Election, Taxes & More: Quick Hits From The Front Porch • Long Beach Post

It has been a very busy last month of summer in the Smith Family and thankfully a lot of that has been an increase in activity in the local housing market keeping my very occupied at work helping families purchase homes.  I have had many different topics I have wanted to post on but have not found the time so today I offer you a condensed version of what could have been several posts.


Mayor Foster’s infrastructure parcel tax has plenty of opposition from Long Beach residents, many of whom are saying they do not want more taxes.  One of the figures I have seen is that it will cost the average homeowner about $125 per year for the parcel tax to pay for the proposal.  Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed a one-cent increase in the sales tax; $0.01 increases the tax by 1% of every dollar spent on taxable goods and services.  Schwarzenneger’s tax proposal raises taxes on all Californians by 14% (and by 12% in LA County where we already have a $0.01 addition to state sales tax).  Anyone who spends more than $12,500 per year on taxable goods and services in California—which is the overwhelming majority of households in the state—will spend more in taxes on Schwarzenneger’s tax proposal than Mayor Foster’s tax proposal.  Where is the outrage and push back from local residents against Schwarzenneger’s proposal? 


Foster has seen a lot of the press and commentary on local websites peter out on his parcel tax because of the community discussion on the potential closing and relocating of the Main Library.  Is this good news for getting the parcel tax passed on the ballot or bad news?  With so much energy and discussion focused on the library a lot of conversations are not being had on the infrastructure proposal and what it will mean to residents and the future of the city.


My label for the phenomenon is the “O-bubble”, and it is rather prevalent in our city, a city that went almost 70% for Kerry in the 2004 election.  The O-bubble is where many like-minded people live and interact and creates a sense of “everyone feels like I do.”  I admit to taking advantage of the O-bubble before there was an O-bubble, back in January when it was just a “DemO-bubble”.  Recall eight months ago when neither party had a clear cut nominee and the primary rhetoric was pretty tough.  I was at a meeting for Leadership Long Beach at my friend Colleen’s home and prior to the meeting starting was in a conversation with our friend Scott.  I was getting some heat from the others in the room, once again being the minority by holding status as the only registered Republican, about the primaries and how the Democrats were going to win in November.  I stated that no matter who the parties chose as their nominees the Republicans would the Presidential election in November and was willing to bet on it.  Scott took me up on the bet and we each put our symbolic $20 in a vase on Colleen’s mantle. 


My reasoning in January was that the political calculus was not good for the Democrats since their two main nominees (I discounted Edwards as did the party faithful—can one use “Edwards” and “faithful” in the same sentence?) would create internecine animosities in significant portions of the party that would hurt in November.  Not only that but Republicans have always tended to nominate candidates for President that appeal to the middle and are electable, the Democrats—with exception of Clinton—nominate idealists that appeal to the liberal base and do not resonate with much of middle America.  My thinking was that if Obama won the nomination many Clinton supporters would sit out the election or switch parties when voting in November; if Clinton won the nomination then many of the new voters registered under the Obama phenomenon and many black voters would sit out the election or switch parties in the general election.  Between the liberal ideology of both candidates and the amount of voters vested in the individual races because of gender or race, my reasoning was that the GOP candidate would win in November.  I stand by my bet.


Not only is much of Long Beach under the O-bubble, but as has been seen this week so is most of the Mainstream Media (MSM).  The unrelenting attacks on VP Nominee Sarah Palin have exposed the bias and the public is taking notice as poll after poll is showing a continuation of the distrust of the media by most of America—except those in the O-bubble, self-labeled liberals see no media bias and are the only group with this perception.  After Palin’s speech on Wednesday night I noticed a dramatic shift in the AP reporter’s story carried in the Press-Telegram on Thursday morning.  On Wednesday the same reporter’s story was somewhat snarky and to my jaundiced eye biased against those whose convention he was covering; on Thursday the story read as news and not opinion and included several paragraphs about McCain’s history from POW to getting in scraps with his fellow Republicans over immigration, campaign finance reform, and spending among other issues.


Long Beach schools started on Wednesday and once again Leslie and I saw our daughters enter clean classrooms staffed with great and caring teachers and administered by a very capable and smart principal—just like all the parents with children in LBUSD schools.  Sure there are some issues with specific sites, with specific teachers, with specific administrators, but we are incredibly fortunate to have the best school district in the stateand probably country.  No surprise that the District is once again a finalist for the Broad Award and possibly a $2 million grant.  Our District’s Board of Education and Administration has shown how to run a very large organization effectively despite declining revenues and increased legislative regulations while still producing very positive results. 


The view from the Front Porch has changed dramatically since April, we converted the front lawn that was typical for many after the Long Beach Water Department ordered water conservation and watering of lawns and gardens to be restricted to Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays in the early morning or late evening for just a few minutes at a time—essentially big patches of brown crusty grass was the lawn.  Today the grass is gone and we have our front yard re-landscaped with California natives and drought resistant plants; the process of the transformation will be detailed as we move into October.  While a challenge to get so many different plants to take root and flourish in the middle of summer we are pleased with the result and knowing in several months our little seedlings and plants will grow to provide a wonderful example of little to no water requirements for a beautiful landscape. 


That said, many of the lawns in our neighborhood, and throughout the city, seem to be incredibly verdant for September after a hot summer and being of water rationing.  We still see sprinklers running every day, run off across the sidewalks and lush green lawns and flourishing Impatiens, Azaleas and other plants that require plenty of water.  I mentioned this to Ryan Alsop from the Long Beach Water Department and he told me that Long Beach residents will have an opportunity to enter a lottery for a re-landscaping of their yards to utilize less water and be able to more than follow the water restrictions imposed by his Department—look for announcements in October.


Finally, the local real estate market is seeing some life fueled mostly by first time buyers.  As you may have seen, the number of homes sold in the state in July was significantly higher than in July 2007 and the median prices dropped through most of the state (yes there are still some areas not seeing price declines—almost exclusively the upper, upper end of the market).  This means that the homes that are being sold are entry level homes and condominiums at a brisk pace, brisk enough to show an uptick in homes sold and also pull down the median price.  You know I do not often hand out compliments to our government, but I give huge kudos to Congress and the White House for crafting the part of the housing package earlier in the year that increased the loan limits on FannieMae/FreddieMac and FHA loans.  While the current loan limits will be scaled back starting January 1, 2009, the higher loan limits have saved our local real estate market by allowing low down payment and affordable rate financing for first time buyers entering the market to take advantage of the dip in prices.  Real estate recovery depends on a healthy base of first time buyers—we are seeing that now.


So those are just few of the thoughts that have rattled around my brain the past month or so.  I hope everyone had a great summer and is as excited as I am about this fall as we see so many important issues and decisions ahead of us from infrastructure, to new schools to a new President we will have plenty of decisions to make and talk about.




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