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Newsletter No. 46, created Feb. 28. 2024

Mayor Chen drops the F bomb.

Problems with Yeh.

Lee lies about endorsements.

Kalani has edge.

Kaji's digital billboards to go to Council.

Recall Mattucci campaign update.

Petitions for Torrance Refinery.


Mayor George Chen’s supporters are all agog over his recently dropping the F-bomb in a very public setting. Chen has a reputation for being mild-mannered and never saying an objectionable word or raising his voice.


At least that’s his public personna, but people who have felt his wrath behind closed doors are aware that it isn’t the real Chen.


So his supporters got a surprise at a campaign rally on Feb. 17. Chen was announcing that he had changed his mind on staying neutral and was endorsing Andrew Lee in District 2 and Tony Yeh in District 6.


As Chen supporter Patsy Okada posted on Facebook: “At a Saturday rally he was ‘pissed’ that (Bridgett) Lewis ran an ‘Asians for Lewis’ piece.”


Okada was reluctant to print the F word, but others who were there said Chen used it in a rant about the six prominent Asian-American elected officials whose support Lewis trumpeted in a mailer. Chen had been hoping voters would not know that Lee was held in disdain by local Asian-Americans, but Lewis’ mailer ended that wish.


In case you’re curious, the six are Rep. Ted Lieu, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, former Assemblymember George Nakano, Torrance Unified School Boardmember Betty Lieu, El Camino College Trustee Trisha Murakawa and Rancho Palos Verdes Councilmember Paul Seo. (Side note: Keep an eye on Seo. He has the support of people such as Rep. Adam Schiff; we may be seeing the Rancho Palos Verdes council member in races for public office in which Torrance residents can vote.)


Shortly after that rally, however, Jeremy Gerson, a candidate in District 6, benefited from a similar mailer with the same six supporters who were snubbing Chen’s choice: Tony Yeh. Wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Chen learned about the second mailer . . . .

 

The problems with Yeh:

Early on in the campaign, Chen thought his candidates Yeh and Lee would win and give him control of the Council. Because of the behind-the-scenes support he had gotten for them from his church – Bread of Life – he was so confident of their winning he said he would remain neutral. Chen had another reason to stay on the sidelines: The behavior of Yeh, a realtor.


To see the report that the City Clerk gave to the Council, check out www.TakeBackTorrance.com, and click on Newsletter No. 42 to learn about Yeh’s non-disclosure of properties he owns that have put the City at the risk of lawsuits.


If elected, Yeh will be the Council’s third realtor – District 1’s Jon Kaji and District 5’s Aurelio Mattucci have already made it clear they support real estate interests.

Kaji was recently rejected when he pushed for a $100,000 land-use study designed to repurpose the airport. Mattucci has announced at a Council meeting that he preferred taxpayers, rather than developers, pay the costs the City will incur from 5,000 new housing units.


At the District 6 candidates forum on Feb. 19, Yeh repeatedly made it clear he would protect real-estate interests. A particularly blatant example arose during questions on the Skyline Mobile Home Park. The mobile-home owners fall between the cracks: As both Jeremy Gerson and Jack Walser pointed out, homeowners are protected by Prop 13, and tenants are helped by state laws controlling rents. But mobile-home owners benefit from neither because they own the unit but not the land.


Yeh made it clear that he thought the home park’s business owner should prevail over the residents.


Walser told the audience, “I sympathize with everyone. We need to work together. I don’t have an answer for it.”


Gerson demonstrated his understanding of the problem and its significance. Since Skyline’s population is seniors, he said the City needed to address the potential loss of this as affordable housing.


“We need to take care of everyone in Torrance, including our seniors,” Gerson emphasized. “That’s what we are elected to do.”


Those kinds of comments led one audience member to later tell me, “Jeremy did very well. He presented himself as thoughtful and competent while balancing his experience on the school board with his ambitions on council. He was also by far the most compassionate on refinery and mobile home issues. Jack was less strong than he has been at other forums, although still showed his experience. It seemed like he wanted to be so neutral on issues that he came across as passive. Tony was his unapologetically right-wing self, which earned him open animosity by the mobile home park residents.”


Those assessments were typical of the feedback I received from attendees.


Lee running scared?:

Lee has been a huge disappointment to Chen. At the Chamber’s forum, Chen left the room when Lee responded to a Prop 13 question by saying he didn’t know anything about that proposition.


Lee’s list of endorsements has been lackluster, but that apparently hasn’t stopped him from telling residents he has the police and fire endorsements. He does not. His opponent, Bridgett Lewis, has locked them all up.


Lee has had the full support of Chen’s church, which has been helping him, as well as Yeh, behind the scenes. At some point, Lee decided to join the church. Whatever the reason for his decision, it should be noted that Bread of Life is outspoken in its homophobia, and Lee is Torrance Memorial’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

 

Kalani likely to win:

When Sharon Kalani won the District 4 race in 2020, she had a worthy opponent, Sue Herbers, who had distinguished herself in a long career as Torrance’s city clerk.


