Candidates vying for an open seat on the Long Beach City College Board of Trustees squared off in a debate on Wednesday touching on issues including student success, balancing board tension and possibly defunding campus police.
In a winner-take-all election next month, three candidates—Herlinda Chico, a field deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn; Dick Gaylord, a Belmont Shore-based realtor; and Lee Loveridge, a community college professor at Pierce College in Los Angeles—are running to replace incumbent Doug Otto for Trustee Area 4.
When asked how the college could focus on supporting disadvantaged students, Gaylord noted that 1,600 students have requested help at the multi-service center this fall. The college, he said, has been supporting them with math and technology programs and basic needs.
“We’re doing a lot of that already, and we can do more,” he said.
Loveridge said the college will have to rethink its support and do more when on-campus classes reopen, while Chico said she’d like to see a satellite campus on Catalina Island and more focus on racial equity in the Long Beach College Promise program.
“We know there’s been a digital divide, but COVID-19 has really exacerbated the problem,” she said.
The college’s current board has seen recent bouts of tension and public disagreements. When asked how he would fare on a contentious board, Loveridge said he is a neutral party who wouldn’t be influenced by either side.
“I would have the ability to listen to everybody’s concerns and everybody’s desires and be a moderating influence,” he said.
Chico, as a longtime public servant, said she’s had plenty of experience with tension from elected officials and constituents. She would remain focused on the mission of student success.
“I’ve dealt with different types of personalities and people who are upset, it’s what I’ve been doing my entire career,” she said.
Gaylord said the board should spend less time arguing and more time focused on students.
“I don’t think we’ll have any problems if we follow the guidelines and stay with the mission,” he said.
All three candidates said they would consider shifting funding from campus police to more social service programs.
Chico noted the impact to Black and Brown students at the college’s Central Long Beach campus.
“It is very important that we have community input,” she said. “Let’s not forget Central Long Beach, that is the community that’s impacted the most by this.”
Gaylord agreed that the decision should be community based with data and input from police.
“This is a decision that should involve students, faculty, staff and the neighborhood and the police department,” he said.
The other open seat this November is held by Board President Vivian Malauulu, who was the only candidate to file for the district’s Area 2 seat.
In March, the board voted voted 4-1 to fire Reagan Romali, who had served as the president-superintendent since 2017. The decision followed months of tension between Romali and two board members—Malauulu and Uduak Joe-Ntuk. In November, the board in hired an investigator to look into Romali for possible misuse of public funds, mistreatment of staff and other matters.
Last year, the board voted 3-2 to censure Trustee Sunny Zia, saying she had displayed unprofessional behavior toward colleagues.
Among the issues, Malauulu has accused Zia of mocking Malauulu’s Christian faith and using her position on the board to bolster her chances of landing a promotion at the Port of Long Beach.
In return, Zia, who is Jewish, has said she has been the victim of antisemitic behavior by current and past board members with previous boards refusing to move meetings off religious holidays.
The debate, like previous candidate debates, was part of a partnership among the Press-Telegram, Grunion Gazette, Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.
Watch the full debate:
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