Pearce Lectures Public On "Equity" And "Inclusion" While Multiple LB Library Supporters Call Proposal To Add LB Tennis Star Billie Jean King's Name Unnecessary And Inappropriate And Urge Retaining "LB Main Library" Name; Council Majority + Mayor Signal Their Support For Renaming
Council votes 7-0 to send it to Council Committee for "Recommendation" before final vote
Council votes 7-0 to send it to Council Committee for "Recommendation" before final vote
|(July 10, 2019, 8:25 a.m.) -- Second district Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce delivered an ideological lecture on "equity" and "inclusion" (salient transcript below) before multiple long time Long Beach library supporters came to the City Council podium to oppose her proposal to add LB tennis star Billie Jean King's name to LB's Main Library as unnecessary and inappropriate.
The president of the non-profit Friends of the Library bluntly called the Pearce-propelled process "railroading" and although several Councilmembers defensively indicated they might consider other names worthy of inclusion on other LB facilities in the future, the Council motion by Pearce, seconded by Andrews, sent only one choice -- "Billie Jean King Main Library" -- for consideration by the Council's "Housing and Neighborhoods" Committee (Austin, Andrews, Supernaw) which will meet and offer a voted recommendation to the full Council.)
After Mayor Garcia offered effusive support for Ms. King, Councilwoman Mungo -- before listening to public testimony -- effectively echoed the Mayor's stance. Councilman Uranga later joined in supporting the renaming after public testimony. The net result showed no Councilmembers opposed and at least six basically supportive Council votes to support the name change, more than sufficient to ultimately enact it when it returns from a Council committee. (Councilman Supernaw described the Council's action as simply sending the recommendation to the Council committee and joined in the action, producing a 7-0 vote. Councilwoman Price was absent for the entire meeting; the 1st dist. seat is currently vacant.)
Just days earlier, Councilwoman Pearce, joined by Vice Mayor Dee Andrews and Councilmembers Al Austin and Rex Richardson, unveiled their agenda item proposing to change the Main Library's name accompanied by 40+ pages of attachments (visible here.)
Council incumbents Pearce, Supernaw, Andrews and Austin all face re-election challengers in March 2020; Pearce faces two challengers, Jeannette Barrera and Robert Fox, the latter an openly gay man who's opposed Pearce on multiple fronts from land use to landlord/tenant issues to the Broadway Corridor. Neither of Pearce's two challengers have (to our knowledge) taken positions on the Main Library renaming or the process Pearce has pursued in advancing it.
[Scroll down for further.]
At the July 9 Council meeting, Mayor Garcia swiftly turned the floor over to Councilwoman Pearce (one of four Council incumbents seeking re-election in March 2020 along with Councilmembers Supernaw, Andrews and Austin.)
Councilwoman Pearce said adding Ms. King's name to the Main Library had received overwhelming support" in a process she described as starting in March and June when she "solicited" [didn't say exactly what] through "social media and our email list which has over 4,000 contacts." Pearce noted that on June 15, she issued a statement (picked up by three media outlets) inviting the public to send their suggested names to our district email. "We received over 1,000 names in support of Billie Jean King, 960 via email and more than we could even count on social media," Councilwoman Pearce said. "Thirty in support of the Main Library. and the remainder were mixed names, none which received more than a dozen submissions." (Letters visible in Pearce's agenda item show letters dating from late May from various Los Angeles sports figures and groups, plus LB's longtime sports-supportive Century Club, supportive of adding Ms. King's name.)
Councilwoman Pearce she that in June, she brought a number of 2nd dist residents together whom she described as having been active in parts of her district to have a conversation about what it means to "have a name on a library, and why would we name a library; and what it means for those that historically have been locked out of systems. And what does it mean for people to have a name on a building they get to ask the question about 'where'd that name come from, and what lessons do I have to learn from them?'"
Councilwoman Peace said LB's Main Library is used by "our future scientists, our future athletes, our poets, our architects, our psychologists, war veterans, yes many of our homeless community members. They're gay, they're transgender, they're queer, they're straight, some are closeted. some are out, but most importantly the majority of people who walk through the doors of the LB library are our residents. And they're diverse. And they have diverse stories. But what all of us share in common is that challenge of trying to overcome a challenge to be better than we were yesterday. And I think that that is what people advocated for when they sent us letters for Billie Jean King. She continued:
Not only is she [Ms. King] Long Beach. She told us her story. She shared her story about being on tennis courts and looking around as a child and saying 'where are all the Black kids? Where are the Latinos? Where are the gay community members? And that she decided as a youngster that she wanted to fight for equity for everybody, to make sure that there was diversity in sports, that there was power for women to be able to be on an equal footing. And so the Main Library being the heart of our city, it's important that it's a place to teach the power of inclusion and equity.
Before taking public testimony, Mayor Garcia said Ms. King is the only person in LB ever to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and played a leading role in passage of Title IX [of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, a federal law that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."] Mayor Garcia said Ms. King was being the public face of the campaign for Title IX which he said "changed in my opinion the direction of young girls in this country. There is [sic] probably very few people that have done more for young women, regardless of whether they're athletes or future librarians or future doctors than Billie Jean King."
Following the Mayor's statement, Councilwoman Stacy Mungo signaled her support for the proposal, which when added to Councilman Uranga's stated support later in the meeting showed a Council majority lined up to ultimately approve the action .
Councilmembers Al Austin and Rex Richardson both cited naming of the new NLB library for then-First Lady Michelle Obama as among the reasons to advance a proposal to name LB's Main Library for LB tennis champion Billie Jean King. Both noted that the Obama naming had generated intiial public opposition but said the end result has been successful.
Then came public testimony.
Multiple speakers in opposition praised Ms. King as a world champion athlete who advanced the role of women in sports, but variously testified that adding her name to LB's Main Library was unnecessary and inappropriate, with several saying the name "Long Beach Main Library" should remain as it is. Among those in opposition:
Multiple speakers came to the Council podium to voice support of the renaming, several of whom were already known because they'd signed letters that Councilwoman Pearce had included in her agendized materials.
No public speakers or Councilmembers mentioned that LB's new Main Library will be over 30% smaller than LB's previous Main Library as a result of actions approved by the City Council (LBREPORT.com coverage here and here.)
Pearce's agendized materials included 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.
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, but then-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.
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 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 and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and the Council approved it 6-0 with Councilwoman Mungo exiting before the vote and returning thereafter. [In her July 9, 2019 Council words signaling support for the Main Library renaming, Councilwoman Mungo said naming the NLB Library for Ms. Obama had worked out well.] .
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.
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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