Recently there has been a new awakening of the people of Long Beach regarding how our local elections work, and how they are being rigged.
I hate to use the word “rigged” as it lately has taken on connotations on its own. However, I cannot find another more appropriate word in the English Language.
Years ago, our City Council was elected by the “grace” of the Press Telegram. Without the consent of the Press Telegram Newspaper, no one could get elected in Long Beach. They were the “kingmakers”.
Time has passed, and now the “kingmaker” of Long Beach local politics is the Police Officers Association. In combining their money and pull with the Fire Department and other local unions, the POA has created a strangle-hold upon local Long Beach elections.
Their coveted endorsement is gold, as long as people do not look too closely at the actions of our Long Beach Police Department. (I for one would not accept an endorsement from them, nor money)
They have tremendous cash on hand, as their dues are related to the salaries given to the people they represent. As you might have noticed, the City of Long Beach is far outpacing any other municipality in compensation packages to the Police.
We have seen the creation of a management union now in Long Beach, created to protect and enhance the salaries of what should be “at-will” employees. The expansion of middle management in this City is mind-boggling. And the Police Department is no exception.
So as the compensation packages increase so do the dues paid to the POA.
With this treasury of never-ending cash flow, the POA has the funds to influence any race they want.
Over $500,000.00 has been given on behalf of the Mayor for his candidacy and for his advocacy, which is another way of advertising your rising political star.
Just recently an LB Post article outlined the donation stream to seated Council Members and to candidates in the various City Council Races. ( Ian Patton wrote a rebuttal that completely enlightened everyone to the inherent bias of the LB Post, which was formerly owned by the Mayor)
In the race for the 2nd District, the POA has fueled the campaign of Cindy Allen, my opponent with over $48,000.00. Fliers, people going door to door, mail pieces, and ads, all paid for by the POA independent expenditure committee. It takes a lot of money now to run for a Council Seat. This is mostly due to the expected influx of POA money for any political position.
Why do they do it?
Simple answers for simple questions.
The POA loves their power, and they have demanded repayment of their largess with outrageous contracts for our own LBPD. They have paid for the passing of Measure A, and three other taxes meant to support the payment of salaries for the LBPD. Since everyone used to think the police were untarnished and righteous, citizens actually were persuaded by fliers with pictures of police officers in uniform (which is really against the law) standing alongside the candidate of purchase or the tax of self-service.
Now we are faced with a big question. How can we prevent not only the present danger of outside influences from purchasing City Council Members and their votes, but also the future dangers of entrenched political bribery with overwhelming Cash incentives by the POA or others?
The Citizens United Law allows the POA to donate what they will. We must overturn this constitutional law in order to make a difference nationally. It is insane to think that a corporation, a union, a non-profit, a bank or any other large enterprise should be considered an “individual” in regards to campaign contributions. The very essence of democracy is at stake. With the culmination of this unholy alliance between big money interests and our elective process, we will slide quickly into an Oligarchy (Government ruled by the Elite and Monied Class)
What can we do locally?
First, we can make the POA money TOXIC. We can so inform the public of this horrible purchase of elected positions, that no one will be able to accept their hoards of cash due to the anticipated backlash of opinion.
We can forward REAL campaign finance reform. If we cannot refuse the POA from participating, then let us limit the amount that can be spent on any campaign. Instead of raising the contribution amounts as is put forward by 1st District Councilmember, Mary Zendejas ( who received huge amounts from the POA to get her elected) let us limit the amount of money that can be used for a campaign. We can do this by an act of City Council.
Let us restrict the money for a campaign to say, $50,000.00. One would have to really direct their campaigns for mailers without inundating every resident with flashy mailers that end up in the trash. One would have to direct a campaign more to personal interaction which has no cost. One would have to restrict one’s campaign to smaller volunteer groups rather than paid Union people purchased to hand-deliver garbage for a campaign all over a district or the town.
What a refreshing world that would be.
It would also open up the door for more participation from the neighborhoods and grassroots candidates. They would have a much more available platform to run, and it would equalize the playing field for all candidates. This is a way to bring new blood, fresh ideas, and unpurchased people into the civic arena.