Tom Beck is again running for Arcadia city council, this time attempting to retain the seat that he won in 2014. Recently, Mr. Beck requested to cancel the annual candidacy forum, for reasons unspecified. The Forum gives a chance for Arcadian citizens to hear each candidate’s stance on a variety of issues facing the city. Concerned citizens who spoke at the council meeting on March 6th were furious at the cancellation of the Forum, as well as the aggressive rhetoric that has been used by some of Beck’s supporters during the campaign. Some have speculated that Beck feels the Forum works best for the “at large” election format, which Beck supports. Others suspect that Beck did not like the questions screened by the Arcadia Realtor Association, namely those regarding property rights. They believe that the cancellation is a threat to transparency in Arcadia’s government – that Beck was unwilling to give straightforward answers to the questions being asked of him. With the Forum no longer taking place this year, we will instead be taking this time to present some of the policies that Mr. Beck has supported, as well as the inconsistencies in his platforms.
Mr. Beck has spent much of his time on the city council dealing with matters concerning property rights. Perhaps the best example of this has been the planned “Historic Preservation Ordinance.” Mr. Beck voted to initiate the Historic Preservation Ordinance in 2014. He voted against the motion to suspend the study in 2015, and then voted to resume it in 2016. To date the city has paid $12,800 for the study and the draft ordinance. This HPO has not yet been passed, but has been under discussion by the council since last October.
The information that we know so far about the HPO has raised some serious concerns regarding property rights. If it is passed, any residence older than 45 years old in many areas of the city could be classified as a “historic resource.” According to the current draft, “Any person or group, including the city, may request the designation of a historic resource as an historic landmark or districts by submitting an application to the city” (xx.xx.080-A-1). The draft ordinance also stipulates that the “City Council supersedes [an] owner’s objection to designation” (xx.xx.080-H). Once the application and approval processes are finalized, this ordinance would severely limit the homeowner’s ability to repair, remodel, add onto, or modify the property, let alone build a new one. Candidates Bob Harbicht and Roger Chandler have both opposed the measure and so did the 75% of the audience who attended the community meetings on Nov 2nd and Nov 13th .
Another attack by Mr. Beck on property rights has been the reclassification of trees. Previously, only oak trees were listed as protected in Arcadia following California State law. Now, all mature trees, whether on public property or in your own backyard, cannot be removed without approval from city of Arcadia. This comes complete with the associated fees and red tape, thanks to Mr. Beck, and is just one example of government overreach and infringement of our private property rights. This local ordinance is Mr. Beck’s own invention for Arcadia only.
On the matter of crime reduction, though Mr. Beck has paid lip service to it, his actual actions have possibly been harmful to this goal. Beck has thus far advocated for a tighter budget for the police department, which is already facing headcount shortages and retention challenges. Mr. Beck has impeded these retention efforts. His solution so far on fighting the increasing levels of crime has been to let Arcadia’s currently understaffed police team work huge overtime hours on a budget of only $35,000 a month. This has left our police officers overworked and fatigued. This has been done while crime rates soar in the city. The excessive overtime budget also runs contrary to Beck’s stated goal of fiscal responsibility. Tom Beck has expressed preference to spend the city’s limited resources on issues like the trees in people’s backyards or homeless people in Pasadena, rather than on hiring more police staff to protect the safety of Arcadia’s own citizens, or to assist Arcadian home owners.
Finally, despite the fact that Mr. Beck touts himself as being one of Arcadia’s most fiscally prudent candidates, ever since he was elected as city council member in 2014, the city’s legal budget has soared. The money that Arcadia has spent on legal matters has doubled during Beck’s time as councilman and mayor. Beck, a litigation and trial attorney, has been on record during a council meeting stating, “I spent my whole life in court… I am not afraid of lawsuits.” One of the “personal accomplishments” listed on his campaign website is the creation of the “Legal Affairs Sub-Committee,” with the purpose of “monitor legal costs, initiate cost saving strategies.” Yet despite this, Beck has not hesitated at dragging Arcadia into hopeless lawsuits. One rather prominent example is the fact that he openly advocates for challenging the California state government over the issue of district voting, a lawsuit which no city to date has been able to win. Fiscally responsible, what a joke.
Mr. Beck’s policies have often been contradictory to his stated plans. He opposes crime and yet lowers police funding. He says he is fiscally responsible yet plans to drag Arcadia into a fruitless case against the California state government. He claims to be against McMansion development, yet he lives in a mansion that’s over 7600 sqf and is endorsed by probably the largest developer in town and the most well-known big mansion designer. His attacks on property rights should make any Arcadian wary. A councilman should be consistent in his words and actions. Tom Beck has not shown that to us in the past four years, and there is no reason to believe that he is capable of doing so if elected again.
By Harry Huang, Editor Brett Meyer