Long Beach to Allow Live Public Comments by Phone at City Council Meetings

13 Jun

The Long Beach City Council has faced past criticism for what some consider the Council’s lack of transparency, even before the pandemic.  After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, to some, it was only further evidence, the Long Beach City Council used the pandemic to further its lack of transparency.

James Suazo, a member of the Long Beach Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, in April, said, “There has often been a pattern in my opinion with the Long Beach City Council about ways that public comment…could be stifled or limited in some way and we’ve seen this with efforts to shift around public comment before actual Council discussion items on critical or controversial issues or we’ve seen it in efforts the City Council has done to streamline meetings and say let’s just limit public comment overall so we can get through the meeting and not be here so late.  So, we’re seeing… now the excuse of…the coronavirus pandemic as a way to justify this limiting of public comment, not just for the media and to have control over that and the narrative, but to also limit the critical voices that are needed in a democracy more than ever right now.”

“I think that when you consider the pattern the city has followed to try to limit public comment and you see, we see, the available technology that is out there that other municipalities even smaller that Long Beach are using that actually engage people, that actually allow for meaning dialogue to facilitate processes.  There is no reason or excuse why we are using a basic teleconference service that drops and limits people’s from engaging and for a city of our size, there is no reason we should be limiting ourselves to this kind of process. So, my only conclusion that I can draw from that is that it is intentional.”

However, even before the coronavirus hit, the Council faced criticism when new rules for public comment began in August 2019.

Jason Ruiz, in his Sept. 11, 2019 story for the Long Beach Post, quoted East Long Beach resident Corliss Lee, who said, “Their idea about streamlining…they’re streamlining for who? (T)hey’re streamlining for themselves.  They blabber on endlessly up there and yet they don’t want to hear from the public.”

Also, the Long Beach Post, Aug. 12, 2019, quoted the Long Beach Reform Coalition.  It said, “Members of the public often watch the proceedings seated in the chamber and find themselves moved, in the moment, by what they see and hear, to queue up and have their say.  The loss of this long-standing civic right will represent the further eroding of the democratic process in Long Beach.”

This brings us to now.

City Clerk Monique De La Garza announced in a press release of June 9, beginning Tuesday, June 16, the Long Beach City Council will allow on agenda items live public comments by phone at its meetings.

Up to 20 people will be allowed to speak.  If nine or less, wish to speak, each person will have three minutes.  With the existing rules, if there are 10 to 20 people, who wish to speak, each speaker after the ninth speaker will have 90 seconds to speak.

“Telephonic comments will also be allowed for the first 10 speakers, up to three minutes each, who sign up (with the City Clerk) for non-agenda items,” according to the press release.

James Suazo, after the press release was issued, said, “The city clerk’s press release about allowing public comment by telephone is a great first steps (sic) towards restoring basic democracy at city council meetings during the pandemic.”

People, wishing more information or wish to sign up for the June 16 meeting, may visit City Clerk website at www.longbeach.gov/cityclerk.

People wishing to continue using eComment option, may do so by clicking here, http://longbeach.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.  Written comments may also be submitted by email to cityclerk@longbeach.gov.

Long Beach Mayor Announces New Fund Proposed for Small Businesses Affected by Sunday, May 31 Looting, Vandalism

9 Jun

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, by email on Monday, June 8, announced the city is proposing a new fund and initiative to support directly small businesses vandalism and looting affected on Sunday, May 31.
It said the city was “committed to ensuring every single business… impacted receives direct grant assistance from the city. It added, “Regardless of the impact, we (the city is) going to help” and the city was going to partner with local business associations and improvement districts on helping these small businesses with direct assistance, streamlined permitting and tax credits.

Stephanie Rivera of the Long Beach Post reported also on Monday, June 8, what is dubbed, “the Rebuild Long Beach grant program” will be discussed at the City Council’s June 16 meeting to determine how to direct city resources to affected businesses.

For more information readers may call 562-570-4BIZ or email 4BIZ@longbeach.gov.

Hundreds Protest in Long Beach to Demand Defund the Police, Justice for George Floyd

6 Jun

Hundreds protested, chanted, rallied and heard speakers, on Friday, June 5, at Harvey Milk Promenade Park at 185 E. Third St., denouncing the Long Beach Police Department, calling to defund the police and for justice for the many killed by police nationally, particularly most recently George Floyd who died in custody while a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck.

Poster, at BLM-LB protest, Friday, June 5, 2020; photo by Barry Saks

Black Lives Matter Long Beach with its community allies, according to BLM-LB Facebook, announced the protest.  The crowd was multi-ethnic, with many young people of color.

