Daryl Supernaw (left), Herlinda Chico (center) and Richard Lindemann (right) answer questions at a public forum February 24. Photos by Jason Ruiz.
For the first time since the start of a special election to fill the vacant 4th District City Council seat, all three candidates shared the same stage and answered questions posed by attendees of the monthly East Anaheim Street Business Alliance (EASBA) on topics ranging from taxes to medical marijuana to the hot-button issue of the proposed international custom facility at Long Beach Airport.
The Long Beach Playhouse was packed with business owners and community members from the district there to see Herlinda Chico, Daryl Supernaw and Richard Lindemann take part in the forum that was moderated by current 5th District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo. Mungo was asked to moderate the event by EASBA President Rod Wilson.
“I really felt it was important to hear how they were going to stay connected with the community and who are really their influences in policy making and decisions,” Mungo said. “I’m one of the council members who has not backed any candidate yet, and I don’t know if I will be backing any candidate in this race so I think they thought of me as a good neutral party.”
The choice to have Mungo moderate had been met with some criticism, with community members questioning whether or not a current city council member should be moderating such an event, and whether or not it created a conflict of interest. She dismissed the grumblings, stating that her selection was most likely due to her past relationship with EASBA, her track record of supporting businesses and because of the fact that she’s worked closely with the district during their absence of representation.
“It would only be a conflict of interest if I was writing all the questions and staging them in order and backing a particular candidate. Even if I did all of those things, I still hadn’t backed a candidate, I think that’s a big component of it."
The format of the discussion started with a each candidate being allotted five minutes to introduce themselves to the room, followed by the moderated period where Mungo read the submitted questions and each candidate was given one minutes to respond.
Chico spoke at length about her work both inside and outside the city of Long Beach, stating that her years as a public servant have given her an inside look at how city governments work. Supernaw boasted about what he’s done for businesses in the 4th and advocating for projects like the Atherton Ditch and the 7th Street Bridge. Lindemann, the self-proclaimed “darkhorse” of the race, pointed to his 53 years as a resident of the city and his self-funded campaign, which distances himself from political action committees and unions.
“I know who I work for, I work for you,” Lindemann said.
All three candidates agreed that raising utility users tax or sales tax in the city should be a last resort, with Supernaw being the most emphatic against fulfilling what he described as private sector unions’ desires. Acknowledging that he comes from a family of those who have benefitted from taxes being raised—both his mother and father were union workers—he said he doesn’t think that raising taxes is the way to go about fixing pension problems, because it affects the most vulnerable people in the economy.
“Utility users tax and sales tax are both by definition regressive taxes,” Supernaw said. “They affect the poor far more than any other segment of society.”
The candidates gave similar answers to almost every question, with one source of deviation coming from the topic of whether or not they supported Measure N, a voter-approved initiative that raised hotel workers' wages, and similar moves to raise the wages of restaurant workers. Supernaw and Lindemann agreed that it sets a bad precedent, with Lindemann saying that doing so could set off an endless cycle of everyone asking for a pay raise.
"It seems like you give one specific group a pay raise and then the next group wants it, then the next group wants it and then all of a sudden you’ve elevated everybody’s pay and you’re kind of back to the same basis where you started from,” Lindemann.
While Chico agreed that the onus doesn’t rest with the restaurant industry to raise wages, but with industries across the board to create parity, she said that she will always be mindful of how decisions affect small business owners because her mother is one of those small business owners. When pressed by a member of the audience Chico finally said that she would support it, but with proper planning.
“I don’t believe in doing this overnight,” Chico said. “It has to be a gradual process.”
Two of the bigger issues facing the city in the future, how medical marijuana can be incorporated into the city and whether or not to allow international flights into Long Beach Airport, were significant points of discussion. All three shared varying support for medical marijuana, agreeing that it needed to be planned out carefully and that the issue of where to put dispensaries was a topic that needed to be scrutinized thoroughly. But all three candidates, despite their reservations of the planning process and the expectation for medical marijuana to be included on the 2016 State ballot, expressed empathy for those citizens that will benefit from a potential vote to bring it to Long Beach.
“As someone who has suffered from kidney stone pain, my heart goes out to anyone who needs something for pain relief,” Supernaw said. “But I think the problem is how we work this out at council. From what I’ve seen it seems we’re making some of the mistakes we’ve made before with this and it’s so complex an issue, I'm not sure if we have to go back to the drawing board again.”
The noise ordinance was a point of concern not only because of the letter JetBlue sent the airport yesterday formally requesting the city begin the process of building an international customs checkpoint, but because a vote on the issue could potentially be carried out without a representative from one of the districts most impacted by the airport’s flightpath. Supernaw, who said his wife was part of the original group that got the current ordinance passed, said he and a group of constituents plan to boycott such a move at next week’s council meeting.
“We could have an airport vote without a 4th district representative. Now the two most impacted districts are District 4 and District 8,” Supernaw said. “It sounds impossible that the vote would go through without a voice in the 4th District and that could happen and next Tuesday night we’ll find out if that’s the direction they go.”
Chico added that the residents should hold precedence to business expansion and that protecting the health and standards of living for those in the flight path is an important part of the equation. She also said that history of lawsuits challenging changes at the airport in the past should be weighed carefully along with everything else.
“I think that we have to be very cautious as we move forward,” Chico said. “I want to make sure that in allowing international flights that we’re not opening ourselves up to litigation which we’ve seen in the past.”
With roughly eight weeks to go until election day, this was the first and possibly only glimpse the public will get of the candidates discussing policy side by side. Chico has maintained the biggest public presence through social media while Supernaw and Lindemann have employed a more grassroots approach to the election. That tactic nearly worked for Supernaw in 2012, when he lost by just a few hundred votes to Patrick O’Donnell in a runoff election. When asked if having a campaign approach closer to the social media-heavy effort that Chico is running would’ve been beneficial in winning that runoff election, Supernaw stood firm, dispelling any notion that he lost the election due to lack of trying, or lack of spending.
"Having been through it myself I can tell you there is no logic in that. If you’re looking from the outside, it may seem that way logically; ‘gee, if I would’ve just did a mailer back in 2012, we wouldn't be here today in this special election’,” Supernaw said.”
Chico, who has made her endorsement announcements regularly on her Facebook and Twitter pages, opposing the idea that she’s a "paid for" candidate. In response to what she referred to as “union bashing” on the part of Lindemann, Chico said the only promise she’s made is the promise to be open to everyone.
“I’m not a rubber stamp,” Chico said. “With them saying that I felt like they were insinuating that I was. I have been very clear to everyone that I am not making any promises or commitments during this campaign, the only commitment and promise I am making is to keep the lines of communication open.”