Above: Lees Ave. in East Long Beach. Photo by Brian Addison.
For anyone living in Long Beach, the beauty of it all is the fact that our neighborhoods are so diverse that it almost seems dissociative in nature: sometimes disorienting but when you step into each neighborhood, they’re distinctly their own.
And I had truly thought anyone living here sided with that on some level, that all Long Beachers loved the array of identities we have…
Well, until former 5th Councilmember Gerrie Schipske ruined that little belief of mine.
I’ve always enjoyed Schipske so you can imagine my simultaneous bemusement and amusement when I was emailed her essay entitled Maybe We Should Break Up: The Case for East Long Beach.
Yup, Schipske wrote an 80-page diatribe that asks Districts 3, 4, and 5—oh yeah, she decided to loop the Shore and Naples into this hot mess—to secede from the city. (Well, okay, 80-pages-in-quotes; with the massive margins, block quotes that take up entire pages, and pushin’ a 24-point font, it’s definitely a solid 10 single-spaced pages.)
Repeat: secede from the city.
In fact, even Long Beach writer Tim Grobaty sadly-but-truthfully joked: “We’ve lived most of our life on the East side of town and, while we wouldn’t say no to an offer of more money from City Hall, we’re aware enough to know there are other parts of our Long Beach that need it more than we do, and with that attitude, maybe we wouldn’t make such a good [councilmember] after all.”
Gerrie, you admit Eastsiders “rarely if ever” visit other areas of Long Beach, specifically DTLB. Just a suggestion: you may want to explore the city you’re wanting to break up with—because it’s beautiful, wonderful, rich in culture, and, despite wanting to be no part of us, will welcome you with open arms, judgements aside.
Now, before I jump into the wonderfully masked selfishness and classism of it all, I want to note why I’ve kinda always smirked at rather than besmirched Schipske—and this is not necessarily because I’ve enjoyed her policies. No, no, no: during a mayoral debate on livability issues I hosted, when asked how candidates would respond to constituents who don’t like bikes and alternative transportation, she responded: “People who don’t like bikes? I represent those people.”
This isn’t to mention how she fueled the hatefulness of and sided with NIMBYs about a mental health facility going into their consituents’ precious suburbia, fueling misconceptions that the mentally ill will be meandering their neighborhoods because they “don’t take their medicines.”
I enjoyed her because, well, she was so damned stubborn if not outright hilarious. She often took her opponents to task via social media and garnered a following so dedicated that it prompted the good ol’ Schipske to create a farewell mixtape (that I admittedly reviewed tongue-in-cheek). She even endorsed Damon Dunn for mayor—a man, mind you, that had barely lived in Long Beach and hailed from Orange County, often gave a speech how about he was once “feedin’ off the government cheese,” and then peaced out of his pricey loft above DTLB shortly after losing the race despite saying he would continue to invest in our city—rather than endorse current Mayor Robert Garcia. (I am unsure if she was even sore after having to bow out; perhaps she skipped straight to vindictive.)
Hence why I found her hilarious: she was the anti-politician politician, never playing nice nor succumbing to common, human niceties (even if it betrayed her best interests or made her look like a breathing human, let alone a breathing—gasp!— lesbian).
Schipske deserved applause on some levels, especially for her work in government transparency. And I gave it to her.
But maybe that’s the issue that so many poor folk and the less privileged talk about when someone like me—white, male, cisgender, educated, able to pay rent with my check—”applauds” someone that is inherently anti-poor and homogenous with tongue-in-cheek amusements.
We need to be calling these people out, not laughing at their “stubbornness.” And there should be a calling out when someone who lives in a place where the vast majority of its residents are white, the area that is home to the most homeowners over renters, and the area with the widest roads and narrowest minds.
I know you care about people, Gerrie. So what’s with the self-centered diatribe calling for a dramatic secession rooted in intolerance? Ah, you’re gonna run as a write-in—and this shows me that you’re not the anti-politician politician. You’re the common one, if not worse: still bitter you aren’t in the ring, you’re gonna come back swingin’—and not at the Powers That Be but at the people of Long Beach themselves. And not just anyone but the most downtrodden, the most marginalized, and the most unlike you.
So, Long Beach, I won’t mince words: Maybe We Should Break Up Make is nothing short of a sad, isolationalist plea from a woman in East Long Beach to no longer be associated with everything she doesn’t want in her neighborhood—that is, neighborhoods filled with people of color, economically and socially diverse families, working class people, consideration, compassion, and progress.
