The Long Beach Dairy and Creamery Historic Landmark in north Long Beach, along with several neighborhood associations, hosted a candidate brunch on April 21 to give constituents the opportunity to meet face to face with candidates seeking office on the state and federal levels and whose names will appear on the ballot in the June election.
In attendance were Congressional candidates seeking the newly formed 47th Congressional District seat: Gary DeLong, Steve Kuykendall and Sanford Kahn. Rep. Laura Richardson, who currently represents California’s 37th Congressional district, as well as State Assembly incumbent Bonnie Lowenthal and challenger Martha Flores-Gibson, were also present.
All those candidates participated in video-recorded interviews with LBReport.com’s Bill Pearl. Below are excerpts from the interviews with Flores-Gibson, Lowenthal and Richardson. Next week, the Signal Tribune will share portions of the discussions with DeLong, Kuykendall and Kahn.
“I believe that I can grow the economy,” said Flores-Gibson. “I believe in community. I believe in grassroots. I really believe that, as we come together as a community, we can do great things.”
Pearl asked her to name three votes by the incumbent with which she disagrees. “Well, I disagree with how they killed– she killed– the redevelopment funds. I disagree with the other bills that she has gotten, to where she voted for the largest tax increase in the California history, and I also know that she voted on every bill to kill jobs,” she said. “And we don’t need to kill jobs; we need to create jobs.”
Flores-Gibson stressed the importance of keeping businesses in California. “If we have them stay in California, then of course we’re going to have jobs for our communities,” she said.
Pearl then indicated that he would “play Devil’s advocate for a second” and told Flores-Gibson that the redevelopment agency phase-out was a budget-balancing measure that helped to continue providing funds for schools. “Well, let’s not be deceived,” Flores-Gibson said. “Look at the record. It’s not going directly into classroom[s] for the teachers. It’s not going to the resources. It’s going in to pay past bills, and, if you look at the current legislation, it’s very deceptive how it’s written.”
Pearl asked the Assembly candidate how she would have balanced the budget and kept money flowing into schools, if that is indeed what she wanted to do. “The biggest thing that we can do is decentralize those funds. Anytime it goes into the general budget, it’s gone. It’s ciphered. So if we vote to keep those local monies, or those funds, in the district, in the schools, in government, we’re better off because local governments and local schools, they know what to do with the money.”
Pearl asked Flores-Gibson what commitments she would make in introducing legislation during her first 90 days in office, if elected. “Well, I would immediately start lobbying for those funds,” she said. “Let’s look at the Lotto money– it’s gone into the central fund. I would start lobbying, or I would start working on amendments, to get those funds back to the local government, back to the local schools. That’s my first order of business.”
Pearl asked Lowenthal why voters should re-elect her. “Well, I haven’t gotten everything I’ve wanted over these last few years, with the recession,” she said. “Haven’t gotten enough cops, haven’t gotten enough money for schools. We’re all wanting in a lot of areas, but I have accomplished a lot for Long Beach. I rescued the courthouse construction that actually is bringing in thousands of jobs on that one project. I am the chair of Transportation (Committee), and of course I worked very hard on getting that big Gerald Desmond Bridge built and passed by the Transportation Commission. I rescued the… Regional Interoperational System, which was about to die if I didn’t run a last-minute bill to make sure that L.A. County has a system that will be operational in a crisis– a telecommunication system. So, there is a lot accomplished. There is a lot more to do.”
Lowenthal mentioned that she is also chair of the Joint Committee on Emergency Management for the Senate and the Assembly, as well as the vice chair of the Women’s Caucus, of which she says she is due to be the chair next year.
Pearl told Lowenthal that her opponent, Flores-Gibson, says the economy is a mess and that Sacramento is part of the problem. After she paused, nodded then smiled, Lowenthal responded by saying, “That’s what she says.”
Pearl asked the incumbent what she hopes to accomplish in the next two years to “help turn things around.” Lowenthal indicated that her primary interests are still in transportation and mental health. “So, I’ve been working hard to make sure that, in the state prisons and now in the county jails, because of realignment, that people with severe mental illness have appropriate treatment, which will be protective of everyone and indeed it will save a great deal of money in the long run. That’s one of my big interests. The problems in the state hospitals, as you probably read in the L.A. Times infuriated me. I have many appointments set up to see how we can address that terrible mess. And, of course, in the transportation arena, it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s why I love it. The more infrastructure we can develop, the better the economy will be.”
“You’re in a tough battle against a Congressional incumbent because they redrew the district on you,” Pearl told Richardson. “She (Hahn) was formerly in the South Bay, your district’s been moved over a little bit. Why should people vote for you instead of her?”
“Well, because I actually am the Congresswoman of this area,” Richardson said in response. “I’ve been the member of Congress for almost five years, and actually about 58 percent of my current district is in the new district. So, north Long Beach is not new to me. Serving Long Beach isn’t new. You know, I was on the Council back in 2000. So, people would support me because I am not a new person coming here, I know the issues, I’m a part of the community, I’ve lived here myself, and I get it. So, that’s why I’m here.”
Pearl then asked Richardson what distinguishes her from Hahn, considering they are both Democrats. “Well, as I said, I’ve actually lived in Long Beach,” she said. “I’ve actually served in Long Beach. My opponent has not. Other things are issues, you know, things that I know about…I’ve supported…making a reconfiguration of the breakwater. I’ve supported PAC development. I mean, all these kinds of things that are important to Long Beach people. I’ve helped with Long Beach housing, affordable housing. So, these are the kinds of things, they’re not something I’m coming in and saying…I’m going to do because I get elected to Congress; they’re things I’ve been doing now for 12 years. So, I think, now, more than ever, the tough times people are having, we need people who have been doing the job, have been doing a good job, and who are prepared to keep it going.”
Pearl asked Richardson if there are any issues on which she disagrees with President Obama. Richardson said she would have preferred removing troops from Afghanistan sooner. “I think, given our financial crisis that we had, had we not been spending billions and billions of dollars, we could have been able to recover a lot quicker,” she said. “And so what happened was we really came out short in terms of our domestic priorities, and I think you always have to take care of home first.”
Pearl said that some people point to Congress as being responsible for the banking implosion that led to the recession and asked Richardson what she makes of it. “Well, actually what happened with the financial crisis was, back long before I got to Congress, we had deregulation, and so, anytime you assume that people are going to do the right thing, [it] is really a false assumption,” she said. “And, so, to think that the banks and financial industries and hedge fund and all these other areas were going to discipline themselves, I think, was really a misconception, and, so, we got way out of balance. There were exotic products, there were things that really weren’t helpful to a lot of people, and so we paid a very high price for it. But, since I’ve been in Congress, we’ve actually passed quite a few legislation to get us back on track and to make sure that the consumers have advocates. You know, I had my own personal financial situation, and I started talking about it to help other people. I went through a modification myself, and the thing I urge people is don’t hide it, don’t try to, you know, ignore it. Deal with it. There’s now a new program that the President has passed, and people need to take advantage of that so that they can be able to save their homes.”
When Pearl asked if she’d like to comment on the ethics investigations surrounding her, the Congressmember said “no” but that people should stay tuned to see how the process plays out. She also said that she has been able to use the “troubles” that she has been through personally to help others.