Councilmembers Pearce, Andrews, Austin And Richardson Propose Naming New Civic Center Library For LB-Local: "Billie Jean King Main Library"; They Present Multiple Supportive Letters/Petitions And Include A Personal Letter From Ms. King Saying It's "Deeply Humbling" And "Honor Would Represent My Life Coming Full Circle"
|(July 3, 2019, 9:35 p.m.) -- Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, joined by Vice Mayor Dee Andrews and Councilmembers Al Austin and Rex Richardson, have agendized an item for the
It includes multiple supportive letters and petitions and a letter dated
...[A]s a child growing up in the Wrigley Heights neighborhood of Long Beach, our family regularly visited the Dana Neighborhood Library, the Bret Harte Neighborhood Library, and Burnett Neighborhood Library. I have always loved reading and was also fond of each of the libraries at Los Cerritos Elementary School, John Evans Hughes Junior High School, and at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, home of the Jack Rabbits.
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Three of the four agendizers (Pearce, Andrews and Austin) are facing re-election challenges in March 2020. In their agendizing memo, all four co-agendizers write:
...Councilwoman Pearce asked the community members to share their naming suggestions via email and social media. Over 1,200 people sent suggestions, but one name surpassed all the rest, Billie Jean King. It's clear from reading the list, Long Beach has many community leaders deserving of recognition in the community.
The Council motion seeks to send the proposal to the Council's Housing and Neighborhoods Committee (for public input and a recommendation back to the Council, with the full Council making the ultimate decision.)
In May 2011, Long Beach's then-Mayoral First Lady Nancy Foster volunteered that she favored naming LB's 3rd/Promenade Plaza area for former LB resident Billie Jean King. She did so in response to a proposal made by then-Councilman Robert Garcia, joined by then-Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal, to name an area along Third St. near the Promenade "Harvey Milk Park" to honor the slain San Francisco Supervisor who was CA's first openly elected gay official. But SF Supervisor Milk had no visible connections to Long Beach, and Ms. Foster wrote on Councilman Garcia's Facebook page (May 14, 2011):
Closer to home...Billy Jean King was born in Long Beach, realized her love of tennis, trained in Long Beach. Besides being an excellent athlete she has made civil contributions. With some research I found that ... President Obama awarded Billy Jean with the Medal of Freedom in 2009 along with Harvey Milk. A champion for social change and equality, she has continued to help the underserved. She is a director of the Elton John AIDS Foundation (he wrote "Philadelphia Freedom" for her,) on the Board of Trustees of the Women's Sports Foundation. Although King says coming out publicly as a lesbian was her "longest, hardest journey," she has become an international leader in seeking recognition and equal rights for gays and lesbians.
Ms. Foster's views were independently shared by others; Ms. King is widely respected locally with a Long Beach tennis center already named for her in Recreation Park. But Councilman Garcia aimed for the permanent verbal prize that he had "created the first park in America named for Harvey Milk" and Mrs. Foster diplomatically let her suggestion of Billie Jean King disappear. (Most reporters attending the opening didn't mention that the grassless concrete area next to a parking structure was more accurately a plaza and not a park.)
Roughly a half decade later, Vice-Mayor Rex Richardson proposed naming LB's new North Long Beach library the "Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library," saying the idea originated with Jordan High students. Others preferred names with LB connections including Judge Marcus Tucker (first African American Municipal Court judge, later rose to Superior Court), former Redevelopment Agency chair Bill Baker (both deceased) and retired Long Beach Librarian Eleanore Schmidt (very much alive) who led and championed LB's Public Libraries for years. But a number of area elected officials (all Democrats) submitted letters supporting naming the library for Michelle Obama: Congressmembers Alan Lowenthal and Janich Hahn, Assemblymembers Patrick O'Donnell, Mike Gipson, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and the Council approved it 6-0 (with Councilwoman Mungo exiting before the vote and returning thereafter.) .
The Council directed city management to "work with the White House to invite the First Lady to the City of Long Beach for a naming dedication ceremony" but at the September 10, 2016 grand opening (attending by over a thousand people), Ms. Obama wasn't visible. LBREPORT.com became curious about her absence when no officials at the event read any statement or response on her behalf at the event.
Within a few hours, LBREPORT.com learned that KESQ-TV, Palm Springs was reporting that First Lady Obama was on that day in the Coachella Valley, barely 120 miles from Long Beach and only minutes away via the First Lady's White House jet which was visible at a Palm Springs area airport.
Using the Public Records Act, LBREPORT.com subsequently accessed a letter dated March 21, 2016 on the letterhead of Mayor Garcia, co-signed by then-Councilman (after July 15 Vice Mayor) Richardson, inviting Ms. Obama to "a dedication ceremony to the Long Beach Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library in north Long Beach." It left the date open and indicated that Long Beach [city representatives] "will be in Washington, D.C. this April and would like the opportunity to meet with your staff to discuss the event, and explore a timeframe during the fall that would work with your schedule." Their invitation continued in pertinent part:
After hearing countless testimony, especially testimony from children who have shared their admiration of you and the President, the Long Beach City Council voted to name the new library in north Long Beach after you on December 22, 2015. Our purpose is to inspire a new generation of leaders to read, learn and grow into the positive potential that we know is in each one of our young people.
By late July 2016, the City was reduced to sending a White House staffer (a "Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs") a letter listing a specific date/time for the ceremony (Sept. 10, 10:00 a.m.).and inviting the staffer or "a representative from the White House" to attend.
It didn't happen. And in contrast to Ms. King -- who sent LB's Mayor and Council a gracious personally signed letter thanking them for considering naming the City's new Main Library in her honor -- the City didn't provide any records indicating that Ms. Obama (who had a sizable taxpayer paid White House staff to handle such matters) sent an appreciative letter or the like in response to the City naming a library for her.
One final naming incident merits momentary attention. In January 2010, then 1st dist. Councilman Garcia held a press event to announcing renaming a block of Oregon Ave. at Anaheim St. as "West Coast Choppers Place" referencing a business operated by the then-husband of actress Sandra Bullock.
LBReport.com video screen save
LBReport.com video screen save
Mr. James and Ms. Bullock later split up; the business closed; and the street name was quietly restored to Oregon Ave.
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