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Newsletter No. 44

  • Kaji's $100,000 airport land-use study flops.

  • Touch-and-go ban passes.

  • City moves to charge developers for infrastructure costs.

  • Andrew Lee flubs his first candidates forum.

  • Mattucci forced to apologize.

  • Free tech help for seniors.


District 1’s Jon Kaji has done the seeming impossible. He got the pilots and Airport-impacted homeowners to agree that the airport should not be closed and that Kaji’s proposal to spend $100,000 on an airport land-use study was a dud.

 

The pilots came out in force to defend the airport. No surprise. But a slew of residents also argued against the study.


Riviera Homeowners Assn. co-president Pam Popovich said she is “absolutely opposed to the study and to closing the airport.” She pointed out that the City is working on the airport’s problems: “When these issues are resolved, the airport will once again be the valuable asset it has historically been.”

 

District 3’s Asam Sheikh said that he “will never vote for shutting down the airport while he is on the Council.” And District 6’s Mike Griffiths, District 4’s Sharon Kalani and District 2’s Bridgett Lewis all agreed the airport is a valuable resource.

 

The reason for his proposal, Kaji said, was to explore all potential assets to address challenges such as the City’s pension-fund obligations. While Mayor George Chen and District 5’s Aurelio Mattucci voted against Kaji’s proposal, they first defended the study with Mattucci also pointing to the need for pension funds.

 

Before the vote was taken – and Kaji could see that he was on the losing end – he vented in a way that had people shaking their heads, claiming that shutting the airport wasn’t necessarily the study’s intention, but he never explained what else would have justified the $100,000 price tag.

 

Then he launched into an attack on the people who were criticizing him: “For any of you to attempt to bully any member on the Council – whether it’s myself or anyone else – by suggesting that I conduct myself in an improper way, by inferring that I have some sort of sinister plan to take over the airport and to turn it into housing or anything else, I think you just swipe left and move forward tomorrow.”

 

The discussion did have a favorable result: At the start of the discussion, Kalani requested that the City work on a 10-year airport vision plan. Lewis and Griffiths added some ways that could happen. Bottom line: The Council asked City staff for proposals on how to create the plan.

 

Bye-bye, touch-and-goes:

Griffiths called the vote banning the pilot maneuver a formality because, he said, a majority of the Council in July had indicated it wanted to end them. Chen said he favored them, but he was the lone vote against the ban. Kalani had recused herself because of a conflict.


Communities Facilities District:

Finance Director Sheila Poisson explained that these districts are “intended to mitigate costs caused by state-mandated new housing development.” In other words, developers have to pay for infrastructure and service costs caused by the new housing rather than making taxpayers pick up the tab.

 

Everyone ended up voting to create a district. But Mattucci, who had received criticism after an earlier meeting in which he had advocated for not making developers responsible for the additional costs, said: “We have had had this discussion before, and I’ve been accused of favoring the developer and passing on the bill to the tenant or the resident. That is far from the truth. Because when you charge a tax to a developer, the end user is always going to be paying the bill.”

 

In fact, no one was saying the developer wouldn’t pass along the expense. The goal was clear: Taxpayers shouldn’t have to underwrite a state mandate.


The first forum:

The audience gasped twice during the Torrance Chamber’s candidates forum.

 

The first time came when District 2 candidate Andrew Lee got a question about Prop 13. He told moderator Karl Schmidt that he was not familiar with Prop 13. He mumbled a couple more sentences about how he didn’t know anything about Prop 13.

 

At that point in the program, each candidate was getting individual questions tailored to them so Schmidt moved on. But when he had asked his last round of one-off questions, he then circled back to Lee. Schmidt acknowledged it was a tad unusual, but he wanted to give Lee a second chance. He gently explained that Prop 13 had been about property taxes. That seemed to refresh Lee’s memory.

 

His answer showed that he still didn’t grasp the issue, however. People are talking about updating the business part of the prop, not the residential; Lee talked as if he thought homeowners were being asked to take a hit.

 

The second gasp came when District 6 candidate Tony Yeh was asked an ethics question. It was a veiled reference to City Clerk Rebecca Poirier’s letter to the mayor and City Council enumerating Yeh’s missteps, including his failure as a planning commissioner to acknowledge real estate holdings. If you missed that issue, go to www.TakeBackTorrance.com and click on Newsletter No. 42.

