Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia faces recall effort

Mayor Robert Garcia Recall

In December 2018, Mayor Robert Garcia snubbed a World AIDS Day event in Long Beach to appear in the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade. Garcia’s absence at the event was another example of him ignoring the city’s HIV problem and how it has impacted the gay community. Photo: Twitter.

LONG BEACH — Robert Garcia, the city’s first mayor to identify as gay, could become the first mayor in Long Beach history to be recalled by voters.

Franklin Sims, the leader of the group LB Strong, has initiated a campaign to recall Garcia from office.

LB Strong’s petition says that Garcia has advanced his political career at the expense of Long Beach’s most vulnerable residents and that “in exchange for substantial contributions from a powerful police lobby, Garcia has repeatedly failed to discipline police brutality.”

The petition also says that “And even when unarmed black and brown locals were murdered by officers, Garcia routinely excused police misconduct and brazenly forced local taxpayers to cover multi-million-dollar settlements.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, City Council ignore HIV, AIDS

$30 million in police lawsuits

In the past five years, the city has paid more $30 million on lawsuits related to officer-involved shootings, police use of force, and in-custody deaths, according to data from the city attorney’s office.

  • This total includes payouts on verdicts and settlements, as well as attorney’s fees awarded to plaintiffs.
  • This total does not include staff salaries and the cost of outside counsel or experts hired by the city.
  • A majority of this total was paid between Jan. 1, 2016 and Aug. 1, 2019.
  • The cost of police-related litigation was less than $500,000 in 2014 and 2015, but then skyrocketed to more than $9 million in 2016.
  • Since then, taxpayers have been stuck paying millions of dollars each year.

Long Beach police’s dark history of discriminating against gay men

Signatures needed

The Long Beach City Clerk approved the petition last week, which allows LB Strong to start collecting signatures. They must gather 26,503 signatures, equal to 10 percent of total registered voters, and submit them to the city clerk by December 29 at 4:30 p.m.

Sims has said they will aim for 30,000 signatures.

If the signatures are verified, the recall effort will be placed on a city ballot in the November 2021 election, said Allison Bunma, the assistant city clerk.

First recalled mayor?

If voters approve the petition, Garcia will be the first mayor in the city’s history to be recalled. In 1932, a mayoral recall was placed on the ballot, but it failed to pass, according to the city clerk’s office.

Mayor responds

In response to the petition, Garcia released a statement and tried to take credit for numerous issues in the city:

  • “The largest infrastructure program in a generation”
  • “4,000 new affordable and working-class homes across the city”
  • “Made the Port of Long Beach into a leading sustainable economic driver”
  • “Reduced officer-involved shootings and use of force”
  • “Received a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign for LGBTQ inclusion”

Collecting signatures

After the city clerk approved LB Strong’s petition, Sims released a statement that said in part, “today feels like the beginning of hope…”

In the petition, LB Strong also said that Garcia approves downtown gentrification and ignores housing inequalities.

Sims has to collect signatures during COVID-19, which makes door-to-door canvassing a challenge. As a result, Sims will hold physically distanced rallies in open spaces such as parks and organize petition stations in each city council district. Details will be posted on their MoveOurCity website.

Delivering petitions

Also, LB Strong has developed an “Uber Eats petition,” meaning if someone wants a petition, a LB Strong volunteer will deliver it to their door. They will also pick up the petition. Instructions on how to receive a petition are listed on the website.

To have their petition approved by the city clerk, LB Strong gathered the necessary number of qualified signatures to file a notice-of-intent-to-recall petition, served the mayor, and advertised it in the print edition of a local newspaper, as required by state law.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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