I’m Jason Ruiz and I’ve been covering Long Beach City Hall for nine years. I’ve seen a lot over that time— like giant city-hall-shaped cakes that were uncuttable and plenty of late-night consequential votes that established policies that are still affecting the city to this day.
My hope is to fill you in on the goings-on of Long Beach City Hall, and explain to you what the City Council and various city commissions are doing and how it will affect you. I hope this will help you feel more connected to your city and help you make civic decisions.
This article is a sneak peek of what you’ll see in the newsletter. To receive this newsletter in your inbox every Friday, be sure to sign up here.
Now there are 3: This City Council race has a slate of new contenders
December is typically a slow month for City Hall reporters. There are exceptions, like in 2015 when the city entered into a contract to build a new $900 million Civic Center a few weeks before Christmas. But usually, meetings are canceled and decisions delayed.
I said my goodbyes for the year to the security staff at City Hall this Tuesday who dutifully check my backpack every meeting and sometimes let some contraband through. (If you’re listening, thank you—those clementines were a lifesaver this week.)
With City Hall more or less closed for the next few weeks, I’d normally be resigned to chasing down human interest stories or even business openings (I have a few), and I’ve been working the phones and gala circuit to confirm some other political maneuvering rumors.
But this year is different.
Every 10 years the city undergoes a Constitutionally-mandated process to redraw political boundaries to account for population growth, and 2021 was the first time in city history that an independent commission of residents, not politicians, drew them. Now, we’re heading into an election year a few months after that contentious redistricting process threw a wrench into council district configuration.
Earlier this month the city’s new 5th City Council district had no declared candidates after the redistricting process eliminated all of those who filed papers with the City Clerk, including the incumbent, Stacy Mungo Flanigan. But over the past two weeks, three people have now jumped into the race, and it should be interesting:
- Current School Board Member Megan Kerr, a longtime friend of Mayor Robert Garcia, who immediately endorsed Kerr. Sen. Lena Gonzalez soon followed, and others in the “establishment” are sure to sign on.
- Former Harbor Commissioner Rich Dines, who already had one go at the district seat when he lost to Mungo Flanigan in 2018. Dines is unlikely to benefit from the endorsements of elected officials in the city, but he announced this week that LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is running for mayor of LA, had endorsed him.
- And the latest: Ian Patton, who has been a thorn in the side of City Hall for years, most recently for suing for a recount of Measure A (he told us this week he does not see himself as an adversary: “I see myself as an advocate for the residents of this city who often come last”).
Dines’ union ties could help with his funding, and his platform of giving more funding to police, fighting density in East Long Beach, and potentially using police to force those experiencing homelessness into shelters could play well in the more conservative parts of the district.
East Long Beach had some of the highest levels of support for former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
Kerr has yet to outline a platform. Her candidate site lists her accomplishments as a school board member but mentions little about what she hopes to address if she’s elected to the City Council. Kerr’s time on the Board of Education was marked by a more progressive lean than what Dines has spelled out on his candidate site.
Patton told us he intends to fight special interest groups, which in this city could include the Long Beach Police Officers Association, one of, if not the most powerful unions in the city.
Like Dines, Patton said he’d fight to oppose single-family zoned neighborhoods being upended by multi-family developments (apartments), but his pledge to fight lobbying and Measure A, which has propped up the LBPD’s budget, could make it an impossible needle to thread if he also wants to pump more funding into public safety.
The deadline to declare candidacy for any race is March 11.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS WEEK: The City Council on Tuesday stiffened rules on how landlords can evict tenants through so-called “just-cause” eviction ordinance that involves remodeling units. Tenant advocates wanted the city to ban the practice and monitor these remodels, but councilmembers—citing the cost of such oversight—instead raised the amount of assistance landlords must provide to displaced tenants and lengthened the amount of time of notice tenants must receive.
PAY ATTENTION TO THIS: The public will get its first look at proposed reforms to the Citizens Police Complaint Commission at a virtual meeting scheduled for Dec. 14. The long-standing commission has been scrutinized in the wake of George Floyd’s killing because it lacks any real power to hold local police accountable. A consultant made several recommendations that would empower the commission, some of which would require a vote of the people. The meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. You can register for the meeting here.