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. 

Robert Garcia is having a moment: An interview with the New York Times, a lengthy chat with MSNBC’s Brian Williams and an indignant defense from Rachel Maddow given the 42-year-old mayor’s mother and stepfather had recently died of COVID-19.

But best of all: A direct, named attack by the Trump War Room. Nothing will catapult a politician into the big leagues like being Twitter-bullied and pegged as someone “who personifies the ‘America Last’ mentality”—sure, a tad boilerplate as insults go, but more than just the mere “supporter-of-sanctuary-cities” line that some of the other 16 speakers got.

All of this for a few seconds (26 to be exact, between speaking and face time) as one of 17 keynote speakers to highlight Tuesday’s Democratic National Convention. The Backroom has watched Democratic keynote speakers since Sen. Frank Church launched John F. Kennedy’s nomination in L.A. in 1960, and Tuesday night’s slate of 17 was no Frank Church, Senator. It more closely resembled an “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial, circa 1971.

Most bothersome, in some ways, was the fact that 17 keynoters were presented in a very Zoom-like manner, which had the unfortunate effect of reminding all of us that the only way we connect with anyone in the COVID age is through a stack of “Brady Bunch” boxes on our laptops.

In case it wasn’t obvious, Garcia’s 1/17th of a speech was recorded before it aired; you can’t do that kind of fancy video montage on the fly.

So in the hours before, Garcia sat at the dais—we imagine he has one in his living room at home—and phoned in, both literally and figuratively, to his day job running City Council meetings.

Garcia seemed like a college kid, who, having had a taste of a bigger world, finds himself suddenly back home in his boyhood bedroom, sulking at chores and staring at the embroidered pillows his Nana made.

It was bad enough that an issue as thorny as the police budget—after months of protests calling for defunding and structural changes—was pushed to 3 p.m., instead of a later hour when more people could participate.

Garcia was so anxious to get through this annoying budget stuff and on to his big national television debut at 6 p.m. that he jumped the gun on calling roll—the clerk had to inform him the meeting hadn’t actually started yet; that’s her job. And when the hearing started, the anxiety in his tone was palpable, even amid the background clamor of someone else on the call doing dishes.

“NEXT SPEAKER PLEASE,” the mayor said in a tone that was meant to merely sound briskly efficient, but did not disguise the fact that what he was really saying was “I swear, if there’s one more speaker I’m gonna wheel out the guillotine.”

After a two-hour-plus hearing on various department budgets, Garcia moved into the regular council agenda that included a $7 million contract for trash delivery, thousands in improvements to the convention center, zoning ordinances, a lease for the Naples seawall program, purchases worth more than $4 million and other of that bland, tedious business.

The mayor asked City Attorney Charlie Parkin if it’d be OK if they just approved everything with a single vote, you know, because the clock’s ticking here. Parkin said yes—but added that the public still had a right to comment on each of the items if they had signed up, after which a speaker began with a slow-talking soliloquy about how he could fix all the city problems … and shortly after that, Garcia was gone. That TV wasn’t going to watch itself.

Please don’t misunderstand. We’re proud of Garcia, and we know he’s had a tough few weeks. And while some in the city chided him for only getting 20 seconds or so worth of keynote time, he nevertheless brought a lot of attention to Long Beach in the other interviews he scored from his brief role in the convention.

We just hope that as the election accelerates into November, the mayor remembers there are still chores to do at home.

‘I was infuriated’

The Backroom loves politics, therefore The Backroom loves the 2nd District council race. And there’s some darned interesting politics going on right now in the otherwise bucolic 2nd District, where property manager and Realtor Robert Fox, who was the top vote-getter in the March primary election, is clashing with Cindy Allen, a retired police officer, a former owner of the Post and a former Republican, for the 2nd District seat on the City Council.

Early this week, Fox was given a hearty recommendation by the Los Angeles Hispanic Republican Club, much to Allen’s glee. She rushed out a press release headlined “Robert Fox, Donald Trump’s Running Mate?”

The LAHPC, as you might expect, did recommend Trump for president.

Can you imagine Fox’s surprise to find himself touted by the Republican group?

“Surprised? I was infuriated,” said the generally unflappable Fox. “I called and said, ‘How dare you put my name on a Republican slate? I’m a lifelong Democrat.’ They never called, never asked me if I wanted their endorsement. I was furious when I found out about it. I asked them for an apology and a mea culpa.”

David Hernandez, LAHPC’s president, told The Backroom that Fox was recommended in the bipartisan race because he liked his fiscal policies. “I met him a few times at meetings and at city council meetings and I thought, ‘This is a guy who’s got his head on straight.’ I thought we could work with each other. Isn’t that what people have been saying? ‘Let’s figure out a way to work together?’”

At any rate, the Republican group obliged Fox, if not with a full-on mea maxima culpa, they at least removed his name from the slate of recommended candidates.