Schipske’s first fail is the clearest one: that East Long Beach, rich in park space and parking spaces, top education facilities, great shopping, easy freeway access, and a plethora of single family homes, somehow doesn’t “get” what it deserves by way of tax dollars and attention from City Hall.
The hilarity of this point is almost as good as when she endorsed a pseudo-football player from Orange County as mayor—and that is that East Long Beach doesn’t even want what’s being invested elsewhere.
She specifically notes DTLB.
Okay, Eastsiders, you want the city’s tallest building? A 17-story residential tower? Or a 25-story hotel? I am quite sure the City would oblige, however, you’re already freaking out over a sad, un-dense development that is filled with 40, two-story single family homes.
Repeat: two-story single family homes. Mind you, homes that 5th District residents claim are too dense (single family homes are “too dense”), too small (single family homes are “too small”), no prominent for architect (single family homes have “no prominent architect”)…
Let that sink in, Gerrie: we’re in a statewide housing crisis, one fueled by a lack of development and density, and you say your district doesn’t want that—yet you’re upset when our City invests in that because we’re in a housing and affordability crisis.
Then you slight every single person in City Hall saying that not a single person represents any resident, the Mayor and Council included. Not a single one, even the elected ones. Not a single one represents anyone in Long Beach. Well, except you when you served—nice slice of humble pie you’re having there.
You even had the audacity and tastelessness to include the City Auditor—a nonpartisan, elected position that oversees our city’s finances and currently filled by doused-in-awards-by-her-peers Laura Doud—as someone who “isn’t a public advocate” by saying Doud “doesn’t work” for East Siders and only represents the City.
Interesting, Gerrie… What about Doud’s discovery that there was an inordinate amount of overtime amongst emergency service providers, prompting change and leading to faster response times for, oh, I don’t know… Maybe a fire in the 5th or perhaps an elder person who fell? What about Doud’s fraud tipline, where over four-hundred tips were given to Doud, 36% of them from residents? What about the $17.6M in uncollected parking tickets and therefore uncollected monies for our entire city that she discovered?
I could go on and on about the nightmare this piece is but let’s just handle a few more things—specifically the giant single quote she uses to take up Page 28: “Long Beach remains without a comprehensive plan to deal with the problems it faces but continues to ask taxpayers to pay more and more in taxes.”
Y’know what’s funny about this quote? The problems we face—a lack of affordable housing and market-rate housing, rent increases, homelessness, dependency on individual cars, sprawl (which causes increased pollution, congestion, and traffic)—are problems that are exacerbated by much of your wishes: more parking, wider roads, larger homes with a smaller amount of occupants, more money handed to the already affluent…
Make no mistake, Long Beach: this pathetic idea is nothing short of a sad, isolationalist plea from a woman in East Long Beach to no longer be associated with everything she doesn’t want in her neighborhood—that is, neighborhoods filled with people of color, economically and socially diverse families, working class people, consideration, compassion, and progress.
More hilariously, you say that the 5th District is in dire need of street repairs—which will happen thanks to the success of Measure A’s passing—but then, literally in the following section, you bash on Measure A, saying it wasn’t approved by the voters of the 5th and therefore is disastrous for the rest of Long Beach (despite being voted in by voters with flying colors because, well, it seems like the rest of Long Beach is a little bit more willing to spend more to make sure our streets aren’t shitshows, Gerrie).
Even more, I know you’re smarter than this. I know you care about people. So what’s with the self-centered diatribe calling for a dramatic secession rooted in intolerance?
Ah, you’re gonna run as a write-in—and you want all the support you can get. Ironically, this shows me that you’re not the anti-politician politician. You’re the common one, if not worse: still bitter you aren’t in the ring, you’re gonna come back swingin’—and not at the Powers That Be but at the people of Long Beach themselves. And not just anyone but the most downtrodden, the most marginalized, and the most unlike you.
Oh, and one more thing, Gerrie… On page 40, you use a block quote to admit Eastsiders “rarely if ever” visit other areas of Long Beach, specifically DTLB. Just a suggestion: you may want to explore the city you’re wanting to break up with—because it’s fucking beautiful, wonderful, rich in culture, and, despite wanting to be no part of us, will welcome you with open arms, judgements aside.
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