Saturday, January 1, 2022

Reflection on Local Politics

This year, 2022, the Torrance City Council elections are going to be another major shake-up, similar to Election 2014.

I have noticed that a number of candidates are going to public events, charities drives, other communitarian activities to get their names out.

Last year, when I was pushing for a full resolution of No Confidence in LA County DA George Gascon, I got into a heated argument with one of the current city councilmemebrs over who should be the next councilmembers for some of the city council districts.

This councilmember made a big to-do about all the service that certain candidates had been doing "in the community," compared to relatively slight impact of other candidates. I reflect on that terse discussion, which ended with my exposing that member's arrogance and flippant dissidence regarding a much-needed resolution. My post went viral throughout the city, and forced that person's vote.

Now I want to focus on another aspect of that conversation, and one which presses into the more compelling issues of city council races and the local politics generally. It is really enough for a person to serve on the council, that he or she shows up at charity drives and hands out food to people in need? Is it really enough that a person participates in some of the local games and fundraising activities for that person to serve on the city council.

In my opinion, no.

I am looking for city councilmembers and mayors who are not afraid to make bold, tough, and necessary decisions. I am looking for members of the public with character, with integrity, with a sense of good-will that considers the long-term needs of the city.

I am looking for a principled set of individuals who will have a clear moral compass and cut costs where needed, implement reforms and innovations as needed, and tell people what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.

Candidates who have played the local politics game of sitting on local boards, attending all the Ed Foundation dinners, showing up to all the local events, buying food once a week from the Torrance Farmers Market, and posing in the right pictures with all the other "kool kids" in town is not enough.

I want someone who will get our city's fiscal house back in order. I want someone who will enforce the local ordinances fairly and properly. I want someone who is not afraid to tell civic leaders and activists what needs to be heard, not just what will make them happy.

The city of Torrance needs some bold reforms and course corrections going into this new decade, and the same crop of candidates who are part of the "Old Boys and Girls Club" is just not going to cut it. Torrance voters by and large want quiescence. I respect that. Who doesn't?

However, because of the unprecedented challenges posed by dismissive state governance and dysfunctional county oversight, the city of Torrance must adopt unprecedented boldness to deal with these problems and make some controversial, if not radical decisions.

The city is facing debilitating budgetary shortfalls. This is a result of city leaders continuing the sloppy, unrestrained spending without consideration of the revenue flow coming into the city. Certain leaders were not willing to make the hard decisions to cut certain city services, or find ways to raise revenue during the two years of the COVID-19 outbreak. That is a serious failure which cannot be repeated with the future city council.

How many libraries does the city of Torrance really need at this point? Redondo Beach has half the population of Torrance, and has two libraries. Torrance currently has seven: one main library and six branches. How many people frequent these libraries? Do we really need all of them? We are in the Twenty-First century, folks. It's time to adopt the city core functions and services to recognize this brave new world of technological advancement.

Is the city council willing to sit down and work out more fiscally responsible collective bargaining agreements with all public employees? The pension costs are roaring past $1 billion, and there is no way that the city of Torrance can declare bankruptcy (nor should the city ever consider doing so). There must be a sustainable path forward to getting these fiscal problems taken care of. The pension obligations are much more than the mortgage on one's home. These obligations have been ballooning for the last fifteen years, and no one wants to take a stand and do something about it!

Previous city leaders and civic activists have prided themselves on the fact that Torrance is a "Full Service City," but should it be one? Why not look into privatizing, implementing some degree of market competition to ensure better, more efficient service at a lower cost? Other cities contract out their garbage collection, for example. Perhaps Torrance should consider a similar arrangement for parking enforcement, too.

The Torrance Police Department needs support, and the individual officers who are doing their jobs need to be recognized for this. The previous  leadership failed grievously on a number of points, including the fact that Eve Berg allowed Black Lives Matter bigots to take over the streets and deprive Torrance residents of their right to freely travel city streets. The current police chief has many wondering if he is more interested in pandering to progressive talking points, or ensuring that our streets our protected. That question remains unanswered at this time.

And furthermore regarding the current police chief: is he respecting the right of Torrance residents to apply for a CCW? That needs to be dealt with.

Regarding local control and other quality of life issues, the California State Language all but gutted local control by passing two laws that allow property owners to override local zoning ordinances and built up to four homes on one family lot! This is a considerable outrage for South Bay residents, many of whom have moved and lived in this area because they were looking for a relatively quiet, suburban atmosphere without the noise and congestion of major traffic and more residents. The city of Torrance needs to fight harder than ever to restore her local control, and that means more than setting up a committee and having meetings with other city councilmembers. Lawsuits, initiatives, and straight-up civil disobedience should be considered to ensure that our city retains its character and quality of life.

Another problem in connection with local control has to do with the health district operations and the health mandates that came out of the Los Angeles County government. LA County is distant and dysfunctional as a rule. Politicians and bureaucrats in Downtown LA have no knowledge, no business telling local elected officials, business owners, and residents how to govern their affairs. The COVID-19 outbreak had a much more negligible effect on Torrance compared to the rest of the county, and therefore time and again the city of Torrance with her fellow beach cities should have forged their own path and followed their own guidelines. The city of Torrance needs to set up its own health district or work with other cities to set up a health district to distance us from the county and its bad policies and politics.

Let's go one step further: I would like city leaders and other civic-minded activists to take the unprecedented steps of getting Torrance and other beach cities to leave Los Angeles County altogether. LA County Supervisor Dean Dana pushed for an initiative for the South Bays to break away. If Wiseburn School District could become Wiseburn Unified School District and break away from the dysfunctional, corrupt governance of the Centinela Valley Union High School District, then beach cities general should take every step they can to break away from LA County, form their own Board of Supervisors, and govern their own affairs, too.

When it comes to what the city of Torrance needs to do, we need elected officials who will have a broader frame of reference and a greater willingness to try bold, new initiatives. We do not need the status quo of repeat politicians who will tell people what they want to hear, who won't ask the hard questions, or make the tough decisions. We need people on the city council who can do more than just hand out food at a food pantry, or show up to a business opening and cut a red ribbon, or who can boast about sitting on three or four city commissions over the last ten years.

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