columnists Nancy Pfeffer, Daniel Brezenoff, Miles Nevin and Dennis C. Smith weigh in on Measure I, which would tax property owners in order to buy bonds that would be used to improve the city’s infrastructure.

Nancy Pfeffer

I have had the opportunity to hear Mayor Foster make his “pitch” for Long Beach’s infrastructure bond measure a couple of times, and I am in favor of it.  In brief, Measure I would allow the city to issue bonds totaling $571 million for replacement and repair of city streets, alleys, storm drains, and facilities for public safety, health, parks, and libraries.  Interest on the bonds would be paid for by placing a parcel tax on homeowners, renters, and businesses.  For more details, please see this presentation from the city’s web site.

To me, the need is obvious.  I can judge by the alley closest to my house, whose paving, or what’s left of it, might just date back to the days when Long Beach was known as Willmore City.  I can judge by the fire station closest to my house, which is quaint, even pretty, but has sat unused for years and is in fact one of the Mayor’s “poster children” for how outdated our city’s fire facilities are.  I can judge by the rather depressing condition of the restroom in the park closest to my house, which I enter with trepidation and only when I absolutely have to.

Moreover, I believe the Mayor when he says that if we wait to make these repairs and replacements, they will only cost more.  I believe him when he says that he has pared the General Fund all he can, and that other funds are needed for these investments.  I believe him when he says that the parcel tax, which amounts to $120 a year for a single-family house like mine, is the cheapest of several options for raising the money.  I believe him when he says that the program will provide local jobs and economic stimulus.  I also believe that the money collected will be spent on the projects identified, and that the City will be able to sell the bonds (even in this crazy market) when the time comes.

Now, on the spectrum of people in the world, I am more on the end of the spectrum that tends to trust people to do what they say.  I also am the kind of person who believes that government has an important and generally beneficial role to play in the lives of its citizens.  These underlying beliefs certainly have a lot to do with my opinion on this bond measure.

Also, I’m fortunate that the amount of the parcel tax will not be an undue burden for me; I know that’s not true of everyone.  I do think it’s not too much to ask in light of the fact that even with this tax increase, Long Beach’s property tax rate will still be below the median for cities in Los Angeles County.

I think this is an important investment to make in the quality of life enjoyed by Long Beachers.  It will ensure that we have the kind of city that we can be proud of, and that others will want to visit and do business in.  Of course the economic climate is uncertain, but we are never truly sure what the future holds, and I think it’s important to act with optimism.  I’m glad the Mayor has taken on this important issue in a constructive way, and I’ll be voting “yes” on November 4th.


Daniel Brezenoff

What you’ll see on your ballot:
To repay bonds which the City intends to issue to repair/replace city streets, sidewalks, alleys, storm drains, fire stations, police stations, libraries and recreational facilities and to acquire, restore and preserve wetlands, shall an Ordinance be adopted which establishes an annual parcel tax of $120 per residential unit (0.4 to 8.8 cents per square foot for other uses) adjusted annually for inflation?

What it is: The city borrows about half a billion dollars to fix our neglected “infrastructure,” which is actually more broadly defined than the summary implies. It’s paid for with a flat tax on homeowners.

Pros: Keep Long Beach from sinking into the marsh, or regressing to its 1991 condition resembling an abandoned pirate ship.

Cons: Half a billion now becomes perhaps 5 billion when we pay it back. And the leeway on how the city can spend the Christmas bundle is a hole big enough to accommodate the Queen Mary, sixteen hundred crane operators, and every illegal truck on the 710. The bill isn’t green enough. The tax is regressive.

How I’m voting: NO.

I sure wish I could vote yes. We need the money, and our infrastructure needs the love. But this revenue method, along with the lack of any real change in the careless, 20th century approach to dire, 21st century problems this bond hopes to address make this the wrong infrastructure bill. We have to hurry up and create the right one before year’s end, but waiting is better than rushing in.

Will it pass? Too close to call.

