They say all politics are local, and it couldn’t be more true here. I find time and time again that most residents here don’t actually understand how our local government works (jokes on you, it doesn’t!, zing).
Long Beach has a five seat City Council, that includes a City Council President, a City Council Vice President, and then three additional members. An election is held every odd-numbered year, and this is where it gets complicated. Three candidates are up per cycle. The two candidates with the most votes get four year terms, the third place candidate gets a two-year term (read more in the Municipal Code)
Then, we have a City Manager, who is an unelected de facto mayor of the City (Read section 11 of the Municipal Code). He’s appointed by a majority vote of the council. He can unilaterally appoint all department heads – and better, even decide whether certain positions should exist, like a Commissioner of Public Safety. He decides which cops and city employees should get promotions. Further, he gets to decide things like if the police should have a commissioner, a position that technically falls on the City Manager as per the code. Once he decides there should be one, he just has to put up the nominee for a majority vote. (article 4) He also gets to decide what issues will even be presented to the City Council or if he’d prefer to handle a topic without involving them.
So, the obnoxious election signs are flooding across town and you want to know what’s going on. “Who should I vote for?” Ha. I’m not going to touch that one. But I will tell you who is up on the block .
The only real political advice I will say is that Republican and Democrat mean absolutely nothing in Long Beach. Several councilmen have changed their party affiliation as they’ve seen fit. Some councilmen while in their positions have acted like members of the opposite party and have consistently remained inconsistent. And further, small-town politics just don’t lend themselves to national party identification with a R or a D next to one’s names. What do I mean? Vote for the people you think make sense and aren’t completely lying to you. Party affiliation in this city is just a formality and has really nothing to do with a candidate’s tax policy, social stances, business perspective, or community issues.
So, there are three seats up for grabs and six people running. Here they are:
The Elephants in the Room
Thomas Solfield Junior – Current City Council President
Solfield is finishing his second four-year term. He’s been City Council President since 2008 and accused of conflicts of interest because his father is the appointed police commissioner, Thomas Sofield Senior.
Mona Goodman – Current City Council Vice President
Goodman is also a two term incumbent. She espouses anti-tax views and a pro-environment agenda. In an interview with the Patch she said she wanted to “cease the overdevelopment of the city.” I’m not entirely clear what overdevelopment that refers to because since 2008, there’s been the Allegria, the Aqua, and one rental complex across from the defunct SUPERBLOCK (unless I’m wrong).
In looking through City Council Meeting notes and coverage that’s come out of them, she keeps a low profile and doesn’t have any big asterisks next to her name one way or the other. There’s a silly picture of her cleaning up her place after Irene via CBS News.
Marvin Weiss – The New Guy, not really
Weiss was defeated in the 2009 election and is back for round II. He traces his LB routes back to 1918, but more recently has been a lifeguard and makes a living as a health care equipment salesman. According to a Newsday profile on him from the 2009 cycle, he’s also a board member of Surfer’s Way which helps get autistic kids surfing – and supports Autism research, kudos to that.
Len Torres – Current City Council Member
Torres was the first Hispanic elected to the Council in 2009 and has said he’s not a “happy camper” with the way politics have currently been run. Torres has maintained strong support among the North Long Beach community.
Fran Adelson – Businesswoman with an Agenda
Adelson completed ten years on the Library Board of Trustees before losing in the 2009 election by 12 votes – showing just how much individual votes matter. She’s been a real estate broker in Long Beach for 24 years and her entire family has been involved in the community over the years – without ever having a realitve work directly for the City. Fun fact, her husband runs the Jazz Fest. She claimed there’s a “pervasive” “culture of bullying” in the City Council and throughout City Hall. Sounds like High School all over again.
Scott Mandel – The Other New Guy
Mandel claims not to be a politician, with this being his first run for any elected office. A commercial litigation lawyer by trade, he’s looking to jump into the fun that is the boardwalk empire of Long Beach. He’s been working with a wide range of groups in Long Beach, like the Latino Civic Association.
Note: Councilmen John McLaughlin (R) and Michael Fagen (D) are not up for reelection
Fun bit of political flack. Democrats like to complain that the current Republican administration raised spending by 25%, while Republicans like to remind Democrats that their last time in the majority they tried to raise taxes by 25%. Are you seeing a pattern?
So there are your candidates. Do your googling and decide who you want to be in control of bringing international events to the city, appointing the City Manger, deciding your taxes, appointing various department heads, and deciding your beach rules.
Much of the background for this came from several LB Patch articles, thanks Joe/Jeff