The Backroom: A Brutalized cake and a story of unrequited love

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. 

We begin today with another awkward cake moment, brought to you by a gaggle of current and former city officials, a mayor wielding a giant knife and a Brutalist block of rice cereal treats that seemed more seismically stable than the building it represented.

City officials said goodbye this week to their 43-year-old edifice at 333 W. Ocean Blvd. Department heads sported bright blue “ask me for help” T-shirts as city employees stacked decades of belongings into numbered bins, and City Manager Pat West gave a final salute to his private bathroom, dubbed the “West Room,” and his killer view of the Long Beach Harbor (the Port of Long Beach got dibs on the top-bunk views in the new building).

We’re sure it was an emotional week. Nothing a cake can’t solve.


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At the end of a 60-minute farewell at City Council Tuesday night, where politicos of years past—from Laura Richardson to Jim Hankla to a handful of Lowenthals—filled Council Chambers for an orgy of praise and thanks, Mark Taylor, the mayor’s chief of staff, wheeled in the building-shaped confection.

Mayor Robert Garcia grabbed a knife, held on to the hands of past mayors Beverly O’Neill and Tom Clark, swatted the hands away, and then, well, murdered the thing.

In a tragic postscript, we learned that when the cake’s remains were wheeled back into the chamber’s green room (seems no one bothered to grab a slice of the actual building) one of the building’s pillars tipped over and fell. So much for your inevitable advice that perhaps the real building’s pillars should have been made with Rice Krispies Treats rather than seismically-challenged concrete.

This one hurts

As president of Long Beach City College, Reagan Romali has professed her love for our beautiful city. So why do we feel a twinge of jealousy, if not outright jiltedness, over her remarks to students, faculty members and administrators during her tour of Miami Dade College, where she was applying for a job as president?

Her quest fell apart on Wednesday when the Miami Dade Board of Trustees scrapped the entire selection process, keeping one candidate under consideration and telling the remaining three finalists, including Romali, thanks for your interest and don’t bother to reapply for the new search, which could take months to complete.

So, that makes things rather awkward now that she’s stuck with Long Beach again, after what she said about Miami when she was in the thick of the hunt.

“I have watched you for 20 years and have wanted to be a part of you,” she told the audience on Monday.

She described how her love first began to blossom when she marched as a drummer in the Orange Bowl Parade in Miami a certain number of years ago. “I fell in love,” said Romali, who also loves Long Beach, remember. But with Miami, she said, “I caught the bug. Everybody has their dream and Miami is my happy place.”

Come on! We’re sitting right here!

But she continued to walk all over our feelings.

“Miami is in my soul,” Romali rhapsodized. “You are the best. You are the Oscar winner. Who doesn’t want to be with the best? I want to be with you. Who doesn’t want to be with you?”

Welcome home, Ms. Romali. 

Meet Mr. Median

Transparent California earlier this month released its 2018 list of salaries for public employees in the state. The first thing we noticed, as always, is how many firefighters more than doubled their salaries with generous overtime pay. Quick takeaway: If we were a firefighter, we’d turn down the chief’s job because we couldn’t afford the pay cut.

Next, we traveled farther down the list to find the one person who earns the median total pay and benefits out of all the city’s 4,091 full-time employees; exactly half the employees make more, and half make less.

We found Brian D. Hintz, a Gas Maintenance Supervisor II, whose pay and benefits is a perfectly average $124,732. Of that, $85,265 is his total pay.

“It’s my day off, so I’m just chillin’ and listening to Rod Stewart,” Hintz told us recently.

Hintz skipped college (and its attendant debt) to learn a trade. “I joined the Navy and I learned how to weld,” he said. “I came to the city as a pipeline welder in 1996,” and worked his way up to his current desk job. And when Hintz isn’t chained to his desk, he’s chained to his home, where he’s on call 24/7. All year long. He has to be within 30 miles of any gas-related emergency in Long Beach at all times. “There used to be three of us who rotated being on call, but now there’s just me,” he said. “I was supposed to go to the river with some friends on the Fourth,” but I had to stay home. “And I’ve got a grandson in Simi Valley who I can’t visit; he has to come down here.”

For his imprisonment, Hintz gets $1.50 an hour, 24 hours a day.

Hintz is 55, divorced, and lives in a two-bedroom back house in North Long Beach. He makes $44 an hour now and tops off in salary next month at $47. He plans on retiring a year from October.

“I don’t have any complaints,” he said. “The city’s treated me good. I just feel sorry for the new kids coming in at $20 an hour. Who can pay rent for that?”

Election updates

As predicted by The Backroom (and just about everyone), Mayor Garcia endorsed Mary Zendejas to replace now state-Sen. Lena Gonzalez to represent District 1 (Downtown area) on the council.

In so doing, he sent out one of his “Dear friends” emails using a line from a movie most known for a scene involving semen mistakenly used as hair gel. We know it’s tempting, but “There’s something about Mary” doesn’t work just because the person’s name is Mary.

The winner-take-all special election on Nov. 5 features eight candidates so far; we’ll have full profiles on each of them when the slate is set.

On the Agenda

It’s budget season! Dust off your spreadsheets and follow along …

City officials will unveil the fiscal year 2020 financial plan at a press event Wednesday morning. While the forecast this year is expected to be “rosy,” troubles are always on the horizon when it comes to city finances. We’ll bring all the latest pie charts and bar graphs next week.

And don’t forget: get a peek of the new City Hall at an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, July 29, at 411 W. Ocean Blvd. The new administration building will be closed for business that day, but will resume normal operations the following day.

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