This time, Kalani is opposed by Kousha Modanlou, who is earnest but exceptionally green. Initially, Shamindra Mahbahal, who was supported by Chen, had also filed his intent-to-run form but failed to finish the application by the deadline.


In all three candidate forums, Kalani presented herself as knowledgeable and thoroughly engaged in the entire community. Modanlou was equally consistent during the three events, but his intelligence couldn’t surmount his lack of knowledge.


When asked to name their supporters, Kalani had a laundry list of local groups and people involved in the community while Modanlou answered, “My neighbors.”

 

Take Back Torrance:

Please vote.

If you have already cast your ballot, thank you.

If it’s marked and ready to post or to drop off at a ballot box, thank you.

If you plan to visit a voting center before the 5th, thank you.

If you like to cast your ballot on Election Day and never fail to vote, thank you.


All signs point to a low turnout. If Chen gets his fourth vote, I know what will be on the agenda going forward:

·       Development costs being passed on to taxpayers.

·       A new public health agency that will cost Torrance taxpayers millions each year.

·       Big billboards built within 100 feet of homes.


And those are just for starters. Mattucci and Kaji are trying to get Metro’s C-Line extension killed. A year ago no one would have realized that campaign was a possibility.


We don’t know what Chen, Mattucci and Kaji will conjure up. But we will find out if Chen gets his fourth vote.


Big billboards?:

Someone attending the last Planning Commission and alarmed by an agenda item wanted to make sure that I knew about the newest problem coming from Kaji.


A while back he asked the Council to have the commission look at updating the City’s electronic billboard policy. All the commissioners supported a policy that would allow signs along the 405 Corridor.


That’s where the agreement ended. In most of the discussion, the Chen coalition – Yeh, Ron Riggs and Megan Turner – split with the other three attending. Mark Choi was absent. In the end, the commission voted 5 to 1 to neither deny nor approve the draft ordinance, but to simply send it to the City Council. Only Chair David Kartsonis voted to outright deny the ordinance as proposed.


What was the problem with the proposal? It would put 1,000-square-foot digital billboards throughout the city and as near as 100 feet to a residence. The plan has much more, but we will have another opportunity to discuss it when it comes before the whole Council.

 

Recall Mattucci update:

The organizers thank those who have sent checks to Committee to Recall Torrance Councilmember Aurelio Mattucci 2024 at 23223 Ladeene Ave., Torrance, CA 90505.

 

For those who prefer to donate online, please visit https://secure.actblue.com/donate/recall-mattucci.

 

Anyone can donate or volunteer, but only District 5 residents can sign the petition. To reach the organizers, please email jeanadelsman@yahoo.com, and I will pass along your request. If you are hearing about this effort for the first time and would like more information, please go to www.TakeBackTorrance.com, and click on The Reasons to Recall Mattucci.

 

Renewed concern at Torrance Refinery:

Anyone driving by Columbia Park on Feb. 17 may have noticed a crowd of people gathered. The Torrance Refinery Action Alliance was holding a rally marking the ninth anniversary of the ExxonMobil explosion and near-release of hydrofluoric acid.


Those attending were signing four petitions – to PBF Energy, the refinery’s current owner (https://chng.it/WwLVnjyy4q); to Valero, which owns a Wilmington refinery (https://chng.it/W4Gwsxy85L); to President Biden (https://chng.it/WY2xYCBZ8y); to California Attorney Gen. Rob Bonta (https://chng.it/GdND4MRHMw).


Interested in signing the letters? Click on the links. The deadline is March 28. TRAA has more information posted at www.Facebook.com/TorranceRefineryActionAlliance.

 

Before I go:

 

v The City Council will hold three public meetings to get input on changing the City Charter with amendments on the Nov. 5 ballot. They are looking at a laundry list of issues, starting with major pay raises for the mayor and council. The meetings will be held March 12, April 23 and June 4, as part of regular Council meetings.

 

v At the very end of the Feb. 27 Council meeting, the mayor slipped in that he had returned to Taiwan, ostensibly to get business for Torrance. The money came from funds leftover after last fall’s junket.

 

v Would you like to become a City of Torrance vendor? Attend Pitch Torrance from 2 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19 at the Toyota Meeting Hall, 3330 Civic Center Dr. To learn more, go to https://business.torranceca.gov/services-and-programs/pitch-torrance.

 

v The City has extended its deadline to March 15 for residents to comment on the Torrance Civic Center Master Plan & Economic Feasibility Study project. To participate, go to https://forms.office.com/pages/responsepage.aspx?id=NT7r5-W9606o7XDZotjDGZqBJUdMqXZNlCAvW87WIOtURUg1OTdOUlZBRjVQUzhQN09XOUhMUjY1Ry4u.

 

v 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 later before the meeting, but it won’t be posted until Wednesday. It will be at the top of the agenda. You can also leave voicemails 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.



Want to tell the City Council your opinion on an agenda item or address any concerns? Send it to  CityCouncil@torranceca.gov; in the subject line put the agenda item or the topic. If you also want your comments to appear in an agenda item’s Staff Report, send it as well to CouncilMeetingPublicComment@torranceca.gov.

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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