Can’t we all get along like we used to in middle school?

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. 

Our face smells like peppermint, on Wednesdays we wear pink—and we love tearing pages out of the Burn Book and tossing them on the steps of City Hall with a satisfied smirk.

Meet the “Mean Girls” of The Backroom, the “newest high school gossip column,” according to one councilwoman, who posted about us a lot on social media this week—as well as her current predicament.

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“Yes,” writes Jeannine Pearce, “I made some simple but irreversible mistakes with conflicts” (sic).

She’s also seriously pondering law school. And, after the Post ran a story Friday about a consultant’s report into her possible conflicts of interest, she’s imploring us to investigate the other “7 of 9” councilmembers who have “perceived” conflicts.

That last bit did not sit well with Pearce’s colleagues.

None of them wanted to go on record, but we hear that text messages were flying like fists in the hallway at North Shore High School over the weekend, with one of her colleagues going so far as to say Pearce should consider resigning.

“She’s smart, she means well, but there’s a pattern of serious challenges,” another said.

Another pointed out that yes, councilmembers sometimes have to recuse from votes because of conflicts—but that decision is made in consultation with the city attorney, often state ethics watchdogs, and it is done out in the open, where everyone can see it. (However if there’s any other concealed conflicts, please drop us a line; we’d be happy to investigate.)

The mayor has yet to endorse in the District 2 race, and as we pointed out last week, the powers-that-be have been polling on other candidates, including the person we hear is the preferred choice: Cindy Allen, who, in a simulated head to head race—after voters heard both positive and negative messages—beats the incumbent by eight points.

The mayor didn’t return our call to discuss the developments of the past week. He did tweet this on Saturday, though—from a Los Angeles Times reporter who has covered the White House and the Russia investigation.

We’ve drawn our own conclusion; maybe Councilwoman Pearce should too:

District 1 

We’ve talked a lot about the race for Pearce’s seat in District 2. But that race is still months away, in March. More pressing is the election Nov. 5 to fill Lena Gonzalez’ seat in District 1, which spans the Downtown area and parts of West and Central Long Beach.

When it comes to council districts, we don’t like to play favorites. District 2, however, is the heart of the city’s most influential institutions: It is the home of Civic Center, Convention Center, the Queen Mary and the Downtown waterfront.

But District 1, oddly, has been the biggest launch pad for political careers, including Jenny Oropeza (who went on to the Assembly from 2000-2006, followed by election to the state Senate until her death in 2010); Bonnie Lowenthal (she went to become an Assemblywoman), Robert Garcia (now mayor) and Lena Gonzalez (now a state Senator).

Another interesting fact: All four went on to higher office after winning their council seat with a depressingly dismal number of votes because the district has one of the lowest turnout rates in the city.

In 1994, Oropeza won the primary with 992 votes; in 2006, Lowenthal won the seat with 1,248 votes; in 2010 Garcia won the seat 1,168 votes, and in 2014, Gonzalez won with 1,106 votes.

It’s also important to note that those three elections were held in regular cycles; the one we have coming up in November is the only local race on the docket—and it’s a winner-take-all.

With District 1’s history as a political launchpad to higher office, there’s also a history of special elections in off-cycle years: Bonnie Lowenthal was first elected to the seat in a special election in March 2001, with voter turnout just over 16 percent, then Garcia later won the seat in another special election in District 1 in April 2009 before he ran again for a full term the next year.

Your next representative in District 1 could win thanks to a few hundred people—and go on to become president someday. We’ll be interviewing the candidates in the next few weeks; if you have suggested questions for us, fill out this survey.

And please, vote. We won’t lecture you again.

On the Agenda

The City Council next week will say good-bye to City Manager Pat West, then hello to Tom Modica, who will become acting city manager.

Millikan High School’s forensic class is getting a cyanoacrylate fuming chamber from the police department to detect fingerprints.

And city leaders will decide whether to approve a new contract for police, which includes a sneaky provision that officers subject to public information requests under a new police transparency law can receive the information five days before the requestor—and, even more worrisome, learn the name of the person who made the request.

They carry guns; most of us lay-folk don’t. We’re not saying any police would resort to physical violence over a records request, but what the department doesn’t seem to understand is that intimidation is a powerful thing.

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