A sign of the times: One is the loneliest number

The Backroom is a column by the staff of the Long Beach Post with notes and analysis, along with bloops and blunders, from the city’s political scene. It runs every Thursday. To contact us, email [email protected]. For questions or concerns, please contact Managing Editor Melissa Evans: [email protected] or 562-437-5814. 

We were in Trader Joe’s the other day and two well-dressed ladies were arguing over the rights to a box of oatmeal. We went to the freezer section and saw one single package of frozen spiral carrots. We bought it, not because we like carrots, but because we felt sorry for it.

Drivers were speeding through empty retail parking lots. Traffic was moving in both directions on the 405. The air was so clear we could read the letters on the Hollywood sign.


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And when we went to City Council on Tuesday, we found a lonely mayor sitting on the dais by himself.

“The mayor is here!” Robert Garcia exclaimed multiple times as members of the council talked among and over themselves via teleconference, wondering if the mayor had abandoned the meeting.

“The mayor is here,” Garcia insisted once again, as City Attorney Charles Parkin volunteered to walk down to the council chamber to find out where the mayor was.

There were slight glitches with the audio feed—a dog barked in the background; music blared during a moment of silence—but we aren’t taking issue with any of it. In fact, we think Garcia, the council and the rest of the city have handled this Twilight Zone-esque crisis reassuringly well.

(For those who look forward to City Council as eagerly as we do, we are told that the issues with the feed were with a third-party hosting site. The crush of people viewing from home could also have accounted for the technological issues.)

The rows of seats inside the council chambers were littered with pink pieces of paper reading “not available” (pretty much the world’s motto, now)—the 6-foot rule has taken effect, everywhere—with only a smattering of seats left open for members of the public. About five people eventually did make it into the meeting.

The City Council, along with other essential commissions, will host meetings via teleconference through early April at the least, and likely longer.

“We’re obviously in the middle of a massive health crisis and things are going to have to change, we’re going to have to adjust, and some decisions are going to have to move faster than we’re used to,” Garcia said. “We’re just going to do our best as we go, but we need to continue to meet and do the business of the city. We’ll try our best.”

He, along with everyone else struggling with this pandemic, has our sympathy—and dare we say, our support.

Hired!  

We in The Backroom are problem-solvers. It’s our nature. We’ve deduced, for instance, that this is a rotten time to be without a permanent city manager.

The city should hire the interim, Tom Modica. He knows everything. He returns our calls. Problem solved.

Congratulations, Tom!

An overqualified interim 

While we’re hiring people, we’d also like to place Lou Anne Bynum, who just became the interim superintendent-president at LBCC, in the permanent job as well.

The Board of Trustees, as dysfunctional as it has been, even called a Saturday night meeting to bring her aboard in the midst of what’s become a very fertile era for dysfunction.

If there’s any downside to Bynum, it would be that she’s perhaps overqualified for the job. We’re exhausted just from reading her resume, but high points include the fact that she did a great job at the college as dean of economic development and, later, as its executive vice president, and she’s been president and vice president of the Board of Harbor Commissioners and is currently its secretary.

We humbly tip our hat to the LBCC board for its decision, though if we’d known Bynum’s first act as interim president was to close the college’s two campuses, well, not to boast, but we could’ve done that. Running a college is hard, but a caveman can run a closed college.

Put the guns down

If we were a trauma surgeon, we’d start every sentence with, “As a trauma surgeon …”

The Backroom’s personal physician, Dr. Mauricio Heilbron, started a comment that way on a story about a rise in gun sales in the midst of this pandemic.

“I am frightened about what could happen with so many people having guns who might be willing to use them in order to get that last roll of toilet paper.”

Yep, it’s just one more item to toss on the pile of things we’re frightened about.

People! We need to talk. Let’s put down the guns … slowly.

Do what we do to keep the fear at a somewhat manageable level: Cower in the corner of a dark ‘Room eating frozen spiral carrots, bless their little hearts, knowing, deep down, that you did at least one good deed.

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