Samples takes aim at traffic
by David Mendez
No Traffic. It’s little more than the size of a bug on his signs, but it’s a big part of Mel Samples’ District 5 City Council campaign.
“We’ve got to do something about traffic. I used to be able to leave my house for my office, and on a really bad day it took six or seven minutes [to El Segundo],” Samples said from a cafe overlooking Aviation Boulevard. He recently decided to give the same experiment a try, starting from his house near Aviation and Perry Avenue. “I saw cars wrapped around, snaked all the way back to Artesia. It took me 10 minutes to get from my house to Manhattan Beach Boulevard.”
What’s changed in the 29 years since he regularly commuted and today, he said, is a lot more cars, a lot more housing and a lot more working people.
“We’ve allowed that to happen because of what we’ve promoted in our development plan,” Samples said. “I believe we’ve promoted this diet of higher and higher density without thinking about the infrastructure that was put in 100 years ago. At some point, someone’s going to have to fix that.”
That, he recognizes, is in the hands of the Redondo Beach General Plan Advisory Committee. The GPAC is developing land-use change recommendations to the City Council, which will then sort through the recommendations and pose them for voter approval.
That process won’t be complete for more than a year. But Samples hopes to sit among the decision-making Council members when the time comes.
“I’ve been concerned about the bad decisions that have cost us so much money, and I don’t want to see that continue,” Samples said.
Chief among those “bad decisions” is the situation of estranged waterfront development partner CenterCal Properties, including a $9 million lease buyout for the Fun Factory and $15 million breach-of-contract lawsuit.
“That’s about 20 percent of our annual budget,” Samples said. Redondo’s FY 2018-’18 General Fund budget is $90.7 million. “If we were the City of LA, that wouldn’t be a big deal…but we’re worried about how we’re going to fix our streets,” Samples said.
Samples’ family moved to the South Bay when he 6 years old, and for the last 28 years, he has lived in Redondo’s District 5.
Samples have worked in public safety — emergency medical services, specifically — for decades. An LA Times article from 1978 details 10 chaotic hours from his paramedic days when he and a partner worked Southeast Los Angeles. That night, the pair delivered a live baby from the womb of a dead woman, followed up on a number of shootings, and were even attacked.
“The night was not routine,” Samples said at the time.
His EMS experiences, he said, have informed the rest of his career. Since 1990, he and his late wife Stella have operated management and consulting for public entities, including the Port of Long Beach and the City of Los Angeles.
“So I understand how to get things done in governments,” Samples said.
Stella, who died unexpectedly in September, was a huge influence on her husband of 40 years. “For what it’s worth, I always considered myself the sidekick,” Samples said.
Stella propped her husband up, encouraging Mel to run for elected office 15 years ago. Samples balked, opting instead to serve as a Budget and Finance Commissioner. But his name has been prominent in rumors as a challenger to incumbent Laura Emdee for years.
“I’ve got plenty of time to devote to this, and now I have the experience,” Samples said.