Trivia: I’d vote for it if they’d promise to fix the center city streets before they fix the ones in Park Estates.


Miles Nevin

After living in Long Beach for six years, the infrastructure needs facing the city are clear and present. I often wonder how the state of our streets, sidewalks and storm drains could be so poor in a metropolis that depends on mass international trade, tourism, and the flow of traffic among nearly 600,000 residents and countless visitors. But the state is poor, very poor. Just walk down your street and look!

For this reason I strongly support Measure I. It’s common sense, it’s a solution to a huge problem, it’s an investment in our future. I also recognize that, if passed, Measure I will not only result in safer sidewalks and a cleaner environment, but it will create jobs. And the creation of jobs has to be on the forefront of our thinking. If it is not, this city’s problems will snowball out of control.


Dennis C. Smith

City Measure I: Long Beach Infrastructure Reinvestment Act.  If passed this measure would increase parcel taxes $120 per year for most single family residences, more for other parcels and generate over $500 million for infrastructure repair and replacement.  This is the issue I have grappled with the most on our ballot.  There is a distinct need for infrastructure repair and replacement in our city.  There is a history of our council and management not properly allocating funds for infrastructure and instead expanding into social services and programs that grew the size of the city payroll.   The vote on this issue comes down to need versus trust.  If the acknowledged need for major infrastructure repair and replacement is greater than the trust, or lack of, in government.  From my conversations and reading what is in the local media it appears the biggest issue those opposed to Measure I have is their trust in the City Council and city management to properly manage and follow through should Measure I pass.

I brought this up to Mayor Foster on Sunday at one of his stops on his Living Room Tour.  He had a few responses that I felt were right on the mark.  First, he said if my problem is with the oversight and prioritizing of the funds when Measure I passes, my problem he said is not with the Measure but instead with representative government.  And he is right, that is my biggest misgiving; and that of many against Measure I.  I do not have a lot of confidence in the representative government elected, in my case, by my neighbors; unfortunately many of them have little confidence in the representative they were responsible for electing.  Second, Foster admitted that Measure I is not perfect—and how could it be.  If I were to write the measure I could put together something almost perfect for me, but lacking for you—and vice versa.  There is no perfect solution to our infrastructure problems.  But it is a very good proposal that minimizes the tax impact, get the ball rolling before costs go up, does not help some neighborhoods but not others; not perfect but pretty damn good for what it can and will do.  In this regard Foster said, “Don’t let the good be a victim of perfect.”  Waiting for perfect in a democracy, or any government, means a lifetime of waiting; waiting while our streets and sidewalks crumble further.

I have flipped and flopped and flipped and flopped on Measure I.  In the end we need a tremendous amount of work done on our streets, sidewalks, storm drains, parks and other city assets and no money now or in the near future through the general fund to bite off even a decent portion of repairs.  The Council has received numerous reports and surveys for the past several years on the condition and cost to cure of our infrastructure and nothing has been done.  Foster has stood up and said, “no more passing the buck—or in this case the broken sidewalks—to the next generation.”  His plan, while not perfect, is about as good as one might expect.  The cost per parcel is very minimal, $120 per year for most homeowners, especially compared to other financing options.  Long Beach has a very low parcel tax for the state and the county, and this parcel tax keeps us near the bottom—it is affordable.  So the argument against is not the cost, it is the trust that once passed the funds will be used efficiently and as stated.

Measure I has become Foster’s personal commitment to the citizens of Long Beach to fix the infrastructure and put some trust back in City Hall.  He mentions his increased veto power that he will use if the council tries an end run on any Measure I funds, he mentions his personal commitment to ensure the funds will be spent on infrastructure and using a citywide priority list and not an even division of the funds by nine districts.  Foster is sticking out his hand and saying, “let’s shake on it.”  I accept the handshake and the honorable agreement with His Honor.  My vote is YES on Measure I and on Mayor Foster to come through on his word once it is passed.