Letters to the Editor

Spending Problem

The Long Beach city government does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem!

City officials claim we’re broke, but their corrupt spending habits are just as irresponsible as ever.

Our “Chicago by the Sea” mayor and City Council are continuously asking for more money and playing the police, fire, parks, libraries, schools, seniors, homeless, etcetera card. “If you don’t give us what we want, then you’ll lose all your core services.” It’s tantamount to extortion.

There’s little discussion about reducing spending and waste, layoffs, etc. The following are just a few examples of their egregious spending/mismanagement:

$9 million+ useless homeless center boondoggle, necessitating mobile homes in parking lot

$9 million+ beach snack shack

$7 million+ LB Transit remodel of new administration building

$ Unnecessary City Hall rebuild and land giveaway. Forever lease back $$

$1 million+ media wall (giant TV) at City Hall with $250K+ per year maintenance

$750,000+ new furniture

$ Mayor 14 staff members

$175K public info/relations position

$100,000, 200,000 300,000+ salaries, perks far and above private sector employees.

$ Inflated POA (police) contracts

$ Police/fire overtime and disability scams

$31 million+ police misconduct lawsuit payouts – not including staff time, expenses, medical bills, attorney fees, etc.

$ millions in pending lawsuits

$1 billion+ unfunded pensions not addressed

$85 million+ Belmont Shore pool

$1.5 million+ artificial turf + $3 million maintenance w/no financial benefits analysis

$ Dangerous traffic-impeding road diets, bollards, bike lanes, roundabouts, plus maintenance causing multiple small businesses failures

$ Rainbow crosswalks + maintenance

$ Killing nesting birds/illegal tree trimming

$ Costly junkets to other states and countries

$ Increasing the number of public employees (currently over 6,000), pensions, benefits and prerequisites despite a reduced population since 2002 and a diminished quality of services.

$ Funding a Cinco de Mayo party with Measure A $ (money that was targeted for infrastructure)

$ Hiring outside attorneys and consultants who donate to their political campaigns and office-holder accounts.

$ Creating new and expanding rubber-stamping committees and commissions designed to buffer the mayor and council from responsibility for their self-serving, irresponsible decisions.

$ Paying historically volunteer commission positions.

$ Tripling office-holder accounts that are funded by developers and others who benefit from their decisions and can be used to “buy” other candidates thus creating a corrupt monopoly.

$ Using taxpayer money for illegal immigrant’s defense legal fund even for crimes like murder while we would have to pay for our own attorney.

$ Illegally using taxpayer dollars to campaign for self-serving ballot proposals like the alphabet measures AAA, BBB, CCC and DDD that hamstring the auditor’s office, grow their number of terms and create a faux ethics commission and a “stacked” redistricting commission.

$ Using city resources to send inflammatory and misleading “information” to voters during election cycles to induce their votes for ever-increasing tax measures.

$20 million of $40 million CARES act funding went to city staff for their outrageous salaries instead of to the people.

$ And, as if that weren’t enough, they are now contemplating a universal basic income (UBI) measure giving away millions of dollars with no return.

Additional irresponsible actions/inaction by officials:

Queen Mary – No policy is in place to check financial standing or experience of a contractor prior to contract placement. Urban Commons now owes the city hundreds of thousands with a bankruptcy pending.

Contracting the building of the Desmond Bridge for $800 million and is now estimated at $1.5 billion.

Forcing business owners to subsidize and give away free services and interfering with private contractual obligations. (Unconstitutional confiscation of private property for public use without just compensation.)

Shutting down and allowing ill-equipped fire stations

Shutting down police stations for public use

Reducing our police K-9 corps

Standing by and watching rioters, looters, arsonists destroy businesses and city property, costing taxpayers $1 million in overtime pay.

Proposing to reduce library hours

Creating 30%+ unemployment in LB

Failing to create contingency reserves for emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stonewalling legitimate press representatives, inviting additional lawsuits.

Long Beach enjoys the luxury of numerous sources of revenue that other cities do not have: Airport $, Harbor $, Tideland funds, Uplands Oil, parking fees and fines, gas, water and much more. Ever-increasing property taxes add hugely to the mix. The total projected revenue for 2021 is $2,467,657,364. Yet, it’s never “enough.”

According to the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), revenues have risen by 55% since 2012. Yet, the city consistently claims it doesn’t have enough money. There will never be enough for these greedy politicians. So, quit voting for them and their favored “endorsed” candidates or just keep paying and paying and paying!

Diana Lejins

 

Sad Betrayal

This is is a story of intimidation, deceit, manipulation and abuse perpetrated by the mayor and his City Hall machine to get Cindy Allen elected to the 2nd District council seat.

They coerced former mayor Beverly O’Neill to endorse Cindy Allen.

To bear down upon a woman of 90 years to get what you want, although she protests repeatedly, is the precise definition of elder abuse according to FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Elder abuse is “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

Last Saturday, in an attempt to understand what happened, a colleague of mine called O’Neill to ask her what her reasons were for endorsing Cindy Allen.