The park was filled to capacity with many people on the other side of Third Street.  Before the rally the crowd with their signs chanted: “Police, no Peace,” “Don’t Shoot,” “Black Lives Matter,” “I can’t breathe,”

Someone would call out, “Say his name” and in response the crowd would say, “George Floyd” and other times someone would call out, “Say her name and in response the crowd would say, “Breonna Taylor,” a 26-year-old emergency room technician killed in her home by Louisville police in the early morning hours of March 13 as part of a narcotics investigation.

Other times, the call would be, “Hands Up” and the crowd would respond with “Don’t Shoot” or the call would be, “What do we want?” and the crowd would respond with “Justice” or the call would be “No Justice” and the crowd would respond with “No Peace” or the call would be “No racist” and the crowd would respond “Police.”

Dawn Modkins, a leader of Black Lives Matter-Long Beach, emcees Friday, June 5, 2020, protest; photo by Barry Saks

The rally with speakers was emceed by Dawn Modkins, who characterized herself as a founder of BLM-LB.  Modkins said after seven years of responding to the killings by LBPD she was tired.  She said, “We want an end to the war on black people…We want to end white supremacy… We’re not just talking about in Georgia, we’re not just talking about in Minneapolis, we are talking about right here in the City of Long Beach.  We want to defund the police.”

She said divesting in police means cutting LBPD ties with the school district, but added it means investing in our children, in care, ethnic studies, ending zero tolerance, more black teachers, more academic counseling and tutoring and more school psychologists.

Modkins introduced Tahesha Christiansen.  Christiansen, who said she is a member of the Omaha tribe, and added the indigenous were standing in solidarity with BLM.

After Christiansen, Modkins spoke about the day, Fredrick Taft, 57 years-old, was murdered in the men’s bathroom in Pan American Park.  Modkins said Taft’s sister “saw a white man with a gun on his side” leaving the bathroom and added on benches in the park were the words, “KKK” and “Fuck Niggers.”  Modkins said the LBPD did not investigate the murder until after BLM-LB began its own investigation. 

Poster at BLM-LB Protest, Friday, June 5, 2020; photo by Barry Saks

According to news reports, Taft was shot Saturday, July 21, 2018, in the upper torso.  More than four months later, the Long Beach Press-Telegram of Nov. 28, 2018, reported the LBPD issued a sketch of the man who killed Taft.

Representatives of Anakbahan Long Beach, whose Facebook Page calls itself a progressive Filipino youth organization, and Gabriela South Bay, whose Facebook Page calls itself a grassroots organization of Filipinas, expressed their organizations’ solidarity with BLM-LB.

Porter Gilberg, Long Beach Citizen Complaint Police Commissioner, speaks, on Friday, June 5, 2020, to the crowd about the Long Beach CPCC.

Last to speak was Porter Gilberg, who is District 2 Commissioner of the Long Beach Citizen Police Complaint Commission.  Gilberg, who is the Executive Director of the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, said the Commission is a farce; it is not an oversight body; it can only make recommendations.  He said the Commissioners do not make any decisions.  He said he was required to go on a ride-along with LBPD, where the police mis-gendered him.

After Gilberg spoke, the crowd chanting with their signs marched through the streets of Long Beach.

Poster at BLM-LB protest, Friday, June 5, 2020; photo by Barry Saks

No Long Beach Curfew Tonight

4 Jun

The City of Long Beach, in a press release on Thursday, June 4, announced no curfew will be in place tonight.

The press release said the decision whether to implement a curfew will continue to be evaluated daily.

City Manager Tom Modica said, “The decision to not implement a curfew today was based upon the recent pattern of peaceful actions by protesters, as well as the current situational awareness in Long Beach and throughout the region.”

“We are 100 percent committed to supporting everybody’s Constitutional rights, as well as protecting protesters, businesses, residents, families and our entire community.”

Long Beach to Reopen COVID-19 Testing Sites; Curfew Continues

3 Jun

After closing the city-run COVID-19 testing sites on June 1 and June 2 for the safety of the public and medical professionals, according to a press release of June 2, most sites will reopen Wednesday, June 3.

Mayor Robert Garcia said, “We still have a health crisis in Long Beach and it’s critical that we get back to testing residents.”

The press release also announced the City of Long Beach is expanding the access to COVID-19 testing with a new mobile service for residents who can’t travel, including individuals at personal residences and those at skilled nursing and long-term facilities and sober-living homes.

