My MEET THE CANDIDATE series continues! Up next we have Scott Mandel, who’s seeking re-election for City Council on the Democratic line. Scott has served Long Beach for six years and this upcoming election will mark the third time he’s running. Enjoy!
Tell us about yourself.
I have been living in Long Beach for 14 years in the Presidents’ streets area and my wife Karen and I are the proud parents of our daughter, Ashley, who attends the Long Beach Public Schools. For 14 years I worked as a trial attorney handling various areas of litigation, and now serve as a Principal Law Clerk in the NYS Supreme Court. I enjoy serving as a member of the Long Beach Lions Club and the Long Beach Historical Society and am a retired member of the Long Beach Auxiliary Police Department.
Why are you seeking re-election for city council?
Since taking office in 2012, I am proud of the progress our City has made both physically from the damages of Superstorm Sandy, and financially from the damages of Superstorm Sandy and the fiscal mismanagement of the prior republican administration which brought our City to the brink of bankruptcy.
While we have made substantial progress in improving our City’s financial outlook, restoring our bond ratings, and rebuilding our decaying and neglected infrastructure, I believe that there is still much more work to be done. I’d like to continue to help Long Beach not only rebound, but to ensure that our City never has to face financial devastation – like in 2011 when the prior republican administration had to call an emergency meeting to vote to bond so that the City could meet its payroll obligations. In addition, while we have undertaken and completed numerous projects that have strengthened and enriched our City, like the renovation of each City park, multiple street resurfacings, the removal and replanting of the trees throughout the entire City, and our success in bringing the ARMY Corp beach project back to Long Beach, there are still major issues, such as flooding on our bayside, and parking that must be resolved.
All candidates like to present glowing visions of the communities they are running in to have some impact, what is your realistic vision for what you would like to see Long Beach become over the next 5 to 10 years?
I am encouraged by the substantial changes this administration has made to help establish Long Beach as a family friendly community which promotes the arts and welcomes businesses. Over the next 5 to 10 years, I would like to see Long Beach remain on that path, while continuing to incorporate and support environmentally friendly additions such as the use of solar power, electric vehicles, and other modern and sustainable choices. However, even though our City has already become a leader in environmental protections and responsibility, such as being one of the first communities to establish single stream recycling, banning invasive bamboo, and prohibiting smoking on the beach, in the next 5 to 10 years I would like to see our City grow into a larger cultural and artistic presence with the addition of a dedicated Arts and Community Center so that our many music and art festivals have a permanent home.
Related to the last question, what would you say are the most important challenges that our city must address that you feel might be presently being ignored?
While my answers to the prior question center on my vision of Long Beach in the next 5 to 10 years, currently the issues of flooding on our bayside and parking are two important challenges that I believe, while not being ignored, need stronger focus.
In that this administration was successful in having the ARMY Corp of Engineers return to Long Beach to carry out the beach protection project that was rejected by the prior administration, I am eager to continue the flood mitigation efforts on our bayside with, among other things, the assistance of the ARMY Corp. In addition, while parking has been an issue in our City for decades, I would like to continue to explore the use of shuttle services with parking locations outside of the City during our summer months and the potential of strategically located multi-leveled parking structures to ease parking congestion year-round.
In the case that we need a new City Manager. What are the specific criteria that you will apply in the search for our next City Manager? What academic, experiential, residence, and political factors would you consider vital for the best candidate?
One of the first actions taken when I was elected to the City Council was to change the City Charter to require that our City Manager be a resident of Long Beach. If re-elected, this is a requirement that I would want to maintain as a mandatory employment condition. While I don’t believe there is one specific list of skills that fully encompass the scope required for the position, academically or by experience, I would be interested in those candidates with a minimum of a four-year college degree, preferably with a graduate degree in Public Administration, and/or prior municipal management experience and would focus on each individual candidate’s abilities and proven track record of success.
Our zoning laws were legislated with specific intentions with respect to overcrowding, maintaining neighborhood character, and ensuring quality of life. Yet, we have seen increasing petitions for variances, iStars being just one, that seem to negate the very purpose of the laws and are driven by big money investors with deep pockets and therefore outsized influence. What is your position on the Superblock and Yeshiva development and your specific position on when variances should be granted?
In general, our Zoning Code is antiquated and not adequate for Long Beach today. The Zoning Code’s purpose is to provide clear regulations for both residential and commercial structures. Variances and applications to the Zoning Board of Appeals (the “ZBA”) are supposed to be for the limited purpose of those unique situations where the applicant’s need is outside of the code’s regulations. Since the time our code was first drafted, our City’s needs have drastically changed. This has resulted in an increase in the number of applications for variances and the overuse of the ZBA.
With the passing of the Comprehensive Plan, we will be able to substantially revise our outdated zoning code, rather than addressing code changes on a piecemeal basis. This would also drastically reduce the use of the ZBA. Like the numerous community meetings and public information sessions this administration held when drafting of the Comprehensive Plan and designing the new boardwalk, any revision of the zoning code would require extensive community input and feedback to ensure that any and all individual community needs and concerns are being identified and addressed. Just as was done when the community came together to help design our new boardwalk, these public and open community collaborations would help to ensure that the residents, and not developers and outside financial interests, would shape the new zoning code.
In specific residential locations, such as the HALB location, I do not believe that any variance should be given that would substantially increase the height or the current structure’s footprint. In the case of the vacant Superblock property, I am unfortunately limited as to what can be discussed due to the litigation brought by the prior republican administration. While the current administration was able to enter into a settlement to stop the litigation, which had already cost the City over $500,000 just on outside counsel fees, the issue of variances for that project is a determination solely before the ZBA.
If elected, would you serve your full term?
If re-elected, I intend to serve my full term, as I have done during both my first and second terms in office.