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Disney’s Role in the Queen Mary

Long Beach’s bumbling and indecisive officials have done it again. After months of fence-straddling to avoid taking a stand on the planned DisneySea, Mayor Ernie Kell, the City Council and port officials have managed to cause the world’s foremost theme park operator and entertainment company to shake its head in disbelief and take billions of dollars in development money elsewhere.

Mayor Kell: Instead of publicly announcing total infeasibility of developing the Long Beach waterfront and the imminent demise of the Queen Mary, how about voicing positive encouragement to any corporations who may want to operate the property? Warren Harwood seems to be the only City Council person to see the city’s future beyond their own term in office.

As a resident for the last 20 years, I have watched downtown Long Beach grow, drawn by the attraction of the Queen Mary and the visitors the ship has brought to the city. Now Disney’s multibillion-dollar development has been chased out of town, preceded by major retail businesses and auto dealerships, and soon to be followed by the Navy base and McDonnell Douglas. Now I read in these same pages about how the city’s grave financial crisis is causing basic services to be cut, and how responsibility for providing the city’s operating revenue is being shifted firmly onto the citizens’ shoulders through higher taxes and user fees.

I have visited the Queen Mary’s tours, hotel and restaurant since 1971, and have experienced the operations of all three different management companies. Without a doubt, the Walt Disney Company had the financial and artistic resources to make the Queen Mary and Pier J area a huge success. The tens of millions of dollars which Disney has spent over the last four years have transformed the Queen Mary into an appealing and enjoyable facility for millions of tourists, conventioneers and others who visit the property.

Long Beach has benefited from every dollar spent by the Queen Mary’s visitors. Contrary to popular belief, the city used Tideland Oil Funds for the conversion costs and losses in the 1970s--at no expense to us taxpayers. With their time and money, Disney has supported hundreds of charitable, social and educational organizations in the city and surrounding area.

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You can get rid of “an old rust bucket,” as Harbor Commissioner Joel Friedland calls the Queen Mary, but you can also say goodby to 1,110 jobs, millions of dollars of desperately needed city revenue and an instant positive identification for Long Beach around the world. The new symbol to draw tourists to Long Beach? Would you take time out of your busy vacation to visit a whale mural painted on a building? Would you visit beaches with no waves and difficult access, piled with trash and debris washed from the storm drains of metropolitan Los Angeles? Welcome to Long Beach of the 1990s!

ANDREW THOMPSON

Huntington Beach


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