Whether its "supposed" toxic contamination spreading into the Westholme and the East End sections of the City, campaign promises, fireworks, the deficit, the city's financial condition, hiring friends and family or employees using city vehicles it appears that City Council President Len Torres has a difficult time telling the truth.
Since he was elected to the Long Beach CIty Council in 2010, Len Torres has made multiple comments that he was unable to substantiate. However, since becoming President, after Fran Adelson suddenly quit from the pressure of the job only a few months into her term, Len Torres' untrue and/or unfounded statements have become more frequent and more dangerous for the good of our city.
Here is one of the most serious examples. Last week the Long Beach Patch printed an article
regarding the possible development of the bay front property at the site of the former incinerator in the North Park Community. In the article, Council President Torres said that "he learned that the contamination from the former incinerator has spread as far east as Monroe Boulevard and as far west as Laurelton Boulevard." He added, “It’s a pretty serious situation,”
specifically referring to an alleged contamination plume that was spreading into the East End as well as the Westholme area of Long Beach.
Immediately and justifiably some residents of the Westholme neighborhood became alarmed that their family and their homes were sitting on top of some sort of a toxic, poisonous plume. However, there is no basis whatsoever for Torres' comments because no evidence has yet been found to suggest the incinerator site nor the area around it is contaminated. Torres' comments are simply not justified.
In the Patch article Torres stated, "In February 2009, the DEC released a study of Long Beach as a potential brownfield opportunity area."
A Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) is an abandoned industrial and/or commercial site that may be available for future development and eligible for federal and state funds to assist in the redevelopment. But Torres' comment that DEC had released a study is simply not true. The 2009 study to which Torres referred was not a DEC study at all and I don't know why Torres thinks it is. In fact, the study he mentioned was a study commissioned by the City to determine if the former incinerator site "may" be eligible for grants for redevelopment.
The 2009 report is a "pre-nomionation study, paid for by the city and conducted buy a Long Island company named "Gannet Fleming," not the Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
A Pre-Nomination Study a very
basic analysis of the area, it does not include any
testing for toxins or contaminants whatsoever. In fact, no sampling was done as part of this report. No water, air or soil samples were collected and no samples sent to any lab. The city's consultant, Gannet Fleming, looked only at the history of the location and suggested that there potentially could be some contamination based on historical use, but that actual soil samples must be taken and analyzed first. Any redevelopment of the bayfront or other area will need to be evaluated for any potential contamination. Ironically, any contamination that may be found actually increases the city's chances for obtaining potential grant money.
The facts are this: As of right now there is no confirmed or suggested contamination of the area, and there is no definitely evidence whatsoever that contaminants have spread, and continues to spread to Westholme and End End neighborhoods of the city as factually stated by President Torres on multiple occasions. Of Course, Torres may know something we all don't and if thats the case he needs to clear the mater up immediately and come clean with the residents of the city. Somehow however, I don't believe this is the case. This is classic Len Torres, saying what he wants and not realizing the consequence of his actions.
This begs the question: Why would President Torres make such a dangerous and irresponsible statement that, "contamination from the former incinerator has spread as far east as Monroe Boulevard and as far west as Laurelton Boulevard," and “It’s a pretty serious situation?" One of two answers exist. Either he is lying about a contamination plume from spreading or he simply doesn't know what he is talking about. Which is it? The Westholme, East End and North Park Community of Long Beach deserve answers. I doubt we will get any from Torres.
