During October 4th’s City Council Meeting Good and Welfare session things got nasty as City Council President Thomas Sofield Junior verbally berated a resident for sitting near his political opponents. And that’s just the start of the fireworks that came out of the street fight which was the October 4th City Council meeting.
Ah, transparency. One intrepid resident has posted the audio from the meeting for all to hear. Of course, most towns would publicly publish this themselves, or air them on Cablevision, but not in Long Beach, where public info somehow is never released.
This resident captured some truly incredible exchanges. I’ve heard tales of the bickering and fighting that occur during these sorts of meetings. I’ve heard that Councilmembers often throw insults at one another. But, I didn’t think I would hear the City Council President ever attacking a good-intentioned resident for asking questions or sitting near people he disagrees with.
Well, in this City Council meeting, you get it all, and I warn you, watching (well, listening to) the sausage get made is not pretty.
Sure, more than 50% of the questions are about clogged drains, parking, surfing regulations, and various other gripes – the sort of topics you’d expect in a council meeting. And then it really gets started off with what seemed to escalate almost to blows between Councilmen Torres and McLaughlin. 44 minutes into the session, a questioner asked about supposed “secret meetings” that took place, which was a notion quickly dismissed by the City Council President.
After the resident was repeatedly interrupted, Mr. Torres said, “let the man speak.”
After an inaudible comment, Torres snaps at Councilman McLaughlin and says,”don’t talk to me like.”
Councilman McLaughlin: “I’ll talk to you anyway I want”
Councilman Torres: “I don’t like that, he’s out of order”
And then an inaudible exchange between the council members.
And here was the first point where a theme develops, City Council President Sofield Junior tells the resident that he’s getting his information from “bad sources.”
The next firestorm started at an hour and ten minutes into the prize fight, with a resident saying to the City Manger, “You’ve told outright lies.”
She then goes on to list a number of points where City Manger Theofan has reportedly “lied” about being in talks with the head of Quiksilver. She then cites news reports quoting the CEO and marketing director of Quiksilver who explicitly say they are not in talks.
The City Council President interrupts and says “who are you talking with at Quiksilver.” He’s forced to retreat when she refers not to unnamed nefarious sources, but the newspaper.
Next, she attacked claims of profits from Quiksilver in what she called “this campaign literature” she received in the mail. She’s talking about the Long Beach City Beat, a bulletin that we too have thought looked more like a pseudo-campaign flyer and highlighted here.
In what might be one of my favorite resident quotes from the night, she proclaims, “I did the math.” She crunched the sales tax numbers based off of information she received from Corporate Council Corey Klein. She worked out that if the Quiksilver tent made $1,000,000 in sales, the City would see only $1,387.50 in tax revenue.
She sartastically finished, “I don’t think that’s going to help you keep the property taxes down”
As the City Manager and City Council President attempted to debunk her math, you can hear City Councilman McLaughlin say: “Tom, let’s go I want to get out of here”
And now, the main event
At around 1:24 into the session, a resident comes to the mic and mirrors a topic many others have brought up – Freedom of Information requests. We’ve been told here that we have to use these as well a number of times by the City – for public information.
The resident repeatedly challenges the City Manager and City Council President, wanting to know where her info on the Quiksilver Pro is, and when she’d receive it, because it had already been a month since she was promised the info.
She then quotes from the Herald, where Councilman Torres talks about how he himself has had to file FOIL requests of the very city government that he’s been elected to help run!
At this point, Councilman Torres came to say of the questioner, “You’re absolutely right” and that since August 16, Torres has been trying to get these documents. After explaining the state of the situation, and City Manger Theofan’s undelivered on promises, he finished by saying, “I’m still waiting too”
This resident continued by asking, “if Mr. Torres can’t get them, how can I get them.” Laughter and applause broke out through the room.
And then at 1:27 it gets personal and nasty.
The resident continues by saying “I have faith in this system, maybe that’s naive, but I hear such trash about this administration.” She goes on to mention the gossip and innuendo that is well documented in this town about the hate-fests that go on between the City Council members publicly.
At this point, the City Council President Thomas Sofield Junior starts talking under his breath and all that’s audible is: “pshh… never mind”
Resident: “No, please go ahead, what was that?”
Through a lot of cross talk, this is basically what comes through:
Mr. Sofield Junior: “You’re sitting with the group of people over there who are anti this administration”
Mr. Sofield Junior: “So i think that would maybe taint your information”
It turns into a bizarre discussion about who is sitting with who and whose crew is whose.
The resident declared: “I’m a big girl and I’m sitting here alone”
Sofield Junior: “My point is you’re getting your information from people who are running against us”
Resident: “You don’t have to tell me who I’m getting my information from”
Councilman Fagen stepped in to to say, “The fact of the matter is that Mr. Torres has not been provided with the information, nor was I. I asked Mr. Theofan on three separate occasions for information about Quiksilver and he never responded to that. That’s a simple question.”
I for one sure want to get a look at these promised Quiksilver documents. If you’re one of the select few that were promised to receive these documents this week, please share. They are public documents and should be posted online.
As Mr. Fagen and Mr. Theofan went back and forth, and in referring to what is clearly a pattern of needing to use legal demands to receive public information, Councilman Fagen said it was, “an intrinsic problem with that… this is public government.”
In a snarky snap, City Manager Theofan retorted: “Thank you for the lecture Mr Fagen”
After yet another back and forth on the Council with the City Manger, this resident decided to still maintain a civil discourse with the City Council President, imploring him to deliver on the promised transparency. She finished by saying “I’m pleading with you…”
Fran Adelson, resident and currently running for City Council was the next questioner and you could hear the frustration and anger at what just transpired in her voice.
She admonished the City Counil President saying, “Tommy, that was a cheap shot that was really uncalled for.”
Mr. Sofield Junior initially claimed ignorance, not knowing what was the supposed “cheap shot” but then retorted “that wasn’t a cheap shot, that was pointing out a fact.”
Adelson went on to talk about the need for a recycling program in the City and the animal shelter, and the session soon wrapped. I”m surprised there wasn’t a fight in the parking lot once the session ended.
And this is how your elected City Council operates. Members bickering with one another. Obvious hatred between the sitting members. Requests for public information repeatedly being ignored. Residents and City Councilmen alike being required to use legal demands to get even basic information. The City Council President repeatedly harping on this notion of secret “sources” and on these “sources” feeding tainted information to residents, and attacking a questioner for her choice of seating.
I thank Long Beach Matters to You for posting this audio, and think this may really help pull back the curtains on what’s going on in this City. Anything jump out at you during this session that I didn’t mention?