close
close

OWL officials helped Long Beach through the turbulent 1990s – Press Telegram

Members of the Owls — a group of former city leaders from the 1990s — pose for a photo during a May luncheon meeting at Hoff’s Hut on Bellflower Boulevard. Seated, from left: Evan Braude, Jim Hankla, Delano Roosevelt and John Calhoun. Standing, from right: Press-Telegram columnist (and non-Owl) Rich Archbold, Doug Drummond, Jerry Shultz, Jeff Kellogg, Mike Donelon and Jeff Adler. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Kellogg)

Long Beach was not a happy place for much of the 1990s.

The naval base and hospital closed. Boeing was cutting back. The oil industry declined.

The airport lost airlines. A recession slowed down development. Disney withdrew from a possible theme park with the city.

And the decade began with the Rodney King riots of 1992, which spilled over into Long Beach and caused fires and other destruction.

But there were some bright spots: the Convention & Entertainment Center was embarking on a major expansion. The Aquarium of the Pacific opened and gave a positive jolt to the waterfront and downtown. An airport noise ordinance was passed. And the “Three Ts” – trade, tourism and technology – were born with the election of Beverly O’Neill as mayor.

“This was one of the most transformative decades in the city’s history,” said Jeff Kellogg, who served as a council member from 1988 to 2000. “Nothing was easy. Everything was changing. It was a turbulent time.”

One veteran political observer said Long Beach “fell apart at the seams in the 1990s.”

But the city eventually recovered — and a group of Long Beach leaders played a major role in that recovery.

Kellogg is one of them, having become the de facto organizer of the unofficial Owls Club, a group of city leaders during the turbulent 1990s. Owls stands for ‘Older, Wiser, Leaner and Seniors’. Kellogg is the only Owl to have served with each of the other members, who served at different times in the 1990s. After leaving the board, Kellogg served on the Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2018.

The name Owl came about years ago, when people asked about a former council member. “Who are you talking about?” was a common response, leading to the nickname Owl and the creation of a club so that its members would not be forgotten.

Members gathered last month at Hof’s Hut on Bellflower Boulevard to reminisce about their days serving the city and what they were most proud of during their time in office. Joining Kellogg were former city council members Doug Drummond, Jerry Shultz, Delano Roosevelt, Mike Donelon and Evan Braude. Unable to attend were O’Neill, former U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, Les Robbins, current Port Commissioner Frank Colonna, Jan Hall and Jackie Kell.

Deceased members included Tom Clark, Ernie Kell, Doris Topsy-Elvord, Ray Grabinski, Clarence Smith, Jenny Oropeza, Wally Edgerton and Warren Harwood.

Also present at the meeting were three individuals who played important roles in the city during the 1990s: former City Manager Jim Hankla, former City Attorney John Calhoun and political consultant Jeff Adler, who represented many of the government officials during that period.

“How time has softened our image,” Kellogg said. “In that decade, councils were notorious for their well-deserved reputation for long and heated debates. We had so many problems and no money, so it was always difficult, but we had a common goal: to make Long Beach better.

Donelon said he is proud of his former colleagues.

“They all left their mark on the city of Long Beach,” he said.

In a lighter moment, Hankla joked about the difference between being on the city council and being a city manager.

“Do you know the difference between these council members and me?” he said, laughing. “I had to apply every day.”

Hankla, who has struggled with post-polio health problems since childhood, was city manager from 1987 to 1998. When he left the city manager position, he took over as CEO of the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority, a multibillion-dollar project that improved rail connections. between the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and the transcontinental railroad junction 20 miles to the east.

Hankla is also credited with devising the Three-T strategy that guided the city in the 1990s and included the construction of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

All members of the Owls have fond memories of their time on the council and spoke about their achievements during their meeting.

Donelon said loving kids and finding places for them to skateboard was his passion. He led a skateboard revolution that started with a skateboard park in El Dorado Park and continued as others spread throughout the city.

He also thanked Adler for bringing a “Mike Donelon for City Council” campaign pin.

“It’s headed to the Smithsonian,” Donelon joked.

Drummond, a former Long Beach police officer, took pride in improving community relations with the LBPD, opening the aquarium, repairing potholes and making other street improvements.

Shultz, a retired LA County Sheriff’s Department deputy, said his proudest achievement was creating the monument in Houghton Park, in North Long Beach, honoring men and women who died during the Vietnam War. He is also proud of starting the Veterans Day Parade in 1996 and a neighborhood watch program in North Long Beach, Shultz said.

Improving police-community relations was one of the best things the council did, Roosevelt said. In a previous interview, he also mentioned efforts to bring Jet Blue to the Long Beach airport, including making necessary improvements to the aging airport.

Braude said he was proud of the work he did to improve relations with and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community, which had struggled for years in Long Beach.

All Owls, meanwhile, agreed that the council in the 1990s was generally balanced in providing different perspectives and positions on issues, which meant that despite disagreements, they had to work together to solve problems.

Perhaps Drummond summed it up best:

“We left the city better than we found it.”