 

Many in the audience were not aware of the problem. Those who were gasped when Yeh called for concrete evidence, saying people are “not guilty till proven guilty.”  

 

By the end of the forum, the four panelists with governing experience showed up the other three as not ready for prime time. Lewis and Kalani were knowledgeable, and that was reflected by their answers.

 

While Jeremy Gerson isn’t on the Council, he serves as president of the Torrance Unified School Board, and he pointed to how he worked to get a teachers contract even as newspaper articles were predicting a strike was imminent.


Though Jack Walser only had a one-year appointment to the Council, his answers reflected a better understanding than Lee, Yeh or District 4 candidate Kousha Modanlou, who spoke intelligently but without any real grasp of what Torrance is about.

 

Each of the candidates was asked about rent control. In Torrance that question really is about the distress a new owner is causing Skyline Mobile Home Park residents in District 6. The three candidates’ responses were revealing:

 

Gerson said he is concerned “where the holes exist: Skyline falls in the cracks because the state regulates everyone else.”


Walser said that he “believes in a free market tempered by local needs” and that he is looking for a compromise.

 

Tony Yeh, a realtor, failed to address Skyline. Instead, he said the state has controls and he does not support rent control.



Recall update:

Mattucci was so upset by being served the recall papers on Jan. 13 that he went onto Facebook that afternoon and delivered a 33-minute outburst.


He disputed the charges against him starting with the first one, which said that he “has weaponized social media by attacking everyone who does not ascribe to his ideology and agenda . . . .” Before he finished, he managed to vilify Kurt Weideman, the former city council member who has had zero involvement in the recall.

 

“I am hard pressed to understand why he attacked me in his video,” Weideman wrote the mayor and entire City Council. He called it “an attack that was so salacious and slanderous that it served to sully my reputation.” And he ended by demanding an apology and saying that he would look for a legal remedy if he did not get one. Mattucci apologized.

 

For other reasons to support the recall, check out the list posted on www.TakeBackTorrance.com. If you would like to sign the petition and/or to volunteer, send an email to jeanadelsman@yahoo.com, and she will send your information to the organizers. That also goes for anyone interested in the Kaji recall effort.

 

Mattucci is trying to leave the impression that it will be public knowledge who signs this petition. It will be confidential . . . just as voters’ ballots on the recall will be. The first petition of 60 names is the only document that is available to the public.

 

More candidates forums:

7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7. District 2 Council candidates.

Sponsored by the Southwood HOA and West Torrance HOA. At Bert Lynn Middle School cafeteria, 5038 Halison St.

 

6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8. District 4 Council candidates.

Sponsored by the OTNA. At Torrance Women’s Club, 1422 Engracia Ave.

 

7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19. District 6 Council candidates.

Sponsored by Hillside Neighborhood Association. At Alta Loma Park, 26126 Delos Dr.

 

How late was it?:

Mayor Pro Tem Jon Kaji, keeping Chen’s penchant for late starts, began the Jan. 9 meeting at 6:40 p.m. It ended at 9:40 p.m. At the Jan. 23 meeting, Chen started about 6:40 p.m. and ended the meeting at almost 2 a.m.

 

Before I go:

  • Free tech help for seniors: Have questions about your smart phone, tablet or device? H.E.L.P. (Helping Elders Live Productively) will have people on hand every Tuesday in February from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to answer them. It will provide the service at their office, 1404 Cravens Ave. in Downtown Torrance. Call 310-533-1996 to register for the Help Desk.



  • The City’s deadline for correspondence to be included in the Council’s pre-meeting public supplemental is now 5:30 p.m. the Monday before the meeting. The Council will receive anything that comes in after that before the meeting, but it won’t be posted until Wednesday. It will be at the top of the agenda. You can also leave voice mails to be included as Oral Communications in the supplemental. Call 310-618-2404 to leave up to a two-minute recording that will be transcribed. Voicemails have the same deadlines as the emails.



Jean Adelsman


Feel free to share this email -- or tell friends about www.TakeBackTorrance.com. And if you email a response to jeanadelsman@yahoo.com, please indicate whether you are expressing a thought for my eyes only or whether I may share your comments with the whole audience. 

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