Hundreds packed Long Beach City Hall on Jan. 1 to welcome three new council members who pledged to unify the city and vowed to bring change to City Hall amid a fiscal crisis and ongoing payout scandal.
Democrats Karen McInnis, Elizabeth Treston and Michael Delury —who defeated incumbents Anthony Eramo, Chumi Diamond and Anissa Moore in the November election — struck an optimistic tone at Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony led by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky.
“When I look at who we are inducting here today, they’re the best example of democracy,” Kaminsky said. “They’re three people, who simply cared about their community enough to decide to put their names on the line and run. All three of the inductees are full of integrity, full of caring for our community and I can’t wait to see what they’ll achieve.”
The new council members pledged to work together with fellow Democratic council members John Bendo and Scott Mandel to address the city’s financial problems, and reiterated their promises during the campaign to create transparency at City Hall and restore trust between the council and residents.
McInnis and Treston, who were part of a group called the New Wave Dems LB, were both elected to four-year terms after they garnered the first and second most votes in the election, respectively. Delury, a Democrat who ran on the Republican line on a bipartisan ticket, was elected to a two-year term.
Delury, a lifelong Long Beach resident and the treasurer of the Village of East Williston, was sworn in by East Williston Mayor Bonnie Parente.
“I am confident that the three of us, along with John Bendo and Scott Mandel, will work together with the common goal of making this city a better beach community,” Delury said. “My contribution to this city council is my expertise in the area of government finance and work on budgetary issues. I am hopeful that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.”
This year’s council race came amid two criminal investigations into questionable separation payouts to employees in the 2017-18 fiscal year — including a number of non-union staff who remained on the payroll — and on the heels of a dramatic revelation last year that the city’s finances had been mismanaged under former City Manager Jack Schnirman, as well as a fiscal crisis, a scathing state audit, two consecutive tax increases of 8 percent and concerns about the city’s water quality.
The new council members all agreed to work together to get the city back on track. Shortly after the ceremony, the council voted unanimously to name Bendo, the council’s vice president, as its new president and McInnis vice president.
“Today is a new day in Long Beach city government,” Bendo said. “We want to ensure that city government is best representing the interest of those who we work for, which is the residents of this city. That is why you put us here and that is what we intend to do.”
Bendo ended the meeting with a quote from Yankees’ legend Yogi Berra. “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
McInnis, vice president of finance and strategic planning at the Association of American Publishers, was sworn in by Nassau County District Court Judge Eileen Goggin, a Long Beach resident and former councilwoman.
McInnis vowed to pursue economic growth opportunities and implement cost-saving measures, while also bringing transparency to City Hall.
“Change like this is hard and it is messy — in fact, the new City Council is already doing extensive planning to change how the city is governing, managed and conducting its business. But it would be irresponsible to suggest that change like this would be immediate,” McInnis said after being sworn-in. “I promise though, that it will be the focus of this council and we will get it done.”
She concluded by stating her vision of Long Beach, in which transparency, equity, inclusion, innovation and environmental stewardship were at the center of the city’s government.
Treston, a community advocate and the chairwoman of the Long Beach Community Organizations Active in Disasters, was sworn in by Bendo. Treston, who was joined by her mother, Elizabeth Treston-Fine, echoed the words of Glinda the Good Witch from “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Come out, come out wherever you are, the city of Long Beach needs you — we need you,” Treston told the crowd.
She added that she has been reading city budgets, the state comptroller's report on Long Beach finances and material on how to run a responsible government to help her in her new role. She said that the government would work for the residents and that the council would listen to their concerns.
“You will be heard,” Treston said. “At times you may not like what you hear, but you will be heard.”