During the conversation it was reported that O’Neill said she had never met Cindy Allen and knew nothing about her. When pressed she said she was called by Mayor Robert Garcia and one other man she did not recognize, who forcefully influenced her to endorse with such statements as “Cindy’s opponent is an evil, horrible man who will destroy the city”.

Robert Garcia never mentioned my name, so the former mayor had no idea who this “evil man” was nor had any concept of what he had done that warranted such disdain. My friend reports that, at first, she refused citing her personal policy not to endorse anyone, deciding to stay out of politics in her elder years. Garcia kept pressuring her until she finally just gave up and “said” okay.

Hearing of this abuse, I made a call to O’Neill last Sunday. She immediately recognized me and was quite cordial. I did not start with my concern regarding her endorsement of Cindy Allen as I wanted to get an impression of her current regard for me.

We talked about me being on her campaign for mayor and my participation in Alan Lowenthal’s campaign when it was run by Sharon Cotrell. I passed on the sad news that Sharon had just passed away. She gave her condolences to Sharon’s family.

Then I told her why I was calling. I wanted to know what had persuaded her to endorse Cindy Allen for the 2nd District council race. She said, she had no idea I was running against Cindy Allen. I piped up and said, What? Didn’t anyone tell you who the candidates were in the 2nd District Council race?

Her answer was “no” and that she had never met Cindy Allen and did not know anything about her. Why then did you endorse her I asked. She immediately apologized and said she was so sorry and that she had broken her pledge to herself that she would not make any more endorsements. She stated she had no idea that [Garcia and the other caller] were referring to me, as she knew me and liked me. She knew of my participation in Long Beach for the past 36 years. Again, she apologized. She said that Cindy had called her on the phone and she sounded like a very nice person. She stated again, she had never met Cindy.

We reminisced about my founding of the Alamitos Beach Neighborhood Association in 1992, my co-founding of almost all the neighborhood associations in the 2nd District and my chairing the Just Five Organization that worked with her developing the concept for our economic recovery in 1994 – trade, tourism and technology. She again said she was so ashamed and heart-broken and didn’t know what to do.

We talked about me being the first openly gay chairman of the Council of Business Organizations, chairman of the Council of Neighborhood Organizations and how I had even served as president of the Business License Fee Review Committee and president of two Police Advisory Committees.

We talked about me being in City Council often speaking on various issues for over 30 years. She was very upset and kept apologizing. “Oh, I am just so ashamed.”

I reminded her that she had even been to my home for dinner. “The little house next to the gas station on Broadway and Temple” and how she and her husband, so enjoyed the dinner. She was even more upset and shaken. She said “Oh, my goodness.”

I mentioned that I had been a longtime supporter of her mother’s foundation, The Flossie Lewis House, how the foundation had helped one of my dear friends and she really started to sigh. It was getting to be too much, so I stopped my litany of things we had done together to ease her pain.

Beverly was distraught and ashamed and very upset that she had been so manipulated. She understood that once she had given her endorsement, it would be all over the papers and in print, and that withdrawing it would serve hardly any practical purpose. She asked me what she could do to repair the damage. My response was, “When I find myself in trouble and in question of what to do with my own mistakes, I give it all to God and then go into silent prayer,” and that perhaps that would assist her in her search for a path forward. She agreed.

She again said she was so ashamed and apologized profusely. She told me she would reach out to “her people” in the 3rd, where she lives, and the 2nd districts to try to undo the damage done. She restated that she certainly from now on will never endorse anyone or anything.

In the end she was hurt and dismayed that she had been so misled. I didn’t want to bring any more pain to her, so we stopped our conversation with words of kindness and friendship. She had been pushed into endorsing things she did not really understand nor have any interest in, and that this was the end of her involvement in city politics. It is sad to see such grief and sorrow in this marvelously gentle woman, who led our city out of a deep recession. She led with civility, grace, kindness and love. She is the best mayor the city has ever had.

My friends, we have come so low in our local politics that the City Hall machine is willing to abuse a 90-year-old woman of great soul, to force endorsements from everyone else on false pretenses and pervert any semblance of honor and integrity in our system.

We have a choice to make: Either we stay silent and allow this brutal, unethical cadre of political opportunists to hold sway over our city, or we speak up and denounce the politics of cruelty, dishonor, lies and cover ups, which is the very essence of the City Hall political machine.

No one would be worthy to take a seat that they had to lie, steal or cheat to get, and the people would not deserve to be represented by such a person. There is still a place in Long Beach for honor, justice, truth and integrity. Now is your chance to vote for or against such high ideals.

Robert Fox

 

Challenge Coins

Thank you for your article regarding the 2020 Riots Challenge Coins. And thank you for pointing out that they do not fall in line with LBPD’s core values. Anything that glorifies riots and violence should not be part of any police department’s core values.

Mike Keiler

 
Excellent article! Not sure about the LBPD “coin” controversy. Understand that symbols are very important but believe the coin should not cast a negative light on the entire organization.

