and somebody has to say ‘no.’ So I want a reorganization of the budget and you can’t do that until you do an audit.”

Saltzgaver asked: “What is your opinion of Measure BBB in regards to term limits? That’s the issue asked last election allowing the city council and the mayor three terms.”

Cisneros is against it. “Sometimes there has to be limits.”

Fox said, I opposed BBB very strongly and we put posters up all over the city about it. What was offensive to me was this; the city said on the ballot they were limiting the terms on council. No they weren’t. They went from two terms to three terms. We need to do something about this … This has to stop. You have to tell people the truth so when they vote for something they know what they’re voting for … How dare this council manipulate the language to get what they wanted.”

Barrera said she did not support BBB. “Twelve years to be in office to get something done, or even eight years, is way too long.”

Lifsey said eight years should be enough for council members to do their tasks.

Lum said he’s against BBB. “We should not have career politicians …”

But Lara and Allen support it.

Lara said, “Those 12 years is what it takes …”

Allen said, “As Eduardo (Lara) said, it does take time,” adding the voters agreed, as they voted for it.

Other questions ranging from how to deal with e-scooters to how to improve parking were asked.

Information about all the candidates and campaigns can be found at http://longbeach.gov/cityclerk/elections/candidates/

Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce is not seeking a second term.

The election is March 3.

kirt@beachcomber.news

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