Here is the bottom line. Torres' even suggesting that Westholme and East End neighborhoods are contaminated with poisonous toxins is completely irresponsible and dangerous. These type of comments made by a public official can have an immediate and lasting impact on our community, neighborhoods, and our families. What if someone in one of these areas has a house for sale, or wants to purchase a house and they heard this ridiculous false comment? What if health insurance companies heard the statement? would they cover health bills? What if an expectant mother heard this false fact? Think of the panic and worry that could ensure.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time Torres has made untrue or exaggerated statements. At the September 4, 2012 City Council Meeting
Torres made another unbelievable statement about two very successful and iconic Long Beach businesses: Centre Millwork Lumber on Long Beach Blvd and Whitbread's Lumber Yard on Magnolia Blvd. Torres stated that both of these reputable businesses have been or may have been using toxic chemicals that are contaminating the area. Councilmember John McLaughlin immediately challenged Torres to produce any documentation to support his claims but after repeated attempts to pin Torres down, Torres provided no proof. (Click here to listen to the meeting. Go to the 1 hour mark to hear McLaughlin challenge Torres's ludicrous statement
Again, why would Torres make such damaging and disparaging comments about successful and reputable local businesses such as Centre Millwork and Whitbread's? These businesses have been around for over 30 years and they have honorably served all of us. They deserve better treatment than that, especially from the City Council President. Doesn't Torres understand that as President of the City Council he has a responsibility to make comments that are absolutely true and that a person in his position should be able to back up what he says when he says it, especially when dealing with our homes, our property and our local businesses?
If all of the above isn't bad enough Torres also has a public record of not keeping his word. While these incidents are not as dramatic as the issue above they demonstrate a pattern of deception by Torres and his administration.
Just a few weeks ago at a city council meetings and again specifically in the City's August newsletter
Council President Len Torres proudly stated that "this year's fireworks were paid for by private sponsor donations at absolutely no cost to the taxpayers
". Torres' statement is simply not true at all because recently obtained documents reveal that the cost of the fireworks was $42,126.08 and the amount collected from sponsors was only $14,500.00
. That leaves $27,626.08 left to be paid for by taxpayers. He treis to say that the remaining costs were paid for by the arts and crafts festival vendors but that isn't true either. First, those fees have been collected every year since the festivals began and those funds go into the city's general fund, not to specifically pay for the fireworks. Again, why does President Torres feel the need to lie to us? Why can't he be honest about the fireworks, the deficit, and his broken promises?
Speaking of broken promises, Torres, Adelson, and Mandel made a specific specific campaign promise
not to hire any
family and friends to city hall jobs! Yet between the day Torres took office his administration has hired, given raises, or awarded contracts and/or taxpayer funded awards to over 22 politically connected family, friends, people and/or firms. These jobs, raises, awards, and contracts have cost taxpayers over $1.2 million
. These hirings were made during a self proclaimed "fiscal crisis" and a self imposed hiring freeze
. In fact, in early September Torres' administration hired the LB Democrat Party Bosses son to a $45,000/a year job!
In addition, one of Torres's closest friends, Mike Cruz, was hired to newly created, part time $30,000 a year position! And just last week the city hired another friend of Torres, Gloria Alaya to a part time $20/hour position in the tax assessor's office. Keep in mind all of these hirings were done during a so-called fiscal crisis, a self imposed hiring freeze, after they raised property taxes on city residents twice in 3 months, after they borrowed $22 million in 9 months, and laid off 5 firefighters and over 20 CSEA workers? How can the city be so fiscally damaged that Torres has to raise our taxes twice in 3 months and then fill city hall with his friends and family?
Here's another example of Torres not being honest. In January, just after taking office Torres publicly stated that that city employees would not have the "luxury" of taking home city owned vehicles at the taxpayer's expense. Yet, the Torres administration hired their political crony Mike Robinson (who knowingly falsified his resume, his academic credentials, and his employment application in 2008 and was forced to resign as a result) and today he drives his City SUV to and from home and proudly parks it on his block each day
(click link to see picture of car parked at Robinson's house where it is at the end of everyday and on weekends). For the record, Robinson is the Director of Community Development. He is one of two employees in an entire department where there was once only one employee, the other is MIke Cruz, Torres's other crony, mentioned above. The Director of Community Development has NEVER had access to a city vehicle, until Torres' administration took over city hall. So much for that promise.
Len Torres has a record of misrepresenting the truth, exaggerating, breaking promises and being a political opportunist. The issues he is misrepresenting or ones he doesn't understand are serious and he needs to stop talking and start getting to real work for the taxpayers of our city, and do it in a bipartisan manner.