While working with LB Port Security, I met many LBPD officers and command staff. Didn’t know them all, but those with whom I had the opportunity to work, were well trained, disciplined and among the finest in law enforcement.

The Daniel Shaver video is in another class entirely. The officer’s conduct directing the suspects filled me with sadness and disgust.

Gus Drulias

Category:

Comments

I hope you will print the following about a proposed tiny-lot residential development proposed for Wrigley Heights. Residents have been fighting for decades to have a park there, but the City always claims it doesn’t have the money – meanwhile spending far more than the property would cost on all kinds of unnecessary pet projects.
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The Oil Operators' property in Wrigley Heights is not suitable for the use Integral Communities/Oil Operators want to make of it.  Americans own an average of 2.28 vehicles per household and more than 35 percent of households own three or more cars. This would result in numerous cars trying to enter or leave the new 225-unit development during morning and evening rush hours.  A road out to Wardlow is not possible as stated by the then-City Traffic Engineer in 1988, two years before the Blue Line opened and traffic was much lighter.  It would be on a high-speed curve on a bridge approach over the LA River.  Still the City is allowing this--with taxpayers ultimately paying the price when the City gets sued.

The only other option is to send all of these cars through the current Wrigley Heights neighborhood to the single five-way entrance/exit at Magnolia and Wardlow, which already has to deal with the traffic from the 273 original  homes in Wrigley Heights, plus 50 more built in the 1980s on Golden Ave.  Eastbound Traffic on Wardlow Road currently (prior to covid-19) backs up to the top of the bridge over the LA River when Blue Line trains frequently cross Wardlow.  Often this causes drivers to block the intersection at Magnolia so that cars have difficulty even getting out of Wrigley Heights.  Just imagine the cars from 548 homes trying to leave Wrigley Heights in an emergency through this one intersection.

Something else needs to be done with this property, something that doesn't generate a huge amount of traffic during rush hours.  For instance, a badly needed park for the underserved Westside. Unfortunately, our Councilmember Roberto Uranga likes to say that Oil Operators has the right to do what they want with their property.  His wife’s favorite line when she was our councilmember was “It’s private property. Oil Operators has the right to do whatever it wants with its property.”  Ridiculous!  The City is under no obligation whatsoever to change the zoning to make this contaminated land profitable for Oil Operators and Integral.

An officer of Integral Communities simply sent an email to the former head of Development Services Amy Bodek, telling her what he wanted to build there and how he wanted access from Wardlow Road, and she immediately agreed to his request, including the required rezoning to allow tiny 2,400 sq. ft. lots.

Oh sure, the land is being cleaned up to standards supposedly protective of human health.  But you might want to take a look at this report prepared for the property by a consultant for Integral:  https://documents.geotracker.waterboards.ca.gov/esi/uploads/geo_report/6....   I don't claim to understand a lot of the chemistry involved, but as bad as that report sounds, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment found a lot of problems with the study's proposed cleanup levels not being good enough.

This project will not produce quality living conditions for homeowners.  Even after the "cleanup,"  volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) will still be escaping from the soil.  The homes will have to have a methane mitigation system, probably consisting of an impermeable sub-slab barrier and venting system -- a chimney in the house to vent the colorless and odorless, but extremely flammable and explosive vapors.  And this barrier must remain crack-free over the years. I wonder how realistic this is in an earthquake-prone area such as we live in.

Residents of these new homes will also be subjected to pollutants from the "Diesel Death Zone" also known as the Long Beach Freeway, where diesel trucks are often backed up all the way from the port. They too will be right next to the intersection of the very busy 405 with the 710, and generally downwind of the refineries to the southwest.

Here is what the LA County Department of Public Health has to say about homes near high-traffic roads: "Studies indicate that residing near sources of traffic pollution is associated with adverse health effects, including development of asthma in children, more severe symptoms among those with asthma, non-asthma respiratory symptoms, impaired lung function, reduced lung development during childhood, and cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality."

So why would Long Beach even consider allowing the building of homes in such an area?  More property taxes and fees paid by the developer.  Integral Communities also has a history of large contributions to city council members who can approve or reject their proposed developments.  A number of Integral's officers contributed to Councilmeber Roberto Uranga (he later gave the money back). 

And what has become of the $100 million that Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon obtained with bill AB 530?  It provided that half of that money was to go to The San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy to restore the southern half of the Los Angeles River.  Wrigley Heights River Park was chosen as one of the Seven Signature Projects -- yet the land is being sold to a developer to build tiny-lot homes, and probably robbing park-poor West Long Beach of its last chance for a large, riverside park!

Sincerely,
Richard Gutmann
602 W. 37th Street
Long Beach, CA 90806-1117
562-972-9340

You think this is bad news? Our beloved city ranks 426 out of the 482 cities in the State of Ca with the worst unrestricted net assets (nearly $800M). This means every man, women and child in the city has about a $1,600 liability due to the city if we filed Chapter 11! You can read the facts at: https://moorlach.cssrc.us/sites/default/files/City_CAFR_Report_for_2019_...

This should be a front page story in an upcoming issue.

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