Test sites to reopen with modified hours are: Long Beach City College – Pacific Coast Campus, 1305 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Cabrillo High School, 2001 Santa Fe Ave., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and, Jordan High School, 6500 Atlantic Ave., 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Jordan Plus, 171 W. Bort St. and St. Mary Medical Center, 1050 Linden St. did not close and remain open. New appointments are required for all testing sites and can be made online at http://www.longbeach.gov/health/diseases-and-condition/information-on/coronavirus/covid-19-testing/ or by calling 562-570-4636.

Testing at Veterans Memorial Stadium remains closed until further notice.

The Rapid Assessment Clinic at LBCC PCC will also reopen June 3, with hours 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, in an email form Mayor Robert Garcia, June 3, the curfew will continue throughout Los Angeles County, for June 3, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.  However, the Mayor acknowledged the previous night was safe.

After a Night of Looting, Long Beach Residents Clean Up

1 Jun

After the peaceful protest across the street of the Long Beach Police Department in the afternoon the day before, followed by looting, Long Beach residents, on Monday, June 1, cleaned up the aftermath.

After looting the night before, Charlie Lee (right) and Adam Rhodes (left) clean, on Monday, June 1, a traffic signal on the southwest corner of Long Beach Boulevard and 4th Street; photo by Barry Saks

Long Beach Mayor Garcia, according to an email the same day from his office, estimated “thousands of residents” cleaned up and repaired the City and said, “We had no loss of life last night, no major injuries of police officers or firefighters, and only one major structure fire.”

On the corner of the Pacific Avenue and 4th Street cleaning up were Callie Black, 26, and her friend Lauren Clinton, who is also 26.

Black said, “We are here because we love this city, because this city is our home…. (W)e support the Black Lives Matter movement and we support this community.  We were out here marching yesterday with our neighbors and it was a beautiful, peaceful protest.  Everyone came together.  We saw no violence, just a shared common goal.”  Black added she thought some of the looters had their own agenda and had heard at the protest some white supremacists who were showing up and do the looting, “trying to make the movement look bad.”

Clinton said she was there cleaning up and viewed it as an extension of the protest.  She characterized herself and her friend Black as “vehemently supporting” BLM.

After the looting the night before, volunteers cleaning up the small business, Luxury Perfumes, 100 4th St., Long Beach, Calif.; photo by Barry Saks

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Amen Jhawar, who had been at the protest earlier, said about 5 p.m., he was walking his dog and witnessed, near 5th Street and the Promenade, looters using crowbars to break into some stores on 5th Street.

The Mayor, in the same email, also announced the City of Long Beach ordered a curfew at 1 p.m. in the business districts and 4 p.m. citywide, which would end in the morning.  

A Thousand People Protest Peacefully Across the Street of the Long Beach Police Department

31 May

About a thousand people, mostly people of color, with their signs, protested peacefully, police killings and particularly the killing of African-American George Floyd earlier in the week, on Sunday, May 31, near Chestnut Avenue and Broadway, across the street from the Long Beach Police Department.

About a thousand people, mostly people of color, protested generally police killings and particularly the killing of George Floyd earlier in the week, on Sunday, May 31, near Chestnut Avenue and Broadway, across the street from the Long Beach Police Department; Photo by Barry Saks

They chanted, “Black Likes Matter” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and “I can’t breathe” and “Arrest the police.”

In a call, someone would say, “Say his Name” and the crowd responded with “George Floyd.”

Protest sign, Sunday,May 31; photo by Barry Saks

To watch a video shot earlier of the protesters chanting, click here, https://youtu.be/AuG4BkottqU.

Fencing surrounded the LBPD headquarters.

Overhead, a helicopter circled the crowd and much lower a drone circled south of Broadway on Chestnut Ave.

Meanwhile, later in the afternoon, in an Emergency Alert, the City of Long Beach declared a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.  Still later, in a Public Safety, the County of Los Angeles declared a curfew from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Protest sign, Sunday, May 31; photo by Barry Saks

Hundreds of Protesters in Long Beach Protest Peacefully the Police Killings

31 May

Hundreds of Protesters, Sunday, May 30, about 3:20 p.m.,were protesting peacefully police killings, particularly of George Floyd on the corners of Chestnut Avenue and Broadway across from the Long Beach Police Department.

Story to follow.

Long Beach to Allow Hair Salons, Barbers and Restaurants for In-Person Dining to Reopen

30 May

The City of Long Beach, according to an email from Mayor Robert Garcia, issued, on Friday, May 30, a new health order allowing hair salons, barbers and restaurants for in-person dining to reopen provided they follow guidelines to protect employees and patrons to control the spread of COVID-19.

