The Backroom: We looked for corruption and came back with kittens

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. 

As promised, The Backroom set out this week to do some hard-scrabble, whiskey-drinking, cigarette-smoking, shoe-leather investigating into the acrimony simmering at the P.D. Pitchford Animal Companion Village. We climbed into the 1999 John Deere Diesel Gator we snagged on govdeals.com and headed to the outskirts of town, where powerful chieftains had some explaining to do.

To our dismay, the director of animal care services, Staycee Dains, greeted us at the door, offered to answer all of our questions, gave us her personal cell number and told us to call her anytime, day or night. We left with two foster kittens—Woodward and Bernstein—a bit less swagger and still plenty of confusion about what the problem is.

This we know: Behind the all-caps, expletive-laced clamor on social media, it appears the city’s shelter hung a banner a few weeks ago directing visitors to the Long Beach side of the village; the nonprofit that shares the space, the spcaLA, didn’t appreciate that.

The city is trying to work it out, as the local shelter is stuffed with kittens, dogs and a few bunnies that desperately need a home; failing that, they may be euthanized. “We’re willing to do almost anything before we do that,” Dains said.

We’re still at a loss to explain the hysteria over a sign that may help animals get adopted (that’s what it’s about, right?). Officials at the spcaLA did not return several calls this week. We’ll update you when we smoke ‘em out. And we will.

More money 

Mayor Robert Garcia summoned reporters to the 14th floor of City Hall on Monday to detail his plans for a permanent extension of the Measure A sales tax.

Community Hospital figures heavily into the sales pitch. The city has already committed up to $25 million over the next 15 years to help reopen the facility, or $1 million to $2 million per year—which is such a small amount that it falls well within the margin of error of deficits the city has to account for each year.

We take no opinion on the Measure A extension; that’s for voters to decide. But making this plea about Community Hospital is pure public relations. The mayor might as well throw in upgrades to the Convention Center, the Ranchos and for godsakes, more space—and proper signage—at the city shelter. Show us a gif of a kitten and we’ll vote for anything…

Woodward is coming for the news.

Separately, Councilman Rex Richardson is moving ahead with plans for a possible bond measure in November 2020 to prop up the city’s plans for low-income housing and getting homeless off the streets.

A private fundraiser was held Wednesday night; press wasn’t allowed, and Richardson downplayed how fast things are moving: “It’s way too early to talk about what’ll be on the ballot. We’re raising money to lay the groundwork for 2020.”

Elections  

Just one lonely update for you since last week, but it’s a development that’s likely to significantly spice up the 8th Council District: Activist Juan Ovalle has announced he’ll challenge Al Austin, who is seeking his third term.

Ovalle was part of a coalition that was vehemently opposed to the City Charter amendments that passed in November—one of which allowed Austin (and the mayor and other councilmembers) to run for a third term.

Ovalle has already labeled Austin as negligent, callous and unresponsive, and is sure to be a nuisance as the race progresses.

We’re also sure the mayor is not giddy at the prospect of having both Ovalle and Robert Fox (who is challenging Jeannine Pearce in the 2nd District) sitting next to him on the dais.

On the Agenda

Arrive early at City Council Tuesday. The council will receive its first presentation on the Measure A extension, and—in order to get the measure on the March 3 ballot—the council must unanimously declare a fiscal emergency and direct the city attorney to write the ordinance.

We’re guessing something has already been drafted because it’s expected to come back to the council for a final vote in mid-July.

There may be a few comments from the public on that topic.

The council is also expected to tighten its rules on public officials who accept gifts such as tickets to attractions and sporting events. Apparently the state is cracking down after officials in other cities said their purpose in attending NBA playoff games was to “inspect facilities.” Hmmm. 

Got a tip for The Backroom? Use #TheBackroom on Twitter. 

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