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Guest Commentary

Straight Talk: 47th Congressional District

From Issue: Volume XX - Number 20

FROM LEFT, Gary DeLong, Art Levine & Alan Lowenthal

Art Levine’s recent guests were the two candidates running for United States Congress in the 47th Congressional District, Senator Alan Lowenthal and Councilman Gary DeLong.

Art: Alan, why do you think you’d be the best person to represent constituents of the 47th District?

Alan: I’m running because I’ve had a great record of success. I have really tried, in my years as a public servant, to bring jobs to the community, to fight for clean air and water, to make sure that our schools and our educational systems work. And also to make sure that government is responsive to the people. There’s more work that needs to be done. I really want to go to Washington to participate in this great, national debate that is taking place now, and where the differences between both parties and both presidential candidates are real clear.

Gary: I bring a unique set of skills to this seat. From being 35 years in the private sector, ten years in corporate America, the last 25 years as an owner of a local small business; but yet balanced with six years of being an elected official. So I understand both. I understand how government works and how it doesn’t work and what we need to do to fix it. But I also understand the private sector; so I know what it will take to get our economy going again.

Art: Alan, what would be your suggestions for getting this economy going and getting our employment up?

Alan: I’ve been the person that wrote the legislation that ensured that we would do a public private partnership to build a state courthouse in Long Beach. I was the one that ensured that there would be over half a billion dollars as the chair of Senate Transportation to build a Gerald Desmond Bridge. And so I’ve had a record of working with the other side, working in a cooperative way. I think as I go to Washington, I’m going to be strongly supportive of the President’s American Job Act. It reinvests in our country, in education, and infrastructure to make sure that we maintain our leadership role. And I will be there to work on a fair tax policy.

Gary: Well, first of all, let me say that I do look at things a little bit differently. I think those are good projects that Alan has mentioned, both the bridge and the courthouse; but again, those are public projects. What we need is to get the private sector going again. So I think what I would do is be far more supportive [of the private sector] to get our economy going again. Let’s figure out how to help those small businesses, medium businesses grow, prosper and create jobs for our citizens. That’s the way to get out of our economic morass. It’s not just more government spending.
Art: Alan, tell us why you supported the government’s proposal to end redevelopment agencies.

Alan: I was faced with this choice: children, schools in one hand, on the other hand developers and economic development. That’s really what the choice was. Redevelopment takes property taxes away from schools. It gives them to communities to deal with blight. I looked at that and said it is time to reinvest in children.

Art: Gary, would you have voted to end redevelopment?

Gary: Well, I think Alan and I may agree on many things. This isn’t one of them. Redevelopment was one of the largest economic tools the city had. In fact, the courthouse that he referred to, that was because of redevelopment. If we didn’t have a redevelopment agency, that project would not have occurred. We need redevelopment. It is killing our cities. And I will tell you it wasn’t a choice, in my opinion, between redevelopment of schools. That’s the wrong choice. In fact, our schools have been decimated in funding. The Cal State system had over 30 percent cuts; a billion dollars last year. What we haven’t done in the state is what Long Beach has done, which is to shrink the work force. You can’t keep adding more public employees.

Art: Gary, you mentioned in your campaign literature and just now that you have been helping shrink the work force; but that means cutting cops, reducing fire engines, and that kind of thing. Is that the kind of shrinkage that we really want?

Gary: We need to have everything on the table. You can’t have sacred cows. In order for the City of Long Beach to balance its budget, don’t deficit spend, don’t create debt for future generations, we need to make some very difficult decisions. When public safety is two-thirds of the budget, you can’t say, I won’t cut there. Because if you’re not willing to make any efficiencies, then you’re going to not have any parks, not have any libraries. You’ll be the safest city that nobody wants to live in. But you do need to do it intelligently. You need to have good department heads that say “How do you provide a commensurate level of service with limited resources?”

Art: Alan in one of Gary’s campaign pieces, he makes the following point: That you, a liberal democrat, are part of the problem and cites the fact that California’s debt has tripled in the past ten years, has the highest sales tax in the nation, second highest gas tax, third highest income tax. Its credit rating is the worst in the nation, third highest unemployment rate in the nation and over 254 companies have left the state since 2011. Are your policies and the policies of your party business unfriendly?

Alan: I think that the greatest problem that the legislature has faced is the fact that the republicans in the legislature have not provided any additional resources to maintain the stability as the nation and as the world has gone through a great economic recession and depression. California has balanced its budget. California still remains the seventh or eighth largest economy in the world. California still has the highest technology in the world. California is the home of the greatest amount of goods movement in the nation. Yes, we do have certain problems. We’re still not out of it; but we can get there by having cooperation and having both sides sitting down and working together. One side refuses to work.

Gary: Well, first off, let me just say I do agree with Alan, that both sides need to work together. It’s not the other party’s fault. But I will tell you that I also think that the State of California’s headed in the wrong direction. You listed some statistics. There are many more. Our state legislature is not making the right decisions for the State of California. We’re not pulling out of it. You talk to people that are unemployed or underemployed -- we’re not pulling out of it. We need to do more. We need to go back to what Governor Deukmejian did where he provided a positive private sector business climate and then the private sector created jobs for our citizens. We need to do that again.

Art: I’m a member of a group called No Labels, and they offer a bumper sticker that will hopefully embody their message. And it says “Stop fighting, start fixing.”

Alan: Yes. That has been my reputation throughout my 14 years in the legislature. I am known as the person that works across the aisle. I have been very successful in a legislature that’s had a difficult time coming together. We can have a sustainable system, and they can both work together. And after fighting me for many years, they all joined with me. The same thing when I first introduced independent redistricting: Both parties didn’t want it. I said we’ve got to fix the legislature. The way in which this works is when we come together and we figure out a system that we are responsible to the people that elect us. I kept fighting for it for years. Yes, I have stopped fighting. I have worked to fix it. That is my reputation.

Art: Gary, I’ve asked you this will before, but your – view yourself and are a moderate republican. Won’t it be lonely in the middle?

Gary: I think it may be lonely at first; but I’m hoping to grow the middle. I’ve got to tell you -- and I will give Alan a chance for rebuttal – he’s not bipartisan – he’s part of his party’s leadership. And the republicans are just as bad. So it’s not another party thing. Both are adhering to their party. Now we need to move our country forward. We need to work together. I do agree. I am a strong supporter of No Labels. I’m also a strong supporter of their “no budget, no pay” at the federal legislature. You can’t pass a budget, you shouldn’t get paid. I think that’s a great idea.

Art: How do we get to work together? Won’t you be a voice in the wilderness?

Gary: I don’t think so. I had the same question asked of me in 2005 when I ran for Long Beach City Council. And I had my best compliment about a year and a half ago, and it wasn’t meant as a compliment. But one of my colleagues at the end of a particularly frustrating evening says,” I don’t understand it. You’re the only republican that’s a democrat. There’s a democrat in the area, you always get what you want.”

I want to be clear: I never get all I want. And we don’t -- none of us, not in our personal lives, not in our professional lives. What she was alluding to, and she didn’t know it, yeah, I’m willing to compromise with the person on my left, the one on my right. How I do work with the mayor? What are his priorities? That’s the same kind of mentality you have to take to Washington. Work with whoever you need to work with, because at the end of the day, the only way you serve your constituents well is to move our country forward.