I am currently doing battle on Facebook with a group of people who think it is smart to post a video in protest of the current proposal before the City Council to rename the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, the Beverly O’Neill Arts Center. The video and comments suggest that former Mayor O’Neill’s name instead be placed on the Atlantic Farms Homeless shelter.
My comments have ranged from “Stop going after Beverly. She did not ask for the naming,” to “Move on. Find another more important topic to discuss.” Their response? “Former chief of staff and a list of elected officials and self-described civic leaders’ are asking for the renaming. Do you believe it’s unwanted?”
I know it is the current sport to attack people and not policy. That could be because it takes much more effort and time to dissect a public policy than it does a person.
But that is what seems to be happening with the criticism of the proposal before City Council to rename the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, the Beverly O’Neill Arts Center. Instead of focusing on the more important issues such as does the proposal meet city regulations and cost concerns, debaters carry on a discussion that fluctuates between nominating Snoop Dog instead of the former Mayor to suggesting that there is something “malevolent” and wrong for supporters of Beverly to put her name forth.
Where is the more meaningful discussion of this issue? Will the naming meet the Administrative Regulations Number AR8-7 for naming City-owned buildings? Yes, the regulations are clear that: “City-owned land, buildings and facilities may be named in honor of persons who have served the nation, the state of California, and/or the City of Long Beach in an exceptional and distinguished manner; and where such action is warranted by a contribution or service, which is deemed to be of major significance. City-owned land, buildings and facilities will not normally be named after living persons unless the City Council deems it appropriate to take such action on the basis of a significant contribution, monetary or otherwise, which warrants a deviation from this policy guideline.”
Beverly O’Neill has served Long Beach in an “exceptional and distinguished manner.” She taught music at Long Beach City College and went on to become the first woman to serve as President and Superintendent of Long Beach Community College. Through her efforts, the International City Theatre had its start at LBCC. She was the first woman elected Mayor by the voters and the only Mayoral candidate to win re-election with a write-in, winning a third term in office. While Mayor, she served as the President of the National League of Cities.
Will the renaming cost the city? Technically, no. The Performing Arts Center is part of the convention center complex and as such, advertising and promotion expenses are taken from the revenues received for renting out the facilities and the travel and tourism tax placed upon hotels and conventions. It will not come out of the City budget.
Is the former Mayor the “perfect candidate” for renaming the City building? Hell, I dare you to show me one public building named after someone who was flawless. (For example, the Bob Foster Council Chambers?)
Beverly and I were on opposite sides of many issues while I was on the LBCC Board of Trustees and her, as President. And I disagreed with her on many issues when she was Mayor.
I also know Beverly well enough to be certain that she did not ask anyone to put forth her name to be placed on the Performing arts building. But I am glad it was.
Gerrie Schipske is the former Fifth District City Councilwoman.