Saving the biggest news for last, Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe revealed March 7 that he has decided to seek another term as Marina del Rey’s county representative.
Near the end of his “State of the Marina” speech before an audience of business owners and county employees at the Marina del Rey Hotel, the supervisor casually mentioned his plans to run for reelection later this spring.
“I wanted to let you know that I am running for reelection in 2012,” Knabe, who represents Marina del Rey, told the audience. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve you and I thank you for all the support you have given me.”
In an interview with The Argonaut a week before his speech, Knabe noted that there had been a jump in the county’s sales and property tax and repeated it again before the business groups. “We don’t want to spend those dollars because we don’t know what could happen (with the national economy),” he cautioned.
Two days after Knabe’s address, economic reports revealed that the nation’s economy is showing signs of making a turnaround. While the country’s unemployment rate remains at 8.3 percent, unemployment numbers countywide have dipped, falling from 12.8 to 11.9 percent.
Statewide, the rate fell under 11 percent, the lowest numbers in both the state and county since 2009, according to the state Employment Development Department.
Knabe pointed out that there have been 24 consecutive months of private sector job growth. “That is a good sign for all of you,” he told the audience. “The most important part of that is 60 percent of those jobs are from small businesses.”
The March 9 unemployment numbers indicated that 227,000 jobs were created nationwide last month among the private sector.
Knabe also touched on the county redistricting situation that occurred last summer. After the county redistricting commission added another community at the eastern end of his district, Knabe lost Westchester because a large part of redistricting relates to balancing population numbers and Westchester was nearly identical to the number of residents that he gained.
The supervisor appeared not to have fond memories of the redistricting process, which takes place after each census and was fraught with reclamations of disenfranchisement and political gamesmanship among various interest groups.
“It was probably the most challenging, divisive, political, racial things that I’ve ever gone through in my entire political career,” the supervisor told the audience.
“There was nothing about it that was fun, there was nothing about it that was necessarily right,” Knabe continued. “But at the end of the day, we were successful.”
The supervisor said the county has not had some of the budget problems associated with city and state governments due to collaborations with its union partners and management.
Marina Lessees Association President David Levine welcomes the news that the economy is improving.
“The supervisor has been a strong supporter of the business community in Marina del Rey and he and his staff have worked with the Convention Bureau of Visitors to improve amenities and visitor serving opportunities in the Marina in order to draw more tourists and visitors,” Levine said.
Knabe addressed a topic that quickly spun out of control last month when blog posts and a few news outlets mischaracterized the intent of an ordinance that would remove limitations on playing ball on county beaches. It was erroneously reported that under the amended ordinance, beachgoers would no longer be able to throw footballs and Frisbees on the beach.
“We actually were making it easier to do all these kinds of things than to make it more difficult,” Knabe explained.
“Everybody had a lot of fun with it, and social media like Facebook and Twitter went crazy.”
The audience applauded when Knabe announced there will be a Fourth of July fireworks celebration in the Marina this year. The fireworks were canceled last year due to budget concerns, and the supervisor said he regretted backing that decision.
Knabe also discussed a project that he has been championing for months, a dredging of the Marina harbor that will take 760,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the Marina del Rey harbor entrance and transport it to the Port of Long Beach.
In addition, approximately 140,000 cubic yards of clean sediment will be deposited at two state beaches, including Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey. The supervisor said this project would not only be beneficial for boating activities but also for emergency first-responders as well.
Andrew Bessette, of the Marina Boat Owners Association, said the idea that the county will be involved in a dredging project is nothing special. “Dredging is part of the normal maintenance of the harbor,” said Bessette, who anchors his boat in Marina del Rey.
Bessette said silt accumulates at both ends of the harbor due to how the Marina was built. “This is an ongoing maintenance issue due to a design flaw in the harbor,” he said.
In an interview with The Argonaut after his address, the supervisor talked about the Local Coastal Program (LCP) amendment for Marina del Rey, which was approved by the California Coastal Commission last year.
“Clearly the most tangible benefits of that are integrated planning for the Marina and the ability to really put these resources together in an integrated way,” he said.
Knabe said this amendment also addresses and rebuts what an advocacy group in Marina del Rey called We ARE Marina del Rey has been calling for, which is a master plan for all development in the coastal enclave. The organization has been critical of Knabe and other county officials, who it accuses of working for the sole benefit of developers and the wealthy.
“This gives us the ability to have a master plan versus independent planning with each leasehold doing their own thing,” Knabe explained.
The supervisor noted there are recommendations that the group wanted in the plan that were included but others were not, and they have chosen to focus on the latter.
“Just because you don’t agree with everything, it doesn’t mean that you don’t listen,” he said. “That’s part of the public process and the fact that we had an 11-1 vote says we worked very hard to put a good plan together.”
The supervisor also touched on his view of why the Marina was created and what its purpose is, which often conflicts with We ARE Marina del Rey and a group of vocal boating critics.
“It’s a public marina and a regional asset and not just for the neighbors,” he said. “There are those that think that this is their backyard, but we can’t confine it to that. We have to look at it as a regional asset and that means protecting the quality of life for those who live here and for those who visit.”
Levine concurred with Knabe and feels that it is important for county officials to make that part of their focus in future planning for the Marina.
“(The creation of Marina del Rey) was to enable the broadly defined public the opportunity to enjoy the coast,” the association president asserted.
“It is critical that in public policy and in land use policy going forward that the consideration should not be just for those who currently lease a boat slip here in the Marina but also for the tens of thousands of visitors who come from around the city, from around the state as well as from around the world.”
Knabe would like to see a boardwalk and electric cars someday in Marina del Rey that would work well in a pedestrian-oriented community.
“These are difficult things to do because you’re dealing with a lot of different personalities,” he acknowledged. “The opportunity that we’ve missed over the years is having that master plan here in the Marina.”
The opportunity to meet different people, learn about different cultures and seeing the impact of how some of his work initiatives have improved the lives of his constituents are the things that Knabe enjoys the most about his work, and that is why he will be seeking his fourth and final term on the board in June.
“The good Lord willing, you’ll have me around for four more years,” he concluded.