LONG BEACH — Mayoral candidates Jan Hall and Ernie Kell say they have been addressing the issues since their campaigns began last year. But some say the candidates only last week started making their stands clear to the general public.
Via media releases, a press conference and presentations before a homeowners association, the two longtime City Council members announced a series of proposals dealing with historical preservation, crime, education, development and other issues.
Several observers and critics say it is about time.
"At least now we're getting some raising of the issues," Councilman Tom Clark said. "This has been to a large extent a race with few issues raised or any positions taken.
"I think people are beginning to wonder if there is a campaign. A lot of people think the election is over. There is a lot of apathy out there now."
In press releases last week and in a meeting Tuesday with members of the Naples Homeowners Assn., Hall called for an Architectural Review Board to oversee major construction, more police canine units and a threefold increase in the number of motorcycle police, who she said could pay for themselves with money raised through the additional traffic tickets they would issue.
Hall also said she would like to see the distinctively ornate Jergins Building that workers are now tearing down as the home to a downtown museum and an "arts center."
The councilwoman said she supports creating more child care centers, including one for city employees, and she reiterated her support for limiting parking along Pacific Coast Highway so that it would become a more major east-west thoroughfare. Among other things, she said immigrants have enriched the city but that everyone in Long Beach should speak English.
During a press conference Tuesday and later in a meeting with the same Naples group, Kell said that if elected mayor he would form an Office of Neighborhood and Historical Preservation to answer residents' questions about proposed projects and develop a plan to save the city's remaining historic buildings. He also proposes an ordinance requiring developers whose plans call for destroying a historic building to first conduct a study seeking alternatives.
Kell reiterated his desire to create an Office of Education in City Hall to help coordinate anti-gang and anti-drug programs with the Long Beach Unified School District. Those running the two new offices would act in an ombudsman role with the public.
Hall, a councilwoman for 10 years, and Kell, the city's appointed mayor and a councilman for 13 years, last week called for implementing developers fees to help pay for public improvements and services such as parks.
Hall and Kell found holes in each other's proposals shortly after they were announced. And so did other people.
Regarding Kell's proposal for an Office of Education, for example, Hall said that an additional office to coordinate existing programs would only create a new city bureaucracy that would cost more money.
Kell also attacked Hall's ideas. Regarding her proposal to toughen traffic enforcement by increasing the number of motorcycle officers, for example, Kell said: "That's fine. We all support that. We're all for more police. All we need now is more funding."
In his campaign, Kell emphasizes what is positive in Long Beach and links his name with any improvements. He has refrained from directly attacking Hall unless he is defending himself.
As the race enters its last leg, Hall has issued a new round of attacks on Kell, whom she describes as "an expert at ribbon cutting and plaque presentations but an amateur at leadership and getting things done."
When it comes to the meatier issues in Long Beach, Hall and Kell more often agree than disagree.
The candidates both say there is a need to control growth, and both acknowledge that the council could have done more to prevent the boxy-type apartment complexes that have inundated the southern part of the city. Both candidates are opposed to creating a rent control ordinance or establishing a civilian police review board.
Kell says he is for placing a cap on how much money political candidates can spend or receive during a campaign, and Hall says she is against such plans. But neither one has voted for any form of campaign finance reform. Both now say, however, they may vote to place a reform proposal on the November ballot and let the voters decide.
As for the candidates' latest proposals, some observers criticized most of them as coming too late, as not feasible or as simply old ideas that the candidates are attempting to recycle.
The Jergins Building, for example, is being torn down now and will be demolished within the next 60 days, according to Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, who represents the downtown area.