LONG BEACH — An eclectic group of 10 residents is doing something for the first time in this city's history: running for mayor.
The race--set on Thursday when the deadline passed for filing candidate papers--will include some well-known local personalities. There are elected officials, community activists and a Long Beach eccentric who walks around with a parrot on his shoulder. But joining them in the April 12 primary are several unknowns who are making their entrance into local politics by reaching for the top.
The election is notable in several respects.
It marks the first time Long Beach voters citywide have elected the mayor; until now, the mayor has been tapped from the ranks of the City Council by fellow members. It will also be the first time the mayor's job has been full time with a salary to match: $67,000 annually.
And, as predicted, the race is becoming the most expensive ever fought in Long Beach, with one candidate--Ernie Kell--saying he hopes to spend $400,000 in the primary alone. If nobody wins a majority in the April primary, a runoff of the two top candidates will be held June 7.
In some ways, the race is symbolic of the city's personality--split between a big city and a small town.
As Long Beach develops a high-rise skyline with promises of even more growth, questions about how it should develop are becoming a central theme in the campaign.
Luanne W. Pryor, for example, has already accused Jan Hall and Ernie Kell, long-time members of the City Council, of creating a "hotel culture" in a downtown she says is for tourists and not residents. Pryor stresses a concern that the downtown and some of the neighborhoods have been over developed.
Hall, who has been on the council for 10 years, says the council's move last year to change zoning in some areas to protect neighborhoods could have been done sooner if it wasn't for "the current leadership"--referring to Kell.
And Kell said the issue of "preserving the integrity of the neighborhoods" was handled as the problems were raised by the council member representing the respective district. "Maybe there were some areas that could have been handled (by building moratoriums and down-zoning) faster, but overall, we have done a good job with the neighborhoods," Kell said.
Kell, who remembers when city officials could get only a motel chain to bid in the city's center, said he is proud of the revitalization taking place downtown, where two hotels are under construction and two more are in the planning stage. He calls the development that is changing the downtown skyline "planned, orderly growth."
For her part, Hall said she supports "managed growth." And that means anticipating traffic problems a new development would bring and mitigating those problems before they occur.
Along the big city vs. small town lines is the issue of whether the city should continue to fight airlines that want to increase flights into Long Beach Airport. So far, the city--backed unanimously by the City Council--is losing its court battle.
A federal court order to increase the number of flights has riled many in the community, including most mayoral candidates. But candidates Thomas (Ski) Demski and E. W. (Bud) Huber stand out from the group. Both view Long Beach as a growing city whose residents, business people and tourists need and want more from their local airport.
The candidates have staked out other issues.
Huber supports moratoriums on amendments to the city's general plan and spot rezoning that increases density. He supports charging developers impact fees except on projects such as low-income and senior housing, and establishing a civilian police review board.
Demski, who is known about town for his large flags and parrots, wants more marked crosswalks. He also wants the city to change the ordinance that forbids him from trading his 125-foot-high flagpole for a higher one.
Insurance as Issue
David E. Kaye makes no bones about seeking political office so he can get the word out about a statewide initiative to reform homeowner and small business liability insurance.
"I've decided to run for mayor--seriously--and the platform is posted" for lower insurance, Kaye said.
John J. Kearney said he objects to council members getting a pay increase to 25% of the full-time mayor's salary. Kearney said that if he were elected, he would save money by firing the city manager and running the city himself.
Lou Robillard said he would like to place all environmental impact reviews--often voluminous documents about development proposals--on the ballot. "An EIR is your local control over your environment," Robillard said.
Rayfield Bates said he wants to push for affordable housing and work to ease the plight of the homeless and the burdens of the elderly.
Information on candidate Richard H. Hallowell was not available.
LONG BEACH MAYORAL CANDIDATESRAYFIELD BATES
Occupation: Maintenance worker at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard.
Political and civic background: None.