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Democratic candidates debate at Long Beach forum

Seven Democrats talk taxes, city finances ahead ahead of Tuesday's primary

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Seven candidates running for three open seats on the City Council fielded questions at a forum on June 12 as the race heads to the June 25 Democratic primary.
Courtesy Long Beach League of Women Voters

Seven candidates running for three open seats on the City Council fielded questions at a forum on June 12 as the race heads to the June 25 Democratic primary.

Incumbent council President Anthony Eramo, council Vice President Chumi Diamond and their running mate, Jim Mulvaney, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, answered questions at a packed forum hosted by the local League of Women Voters at the Long Beach Public Library.

Councilwoman Anissa Moore, a Democrat who is also up for re-election this year, is running on the Republican line as part of a coalition ticket in the general election in November.

The candidates fielded questions about taxes, the city’s fiscal crisis, parking and quality-of-life issues, infrastructure and flood protection, and more (watch the video for the entire forum).

Eramo, who was first elected in 2013, and Diamond, who has served since 2017, touted the Democratic administration’s record of accomplishments since Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.

Eramo, a West End resident and a field technician for Verizon, highlighted a 15 percent flood rebate, the planting of over 3,000 trees, the rebuilding of city parks and playgrounds, the new boardwalk, a record low crime rate, resiliency projects along the beach and bay, and “major” investments in infrastructure. He noted the recent completion of the Army Corps of Engineers’ coastal protection project, which included the reconstruction of dunes and jetties on the beach, as well as projects to shore up the north side of the city with bulkheads and other resiliency measures that are underway.

“We’ve come so far, and there’s more work to do,” Eramo said. “Our city isn’t without tough times ahead, and tough decisions will need to be made. In the past six years we’ve rebuilt our beaches, crime is down 39 percent, we’ve gotten hundreds of guns off the street, we got a 15 percent flood insurance discount for homeowners, developed a community driven plan to prevent overdevelopment, and pushed [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and NY Rising to pay their fair share.”

Diamond, an attorney, noted her work to continue the city’s recovery after the storm, and defended the city’s record.

Both Diamond and Eramo said they do not support layoffs, and said they would continue to partner with the private sector and state and federal governments to secure new funding sources and expand the tax base.

“You may hear that the incumbents have no record and have done nothing for our city, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Diamond said. “We kept our city open, and continued to provide services that are vital to our community. I voted for a capital plan that provided significant funding for infrastructure improvements, including roadways and drainage upgrades, and the replacement of aging water infrastructure.”

For his part, Mulvaney, a co-founder of the local nonprofit Surf for All, said that he wants to bring civility to City Hall.

“I’ll work to protect the most vulnerable, cut fraud and waste,” he said. “I think my qualifications speak for themselves. I’ve worked in state government and I’m a community organizer. I’ve investigated fraud and sent people to jail. I’ve been in leadership positions . . . with international teams and forced them to work together. Running Long Beach is not an easy job — it’s a very complex job . . . and a job for people with broad experience. I think I have that experience.”

The incumbent slate fought back against criticism from challengers Liz Treston, a community advocate and the chairwoman of the Long Beach Community Organizations Active in Disasters; Karen McInnis, a financial executive; and Ron Paganini, a retired city worker and former union leader, who are running as part of a group called the New Wave Dems LB, and criticized officials for their handling of city finances and other issues they claimed the city has failed to address.

“Let’s cut to the chase: I am running because I want to ensure that every single dollar paid by taxpayers is put to the best use for the long-term benefit of the entire community,” McInnis said. “Residents can’t afford to pay more fees and taxes and not get answers to valid questions at City Council meetings. This administration even stopped the Long Beach Listens program started by other Democrats in 2012.”

Treston said she had many concerns about the “current state of mismanagement.”

“As a resident who is in constant communication with many homeowners in our city,” she said, “I know too well your fears about the taxes that increase, the decrease in services and where do we actually go from here. What we have now is not working.”

Paganini said that the current administration’s record of accomplishments is “just talk.” “Look at our financial condition,” he said. “Taxes, streets, infrastructure, ongoing state audit, downgraded ratings, etc. What is the meaning of all this? Mismanagement — on steroids.”

Tim Kramer, who owns an auto leasing business and is a founder of Waves of Hope, a charitable group that led a relief effort last year for victims of Hurricane Harvey, is seeking election independently as a Democrat. He said he is running because he has “had enough,” and added that the split Democratic factions are nothing more than “people starving for power.”

“I’ve had enough of the high taxes with no end in sight — people are moving because they can’t afford to live here,” Kramer said. “I’ve had enough of the brown water coming from the faucet in the bathtub where I bathe my children at night and being told that the water is drinkable. I’ve had enough of the needless overtime, overemployment, overdevelopment, overspending, tax abatements and bonds, bonds, bonds. I’ve had enough of the poor road conditions and missing bike lanes. I’ve had enough of not being able to move my car in the summer.”