The new order for hair salons and barbers to reopen requires: Physical distanceing; Everyone, including clients, must wear cloth face coverings while in the salon or barber shop and clients are encouraged to wear face coverings with ear loops to ensure the face covering does not interfere with the hair service; Magazines, coffee, and other amenities will not be available; Clients are encouraged to use credit cards and contact-less payment systems and if electronic or card payment isn’t possible, customers should come with exact cash payment or check, if available; Stylists may only serve one client at a time; Gathering in waiting areas is prohibited.

The new order doesn’t apply to nail salons or spa services, like massages, facials and waxing.  They’re all still prohibited.

The new order allows restaurants to open at a reduced capacity for in-person dining with these restrictions: Physical distancing must occur; Outdoor seating and curbside pickup are prioritized; Reservations will be encouraged; Customers will be asked to wait for their table in their cars or outside the restaurant to prevent crowds gathering; Diners must wear cloth face coverings when not eating; Servers must wear a face covering and a face shield; Bars will be closed; Indoor and outdoor in-person dining capacity will be limited to 60 percent.

The Mayor explained Long Beach was able to move further toward reopening because; The City “has met all the requirements” and “has broad community testing in place;” It has a “positivity (sic) testing rate of 6.3 percent, which is below the State’s requirement of 8 percent; It “has over 90 contact tracers in place to identify and follow up on confirmed positive cases;” It “has plans in place to address vulnerable populations such as long term (sic) health care facilities” and shelter for the homelessness; Its “hospitals have a surge capacity of over 400, plus 100 more ready to bring on line at the field hospital at Long Beach Arena,” another key indicator the State requires.

Testing for anyone regardless of symptoms

Meanwhile, the day before, also by email, the Mayor announced anyone wishing to be tested for COVID-19, regardless of symptoms, may do so at the Cabrillo High School testing site at 2001 Santa Fe Ave., beginning Saturday, May 30.

The testing site is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., every day.  Appointments are required and may be made online at http://www.longbeach.gov/health/diseases-and-condition/information-on/coronavirus/covid-19-testing/ or by calling 562-570-4636.

Long Beach Extends Emergency Ordinance for Renters Affected by COVID-19

28 May

The Long Beach City Council voted unanimously in favor, on Tuesday, May 19, to amend and to extend the emergency ordinance, halting evictions for residential and some commercial tenants affected.by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Robert Garcia, according to the press release on the extension of the emergency ordinance, said, “We are seeing the unprecedented economic impacts that this pandemic is having on our residential and commercial tenants in Long Beach.”

“The extension of this emergency ordinance provides relief to those… most at risk of eviction and possible homelessness during this challenging time.”

The amendment extends the eviction moratorium and rent deferment an additional 60 days, to July 31, 2020. Protected tenants will have until July 31, 2021, to pay all delayed rent to landlords without incurring late charges and other fees. Tenants are encouraged to establish a payment plan for installments of deferred rent over the repayment period. 

If tenants can’t pay rent between March 4 and July 31, 2020, due to a reduction in income caused by COVID-19, they must notify their landlords that rent will not be paid on time. Tenants are required to provide documentation of substantial income losses caused by job layoffs, out-of-pocket medical expenses or requirements to stay at home due to COVID-19.

Through July 31, 2020, landlords issuing rental nonpayment notifications must include information about the City’s emergency ordinance to ensure that tenants are aware of their rights.

The amendment does not apply to large commercial tenants that are multi-national or publicly traded companies and companies with 500 or more employees, tenants at the Long Beach Airport, tenants in the Harbor or tenants in the Tidelands areas. The City and its commissions will work with these tenants, case-by-case to address the pandemic-related impacts and negotiate appropriate rent deferments or other accommodations.

Additionally, the City Council is exploring assistance for property owners impacted by COVID-19, including foreclosure relief, property tax refunds, and the possibility of a revolving loan fund.

Long Beach Residents Empowered, in an email of Thursday, May 21, said, it was “(s)till unclear if the undocumented community will qualify.” 

Ashley Salazar, Legislative Assistant for the 8th District Councilman Al Austin, by email, said, “Landlords are legally not able to inquire about the immigration status of their tenants, according to state law. Tenants in Long Beach would need to provide documentation of COVID-19 impact to qualify for the Emergency Ordinance for Renters. The documentation required only needs to show that there was a financial impact due to COVID-19.” 

The other eight Councilmembers didn’t respond to a request for comment regarding the undocumented, legal or illegal.

The City Council first adopted an emergency eviction moratorium on March 24, 2020 amid the COVID-19 outbreak.  The original emergency ordinance with the amended language may be found at http://longbeach.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=8561735&GUID=0AADA91C-A190-47ED-9BE2-8218CB5C18A0.

The first version of this story had no response from the Councilmembers. The story was updated to reflect the added quote from Councilman Austin’s office.