GCN Guest Opinion
Long Beach Truth vs.ďSpinĒ
by Long Beach City Councilman Richard Burton Filed 9/14/06 GCN
In the Sun Herald story Sept. 11 titled ďThe Great DivideĒ the newspaper focused on the division of our board but didnít explain why there is division. Itís simple. 3 board members were replaced during the last election because residents wanted it that way. They felt their views were not being represented. As new members we are eager to work to resolve differences in opinion about development.
The issues on which we disagree are few, believe it or not. Much attention has been focused on high-rise and casino development. On every other issue we are mostly on the same page and the city is progressing more and more every day. The outlook is very positive.
We were elected in part on the high-rise issue. Katrinasí destruction did not change our stand. Long Beach is on the brink of a building boom. Developers are asking us to hurry up and approve a Master Plan and smart codes to give them the predictability they need to invest billions here.
Condo size and density has not been negotiated since the election and Katrina has been used as an excuse to refuse to include the views of the newly elected board members. Itís still our belief that we can benefit from plenty of condo development without getting into super-sized mega-structures. We have learned from many case studies that mainly the developer gains from ultra-big condominiums. As far as my statement ďthey refuse to work with us, they refuse to negotiateĒ; and the statement by Allen Holder that they ďweíve offered to compromise and they wonít do itĒ: Itís obvious that one side isnít ďfessing upĒ about the situation.
By not printing the details of actual efforts to compromise the newspaper is not getting the real news out. I made a motion at a recent meeting to have a public work session to meet to discuss a condo zone with heights and densities we can all agree on so we can make progress but they rejected the idea. Some aldermen refused to discuss the issue with us because it might mean another public hearing. So what? The infrastructure on the beach isnít hooked up yet anyway. Hearings are part of our system and it allows the citizens to have a voice in the outcome. I donít view a hearing as an inconvenience but as a right of the public.
Condo Zone: We are making the sensible request for them to vote with us to create a condo zone to help us control condo development and limit our exposure to legal action in the future. We will need a zone to control possible casino development, why not a zone for condos as in Biloxi? Of course we donít want either type of development to spread out and cover our beachfront area. Creating a zone is the only sensible approach.
Permit fee reduction: We are also convinced that we can afford to offer a permit fee reduction for residents whose homes were destroyed. We will reap property tax revenue for years to come for every homeowner we encourage to return and rebuild. Property taxes are the backbone of our revenue and we need our residents back. It is undoubtedly the right thing to do and it has been rejected 3 times by the old board and mayor.
If the Sun Herald wants to take the just path on this issue the newspaper will press the old board to actually make an effort to compromise with us on these important issues. To simply print their contention that we are the ones who refuse to discuss it is not journalism, itís spin. Hold their feet to the fire for a change and ask them for details of their compromise efforts.
We are dependent on the media to get out the whole story since private discussions have been fruitless. Without the truth Long Beach canít benefit from open honest discussion on critical issues. Itís unfortunate that we are forced to use this media to get the truth out but if we must, so be it.
Richard C. Burton