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 in The Backroom are humble folk. We like belly rubs, roast chicken nights, a nice clean bathroom—and we can admit when we’re wrong. It happens more often than you might think: The power of prayer apparently can stop a hurricane, for one.

We’ve declared repeatedly that the Broadway Corridor will be the issue of the District 2 council race in March; turns out that is complete baloney.

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We’ve likewise claimed—without any evidence but the cuckoo clamor coming at us through social media—that Robert Fox is the primary threat to the incumbent, Jeannine Pearce. Bogus.

We got our facts straight after positioning our red flag in a flower pot on The Backroom balcony, then traveling via Blue Line, bikeshare and scooter to a dingy parking garage, where we were slipped a manila folder by a shadowy figure.

Our hands trembled as we beheld its contents: A copy of the closely-guarded issues and candidates survey backed by the Police Officers Association. The survey, conducted July 30 to Aug. 5 by the firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, included 360 interviews with residents of the 2nd City Council District who are likely to cast a ballot in March 2020.

It was a looong survey: Respondents were asked about everything from their feelings toward the Queen Mary (they love it!) to the Port of Long Beach (we do love our boats) to local labor unions (meh) to Supervisor Janice Hahn (who?) to Pearce, their current council representative.

It isn’t good news for the councilwoman: Pearce is disliked by 16% to 27% of those surveyed, depending how her title is framed, and she is liked by just 21% to 29%. The rest are undecided or haven’t a clue who she is.

And here’s where it gets really interesting: In an initial ballot test, Pearce wins with 20% of the vote. In second place? Jeanette Barerra, a mental health provider who has raised just over $2,000, captured 16% of the vote.

Fox, whose wa-pa-pa-pa-pow appears to be nothing more than a faint puff, claimed 11% of the vote. Two candidates the police union is shopping—Cindy Allen and John Thomas—each polled at a dismal 4% in the initial ballot test.

And the largest chunk of respondents in that initial test, 45%, are undecided.

That leaves a lot of wiggle room until the primary election in six months. One critical finding: Mayor Garcia enjoys a strong 63% favorable rating among Pearce’s constituents, which will make his endorsement—if it comes—critical. (We’ve been hounding the mayor for weeks about this.)

Here’s some other interesting tidbits from our score:

  • Despite all the hot air over changes to the Broadway Corridor, only 38% view it as a serious or very serious problem in the district. Pearce should probably stop doing public events on the issue.
  • The top three issues that voters care about are very predictable: lack of affordable housing (77%), lack of parking (72%) and homelesness (71%).
  • Pearce has serious baggage. When told of her various controversies—including accusations of conflict of interest for failing to disclose business dealings and her censure by the City Council—only about a quarter of the electorate say they would be likely or very likely to vote for her.
  • John Thomas should probably end any ambition for the 2nd District, if he had any at all. When given positive statements about his background, voters in all demographic categories still had a tepid response to his candidacy.
  • Voters responded favorably to Allen’s professional background and connections to Long Beach and held Barrera’s unique profile in high regard.
  • In a simulated head-to-head election between Pearce and Allen, the race becomes a toss-up, with Allen holding a formidable 28% to Pearce’s 29%, with 43% of voters unsure who they would support at this point.

Bottom line? The 2nd District race is wide open—and we’ll be inviting Barerra for coffee, and a mea culpa, in The Backroom very soon.

Budget bickering

We spent all weekend picking out our outfit for City Council on Tuesday; turns out jammies were the right call. After a weeklong absence, our friends behind the dais didn’t disappoint: An hours-long budget fiesta (some would say siesta) stretched across two different days, featuring a soliloquy about Robert’s Rules of Order, bickering over what amounts to pocket change in the multi-billion dollar budget and Mayor Robert Garcia gnawing his fingernails into oblivion.

But wait! There’s more! Long Beach became the first “Ping Pong Friendly City” in the nation, which means … we’re not sure, and who cares—except that it provides a convenient metaphor for this week’s Backroom.

We’ll start with Stacy Mungo and Rex Richardson, who don’t appear to like each other very much.

The spat between the councilwoman from the East and the councilman from the North centered on a “friendly” amendment that wasn’t so friendly; Richardson wanted to debate more in depth a recommendation that funding for youth programs be taken from the health department and moved to parks department, then accused the two eastide councilwomen (Mungo and Suzie Price) of cutting backroom deals with city staff.

All this microphone punching on and off for $60,000, which equals about .0021% percent of the total budget.

Meanwhile Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, in support of Richardson, was slipped some Cliffs Notes covering the parliamentary rules for open meetings, curtly pointing out that friendly amendments must be voted on by the group, not decided by the maker of whatever motion is on the table. (And she was very proud of herself.)

Friendly or not, the amendment by Richardson failed—and in case you’ve forgotten what we’re talking about, the money in question went to the parks department. Point, Mungo. 

So long 

Mark Taylor is taking a flight out of City Hall after a five-year tenure as the mayor’s chief of staff.

Taylor is an effective bulldog for Garcia, running interference when necessary, keeping the agenda moving forward, and maintaining a detente with the local press.

We wonder if perhaps his departure has any to do with a pathetic $1 salary increase included in this year’s budget. We did ask him about that a few weeks ago—specifically what he would do with all that extra cash—and like a true loyalist, he claimed only that he would “spend the increase locally.”