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Its Humor Pales Next to the Expense of 'Keys to the City'

December 16, 1990

As a long-term resident of Long Beach, I used to tune in once in a while to Mayor (Ernie) Kell's program, "Keys to the City." It was good for a laugh. I am not laughing since the Los Angeles Times' Dec. 9 article on the Long Beach Telecommunications Department and its $1.1 million budget.

Some unfunny aspects of "Keys to the City":

* The show is an obvious political vehicle. Treatments are upbeat and general; controversy is avoided. If the program is to be "educational," not political, then citizens should hear the truth, not, in the mayor's words, "that the city is doing a good job."

* The budget is an insult to taxpayers who must continually cough up more sewer fees, boat slip fees, sweeper fines and even consider a proposition to tax themselves for additional police protection.

* The city is not well-served by programming which glosses over real issues of crime, housing, gangs, etc. Kell says he avoids the "seedy" issues. If the mayor can publicly label AIDS a seedy issue, we are in big trouble.

* As a cable subscriber it is doubly insulting. One hundred twenty-thousand Simmons cable subscribers at $23.82 a month equals $2,858,400. Five percent of this revenue amounts to $143,000 a month, or $1,715,000 a year--what the city receives from Simmons Cable. Certainly this amount would provide a few more coveted Long Beach police officers, or at least one more to cover for Officer (Paul) Sanford while he is out doing "dramatizations" of drug busts.

Any reading of our local newspaper's letters to the editor will tell you that our residents are fairly resigned to some buffoonery at City Hall. The article on the Kell show indicates that we have hit a new low. Perhaps a change of format is in order. We could let Rustin Greene, producer; (Susan) Weinstein, makeup artist, and some other of the show's well-paid staff participate in a panel discussion, explaining to a cross section of citizens how their efforts are more beneficial to Long Beach than, say, improved 911 response to better park maintenance. Now that would be political.

At the very least, we could ax the 5% from my monthly cable bill. That would be about enough to rent a Marx Brothers video.

STEPHEN B. JONNUM

Long Beach

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