From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 4
By Jay Beeler
James Johnson, the councilman for the 7th District, made an interesting presentation to the Rotary Club of Long Beach aboard the Queen Mary on Feb. 6. Johnson was talking about pension reform – how we got into our fiscal mess and what we need to do to get out of it.
Reporter Jeremy Matusow listened to the recorded presentation and his story appears on page one. What does not appear in the story are the names of those in charge of the city’s cookie jar when it was being raided. Perhaps a better word would be “stolen.”
In 1999 our mayor was Beverly O’Neill and our elected city auditor was Gary Burroughs. Top paid staff included Henry Taboada as city manager and Bob Torres as director of financial management. If they held any position of leadership today my question would be “What were you thinking when you gave away $202 million as a gift to every city employees’ retirement fund?”
When was the last time your employer gave you a hefty raise without you asking for it or even deserving it? Their actions make the City of Bell scandal look like chicken feed.
I do recall incidents around that time (1999 to 2002) of Taboada moving from a large 5th District home to Naples Island, inappropriately aided by his boss, 3rd District Councilman/realtor Frank Colonna. Colonna, you may recall, spent a lot of public monies for a piece of bulletproof glass to be installed in his private Belmont Shore office. He threatened me in a phone call because I printed the story.
Also at that time the very corrupt city prosecutor, Thomas Reeves, was stealing over $1 million from the Civic Center Fund to refurbish his new City Hall offices, having been previously ensconced in the public service building that houses the police department. Taboada was involved in that misappropriation as well.
Reeves went on to spend tons of taxpayer money for mailers to promote himself for re-election and a bid at becoming Long Beach City Attorney. His ultimate goal was to become LA County District Attorney. He failed miserably – thanks to our reporting of his and assistant Timothy O’Reilly’s malfeasance.
If you don’t think that newspapers like ours play an important role in exposing corruption and misuse of public funds, you weren’t paying attention to the preceding paragraphs. Little did we know back in July 2000 when we took over this newspaper that the thieves were already busy at looting the city’s piggy bank.
Thankfully we have a few council members today who understand the problem, how we got into this mess and what we need to get out of it. Unfortunately they are not all as gifted with the financial smarts as Johnson and 3rd District Councilman Gary DeLong.
I was in my local Staples store last week and witnessed a shoplifter bolting out the front door with an armload of toner cartridges and three store employees giving chase. They caught up with the guy after he discarded the cartridges and jumped into his car to speed away. His license number was recorded, the cops were called and now it is another legal task for City Prosecutor Doug Haubert.
Meanwhile I’m thinking that Hewlett Packard should charge a more reasonable price for its cartridges instead of making them good as gold. After all, it takes much less than $20 to manufacture toner cartridges that sell for about $120. I know this to be true because you can go online and buy four Brand X cartridges for $100. But, hey, they do sell those printing devices at or below cost figuring they can screw consumers by marking up the cartridges 500 percent again and again.
Given that the HP president and CEO is Meg Whitman, a former candidate for California governor; just imagine how much money she could have put into the state’s coffers if elected.
We are already counting the votes in our 11th Annual Best of Long Beach contest in the services-related categories. The only snag so far has been a few people voting only for a local home care agency – and that’s it. Ballots containing less than 15 votes are not counted and voided from receiving the $10,000 in prizes.
A few have also written in votes for businesses that provide products. Those votes are ignored as well. A separate ballot for product-related retail stores, restaurants and entertainment venues will be published in July. By having two separate ballots we are able to increase the number of business categories and, hence, more winners.