Locked in a closet with a six-pack of Fresca, ‘bleeding out something fierce’

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. 

It’s been a busy news week. One of those weeks when we wish we would’ve followed in the footsteps our now-smug friends who gave up their dreams early and took high-paying sinecures in corporate America, spending their days color coding files and publicly humiliating interns.

To recap: A Poly teacher was placed on administrative leave for allegedly using a racial slur in class and disciplining students inappropriately. Then, another Poly teacher was placed on leave, shortly after taking to social media with accusations that yet another teacher sexually assaulted her—accusations that the district said were unfounded.

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We had a dramatic police shooting, in which an officer took out a suspect by ramming him with his patrol car; and then a social media video went viral, sparking a protest over the use of police force in the arrest of a man in a separate case.

We mixed a margarita or maybe it was two and headed to the Art Theatre, which was featuring 90-minute cat videos all weekend.

Our respite, however, would be brief: Between train derailments, peeping Toms and sewage spills, the Post followed revelations that a City Council candidate for District 2 may or may not have sold her advertising agency—which does significant business with the city—to a man who may or may not have committed bigamy, a surfeit of spouses, in the state of Georgia.

There’s way more to this story, of course—so much you have to read it for yourself. And do read it. That’s part of the reason we’re hand-to-the-forehead grumbling this week.

We’ll get back to that. First, a bit of chronology: The revelations about 2nd District Council candidate Cindy Allen first surfaced in East Long Beach’s Beachcomber late on Wednesday.

Early Thursday, reporters and editors at the Post were pacing anxiously, kicking ourselves (as journalists do) for not seeing sooner what became very obvious: The company that bought Allen’s company, Blume Media, was not much more than a facade, run by a man who described himself to us as “a small-time entrepreneur with big aspirations but very big failures.”

We worked for three days on the story, tracking down every attractive stock photoed “executive” in Blume, sifting through court and business records in Georgia, calling the employees at Allen’s agency, ETA Advertising, and of course, speaking with Allen herself.

This, after all, is what journalism is: Getting the facts right, and ensuring fairness in the reporting process. It’s the opposite of fake news, which is built on rumor, hearsay and wishes. Even though Allen used to own the Post (in June 2018 she sold it Pacific Community Media), she had a right to respond, as anyone would.

We have since been accused of all kinds of transgressions: Siding with the establishment (“Did you know the mayor owned the Post??”), ignoring aspects of the Beachcomber article that we could not independently confirm—or weren’t germane (“The Post is covering for Allen! Of course!”); and not outright calling Allen a liar and a cheat, which is the only thing that would have placated many of our faithful readers.

One of our favorite messages described the article we published as a “howlingly inept soft shoe piece” that severed our “credibility artery,” which is now “bleeding out something fierce.”

It ended with this, which we still can’t figure out: “Apt punishment would be to lock you all in the utility closet with the Grunion Gazette’s Harry Saltzgaver with just a bag of breadsticks, a 6-pack of Fresca, and an iPhone 6 with 5% battery life to record the ordeal.”

The public of course has a right to question and criticize the media; in fact, Allen wasn’t pleased either, disputing the amount of money ETA took in from the city (unfortunately for her we have the invoices).

We have some suggestions for offering feedback in a way that might be more productive, outlined recently in a Columbia Journalism Review article about this very thing.

We won’t go over the whole list; you can, and should, read it for yourself. We’ll highlight two suggestions: Be sure to read the article you’re criticizing, and provide specifics, whether it be the tone of the article (with examples) or factual discrepancies. We want to get it right.

The second: There is no plot, no conspiracy. We aren’t taking orders from Cindy Allen, the mayor, John Molina or anyone else.

Most of us live in Long Beach. We get parking tickets and grumble about City Hall. We drink margaritas and occasionally watch cat videos.

We are real human beings, acting (albeit imperfectly) in good faith.

Whittling down the field

The City Council, finding itself at loose ends because there was no council meeting this week, is throwing itself a closed session on Friday morning to discuss the hiring of the next city manager but not, to our disappointment, actually selecting one.

“We won’t be deciding on one,” said, well, in one way or another, Rex Richardson (District 9), Stacy Mungo (District 5) and the eternally unchallenged Daryl Supernaw (District 4). Never say we don’t over verify a good story. Even Acting City Manager Tom Modica, who is a candidate for having the adjective removed from his title, told us the city won’t have a new city manager by the end of the week. Rather, the council will merely be chatting with the six to eight people who are candidates for city boss.

Not to be out-close-sessioned, The Backroom met in the backroom for a non-public meeting on Wednesday and made our selection for the new city manager. We’re not naming names, but the winning candidate is one who answers our phone calls.

So when do we find out who the new civic chief is? Well, that’s part of the Friday meeting. Says Supernaw, “We’ll whittle down the field,” and, adds Richardson, “decide what we’ll do next.”

It’s Election Week

Election Day has officially become less of a day, more of a deadline. Voters have until 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, to cast ballots for a number of national, state and local races.

This year voting began on Feb. 22 at several voting centers spread throughout the county, including 34 such centers in Long Beach (the majority will open beginning this Saturday). This is a huge change in Los Angeles County.

We can’t help you with the national races; your mind is probably already made up on those (C’mon, don’t say you’re undecided!). But we can help with some of the local races, including three City Council races and two local ballot measures:

First—though not most important—is the (perhaps not-so) coveted endorsement of Horsey Horseshoe, released exclusively to The Backroom this week. You’ll recall Horseshoe’s nascent attempt at a run for the District 2 seat (as far as we can tell, he never filed the paperwork). The man who wears a horse head around town has officially picked Nigel Lifsey for the win, a name you likely haven’t read much about—and that’s part of the reason Horseshoe likes him: Lifsey has “no drama” and has no friends who might be his first priority, Horseshoe says.

For a more nuanced and educated evaluation of the candidates, watch our forums for District 2, District 6 and District 8. And visit our “Compare your Candidate” tool that allows you to see candidate responses in their own words.

Read our coverage of the two ballot measures, Measure A (a permanent extension of the prior-Measure A sales tax), and Measure B, a 1% increase in the hotel bed tax, to be used for the convention center and local arts organizations.

Please educate yourself, and vote no later than March 3.

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