One way or another, residents in Long Beach’s Second District will have a new councilmember representing them later this year.
Councilmember Jeannine Pearce, who currently represents the district that stretches from the waterfront to 11th Street and from the Port of Long Beach to Redondo Avenue, is not running for reelection in the Nov. 3 race for her seat.
Instead, voters will choose between the top two finishers from the March 3 primary, retired police officer Cindy Allen and small business owner Robert Fox. Whoever is elected will be sworn into office Dec. 15.
The two candidates have taken different approaches to their campaigns.
Allen has won the endorsements of dozens of local officials and organizations, including Mayor Robert Garcia, state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and the Long Beach Police Officers Association, among others.
Fox, meanwhile, has pitched himself as an outsider focused more on criticizing the local political establishment than on trying to win their support.
“I’m the reform candidate,” he said in an interview. “That’s all there is to it.”
As far as the issues go, Allen said in an interview that the biggest problems the Second District currently face include coronavirus recovery, police reform and housing. She said health care access would be her first priority if elected.
“People have to feel safe,” she said. “People have to feel safe to get back to work. People have to feel safe to open their businesses, and we have to make sure that people have access to health care and that we’re leading with science.”
Allen said she would push for increased access to coronavirus testing and more investment in contact tracing.
On the economic side, she said it will be important for Long Beach to cut whatever red tape it can to help businesses reopen safely.
“We need to really listen to the entrepreneur community out there,” she said. “Everyone wants to be able to open and get people back to work safely.”
And on police reform, Allen said the Long Beach Police Department needs to be more transparent and accountable to the community it serves. One way to achieve that, she said, would be to implement an “early warning system” that would track complaints against officers and flag individuals who may need intervention based on their behavior.
Allen also said the city’s Citizen Police Complaint Commission should have more oversight of the department, including by being involved in investigations of officers from the outset of those probes.
She added that she supports narrowing the scope of police officers’ duties to focus less on things like homelessness and mental health, which Allen said should be the purview of agencies like the Health Department.
Fox, meanwhile, said parking and housing are two of the biggest issues District 2 faces. He said he would push to create an office of parking management to better coordinate parking throughout the city.
“I am not willing to buy into this notion that we’re all giving up cars tomorrow,” he said. “There’s no infrastructure in place that can replace the car. If there were, I’d be all over it. But unfortunately, we’re not Barcelona.”
On housing, Fox said he would rethink Long Beach’s approach to affordable housing. He said he would prioritize the construction of more low-income housing and find solutions, like tiny homes and shipping container homes, that would be cheaper to build so the city’s money could stretch further.
Fox also said he believes Long Beach should certify more beds for people who are homeless and expand the hours of service for the Multi-Service Center, the city-run homeless services facility, so that it’s open seven days a week.
“How often do we see homeless people at (Rotary) Centennial Park and there’s nothing we can do because it’s Saturday?” he said.
But Fox’s bigger campaign message is that he believes Long Beach is being mismanaged. With a closer eye on its limited finances and more input from community members, he said, the city could do more to address the problems that affect the everyday lives of its residents.
“This is what a reform candidate looks for, is: How do we assist the city?” he said. “And we don’t have to beat anybody up. We just have to say, ‘How can you do a better job?’ My vision of it is to let the citizens help out.”
But the candidates’ differing perspectives on how they would approach the job isn’t the only issue that has come up during the campaign.
Allen has faced accusations that she does not live in Long Beach and that while she has claimed to sell her former business, ETA Advertising, to avoid potential conflicts of interest, she hasn’t actually done so. (Allen owns property in both Fountain Valley and Long Beach but has long been registered to vote in Long Beach; city officials have confirmed she is a qualified to run. Records filed with the California Secretary of State in late July show that Ivana Cummins is now the head of ETA Advertising.)
Allen said the accusation about her residency is “absolutely ridiculous” and “absolutely not true.”
“It’s just something that Mr. Fox keeps on bringing up,” she said, “because he knows he doesn’t have a platform to run on.”
Regarding ETA Advertising, Allen said she sold the business to Cummins, “and I wish her all the best toward that.”