Opinion / Amnesia File

Revisiting Robert Garcia's Record As Councilman And Mayor on Redistricting; Will Cambodia-Town Votes On DDD Tilt The Outcome On His Desired Term Limit-Changing BBB? is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(October 28, 2018. 4:35 p.m.) -- For years, LB politicians shrugged the city's Cambodian-American community, weakening its influence with gerrymandered City Council district lines while attending New Years parades and offering symbolic Khmer language neighborhood signs..

Among those who voted for the gerrymandered Council district lines as part of the 2011 redistricting was then-Councilman Robert Garcia.

On July 5, 2011, Councilman Garcia voted with a Council majority (7-2) -- with Councilmembers Rae Gabelich and Gerrie Schipske dissenting -- to support redistricting maps that left LB's Cambodian community unjustly split between four Council districts.

[As a separate egregious action, Garcia's vote also approved maps that cut roughly half a block -- where declared 8th dist. Council candidate Mike Kowal lived -- out of the 8th Council district. It effectively derailed Mr. Kowal's announced candidacy in the upcoming 2012 8th dist. election and Al Austin went on to succeeded term-limited Rae Gabelich.]

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When Garcia found it useful in running for Mayor (2014), he mentioned at an event attended by LB's Cambodian community that he'd like to see a Council district for LB's Cambodian community. However once in the Mayor's chair, he didn't pursue this from mid-2014 through the first half of 2018 (including a potential redistricting in 2016) until after he was safely re-elected to a second term in April 2018 and wanted something else: a ballot measure to let himself and his Council allies seek third terms without having to wage a write-in election.

Garcia bundled a term limits change benefiting him and his political allies with some attractive-sounding measures that included a proposed Redistricting Commission. Prominent members of LB's Cambodian-American community grasped that the Garcia-proposed text continued to let LB politicians gerrymander district lines. To their credit, a number of prominent LB Cambodian community figures publicly and plainly opposed what Garcia proposed.

Stung by the public criticism, Mayor Garcia invited members of the Cambodian community and their attorney Mark Coleman to, re-write the redistricting measure text. It came at exactly the right moment, because for months, Cambodian community figures Laura Som and Charles Song had independently been working attorney Coleman and Profesor Alex Norman DSW to show the feasibility of redrawing Council district lines to include at least half of LB's Central LB Cambodian community in one Council district. By early 2018, they'd created a petition and gathered signatures advocating this.

At an August 4 public meeting, Prof. Norman volunteered that 3,000 people had signed the petition. 3,000 is an attention-getting number. Although it's unclear what percentage of those 3,000 petition-signatures are citizens eligible to vote, and if they're eligible to vote what percentage are registered to vote, and if they're registered to vote what percentage will vote, it IS fairly clear that those who signed the petition would be inclined to vote a ballot measure (like DDD) that offers redistricting changes.

If that cohesive base also votes for the BBB Mayor-sought term limits change, it could produce a sizble numerical boost for the term-limit outcome that Mayor Garcia and his Council allies want. A number of Long Beach elections have been decided on slim numerical margins. The possibility of several hundred, or perhaps over a thousand or more, additional votes for BBB, could easily help swing an otherwise close election.

Measure BBB has generated an intense level of political resistance. It caused a number of experienced but previously disunited LB community activists to unit and form a money-raising political action committee focused on defeating BBB. Thus far, the Reform Coalition PAC has raised over $20,000, an unprecedented grassroots sum, and has used it to deploy yard signs and send a mailer bluntly declaring: "City Hall is Lying To You About Term Limits." Retired Councilmembers Gabelich and Schipske, who refused to join in approving the 2011 gerrymandered maps supported by then-Councilman Garcia, also oppose BBB.

Over the past few weeks, three LB Councilmembers -- including 4th dist. Councilman Daryl Supernaw whose district includes part of Cambodia Town -- who voted to put the Garcia-sought package of measures on the ballot have declined to say publicly that they support Measure BBB. One of the three, Councilwoman Suzie Price, has said publicly that she will vote against BBB. So has former 4th dist. Councilman (now Assemblyman) Patrick O'Donnell. The LB Business Journal has editorially opposed BBB. The LB Area Chamber of Commerce has said it is "neutral" on BBB (while supporting the others.)

On October 18, a new political committee surfaced without publicly visible links to Garcia, seeking to save BBB by linking it to DDD and portraying both measures as civil rights/voting rights issues. That effort, backed by $10,000 from an L.A.-based labor union, is supported by 9th dist. Councilman Rex Richardson, former 6th dist. Councilwoman Doris Topsy-Elvord and former LBCC Trustee Irma Archuletta.

So...will LB's Cambodian-American community's likely support for Measure DDD (redistricting changes) translate into automatic support Mayor Garcia's Measure BBB term limits strategy? Or will the community show a level of political sophistication with expected "yes" votes on DDD but with less support BBB?

The entire City will see the result when precinct votes are tallied after 8:00 p.m. on Nov. 6.

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