God (or duct tape) save the Queen

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. 

Mayor Robert Garcia had the stage all to himself Tuesday during the annual Building a Better Long Beach event, during which he touted dozens of development projects underway or in the pipeline.

From North Long Beach to the shores of Downtown, the city has “iconic” and “amazing” projects underway—two adjectives that should henceforth be banned.

Garcia, we’ll concede, is an excellent cheerleader for the city. His excitement for a slide outside the OceanAire building (he’ll be the first to use it!) to the comic book section at the new Billie Jean King Main Library is palpable.

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So it caught our attention when he spoke of a seemingly big project, the Queen Mary Island, with a cursory, roughly half-second long brush-off: “Progress is not as far along as we would like.”

Shoot, we’ve been sayin’ that.

Garcia promptly moved on to Long Beach being the new Ground Zero for tech!

The brush-off makes us wonder if the city is getting a little frustrated with Urban Commons, the property development company that operates the historic, (don’t say iconic) ship. The Post reported this week that the Queen Mary is falling into further disrepair due to inadequate maintenance and safety upkeep. On the plus side, it seems to account for at least 70 percent of all duct tape sales in the U.S.

Urban Commons, meanwhile, says the 65-acre retail and entertainment development called Queen Mary Island will be complete by 2023.

More on this to come. We promise. 

Where’s the brawl?

We love beer. We love politics. But the revived event at Liberation Brewing Company incorporating two of our favorite things has become more snooze than booze, with one-sided talks by elected leaders that aren’t much different than run-of-the-mill town-hall-style gatherings.

Our opinion? Don’t bother serving beer unless you’re gonna have a brawl. That’s how it used to be when the Beer & Politics event was first conceived in 2006 at Gallagher’s Pub and Grill, when opposing parties debated (sometimes viciously) and the audience sat close, listened and participated as the taps flowed.

Last week’s gathering wasn’t a debate over an issue at all: It was a big wet kiss to outgoing City Manager Pat West. The highlight of the night involved West showing off his ink, a ridiculously nerdy “LBCM” tattooed on his upper arm (a job title—now that’ll impress the ladies). Oh, and the mayor used profanity, the word, specifically, began with “cluster” and referred to the land use element process and the customs facility at Long Beach Airport.

Right—they also discussed who West’s least favorite councilmember is, to which Garcia cut him off, and like the leader of a high school clique, said, “I already know the answer to that.”

Well, tell us! Don’t make us guess.

Our rendition of a new Pat West tattoo.

Fire vs. Police

We’ve got news that a labor union has endorsed an incumbent councilwoman who’s worked most of her career as a labor organizer. That in itself is not interesting; what makes it noteworthy is that it’s the first endorsement announced for Jeannine Pearce, who’s faced a slew of controversies throughout her tenure and is facing stiff competition in a crowded field of challengers.

We did a double-take when saw Pearce’s campaign press release this week announcing that the Long Beach Firefighters Association was throwing its powerful endorsement to Pearce in her bid for reelection as 2nd District councilperson in the March 3, 2020 primary election.

We don’t want to go through it all again, but there have been matters of a dalliance between Pearce and her chief of staff, as well as allegations of conflict of interest. Don’t act like you don’t know what we’re talking about.

We called the union head and asked whether he’s been reading the news.

“I don’t follow the personal issues of our council representatives,” said the firefighters’ union president Rex Pritchard. “I’m more interested in who’s supporting our firefighters and protecting our firefighters. Pearce has supported Measure A, which allowed us to hire new firefighters and increase our HEART team and give firefighters the tools they need to protect the people of Long Beach. Those are the kinds of things we look for when making an endorsement.”

Fair enough, but, since Pearce was the sole vote against the Police Officers Association’s new contract, doesn’t that raise the specter of the Firefighters’ and Police Officers’ unions endorsing different candidates in March, especially with former cop Cindy Allen potentially jumping into the race?

Pritchard pointed out that we only have to go back one page in the history book to find out when that happened last. It was in the 2016 2nd District race when fire backed Pearce while the police went with Eric Gray.

“It’s rare that we disagree,” admitted Pritchard. “But it happens.”

And when two unions disagree, voters who care about endorsements will get to decide who they like more, firefighters or policemen, and we all know how that would turn out.

We have a headache

Sticking with CD2 news (it’s hard not to these days; you wouldn’t want our job), the Battle of Death Row continues between Pearce and one of her legion challengers, community activist Robert Fox.

Fox, who gave Broadway its Death Row nickname because of the scores of people who might have, but for the grace of God, been victims of fatal accidents as a result of the retooling and forced road diet on Broadway between Alamitos and Cherry avenues.

The verbal boxing match between the two brawlers continues on Facebook, with Fox claiming driving onto Broadway from feeder streets is akin to landing an F-14 on an aircraft carrier at night, while Pearce gives a near-bucolic view of the corridor now that cars are going slower, thereby making things safer for cyclists and pedestrians; Fox says only about 15 cyclists use Broadway each day, while Pearce says she sees that many while she’s stopped at a red light; Fox says it’s disastrous for businesses on Broadway, while Pearce insists business is OK; Fox says he’s willing to sit down with Pearce and hash this whole thing out, while Pearce says she won’t meet with him alone and Fox says she can go ahead and bring an army, but if she brings an army then Fox will bring an army too and this is how wars start.

We hate hearing Mom and Dad fight. It gives us a headache.

‘Everyone’—minus one

When 1st District Council candidate Mary Zendejas swung by the suite of Long Beach Post offices earlier this week, one of the questions we asked her (and all candidates) is whose endorsements has she earned. It wasn’t really an empty boast when she replied, “everyone.”

It’s largely true: Mayor Robert Garcia, Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, councilmembers Rex Richardson and Pearce, former councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon, state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, a mess of unions, including the Police Officers Association, the fire union, and, yeah, pretty much everyone.

The latest to jump aboard the Zendejas juggernaut is the International Association of Machinists, who represent 3,000 Long Beach city employees.

The only nonconformist, it seems, is Councilman Dee Andrews, who is notably backing pastor Misi Tagaloa.

We called Andrews this week to ask about the reasoning behind his refusal to get in line behind Zendejas and toss her his endorsement. Andrews said simply: “She didn’t ask.”

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