Branding an umbrella for civil activism: A look back on the Long Beach Reform Coalition, future campaigns

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Photo by Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune
A new “Long Beach” sign at the Civic Center in downtown Long Beach.

For the past year following its inception, the Long Beach Reform Coalition (LBRC) has become an umbrella organization for grass-roots activism, according to Ian Patton, executive director for the LBRC.

During an interview with the Signal Tribune on Sept. 6, Patton looked back on the LBRC and where future campaigns will take the organization.

From his point of view, the LBRC has allowed multiple activist groups to “paddle in the same direction” as opposed to most groups previously staying in their “own lane.”

The organization first began to make noise on the Long Beach political stage during its “Vote ‘No’ on Measure BBB” campaign last year.

The measure, presented during the November 2018 elections, asked voters to approve an amendment to the city charter that would extend and fixate council and mayoral positions to three terms and alter a supposed loophole concerning the write-in candidate process.

“We quickly consolidated around the idea that the first project for the coalition, and the pact, would be putting on a ‘No on Measure BBB campaign,’” Patton said.

It was during a meeting in August of 2018 in the home of former Long Beach City Councilmember Rae Gabelich that Patton and Corliss Lee, founder of a local activist group called Eastside Voice, came together to create the LBRC– all the while centered on the “No on BBB” campaign.

“This is just after a whole bunch of activists had gone to city hall to oppose the council putting on the ballot charter amendments,” Patton said. “We got together after that to begin writing the submission for the sample ballot arguments against Measure BBB and the rebuttal.”

From that meeting to election night, the LBRC campaigned against the council’s proposed charter amendments. Social media posts sparked debates and more activist groups began aligning with the LBRC. Among those groups were Citizens About Responsible Planning (CARP), Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) Eastside Voice and People of Long Beach.

Following the election, voters approved Measure BBB with over 50% of the vote, but the LBRC had gathered much attention during its opposing campaign.

“We kind of established, in a sense, a brand that there was a central coordinating coalition for all the activists in the city who are interested in government reform and transparency,” Patton said.

Gabelich spoke with the Signal Tribune on Tuesday to share what the LBRC has been working on in the recent months.

One topic she mentioned was community outreach the LBRC had conducted to oppose the controversial 12% water-rate increase that the Long Beach Water Commission passed on June 13, which is slated to go into effect on Oct. 1.

Gabelich said that over 1,400 people responded with letters of complaint toward the increase following a water commission hearing that took place last month.

“The fact that we got that many people– it’s a way to grow awareness across the city about what is happening in our government,” she said.

It’s keeping the community informed that helps drive the LBRC, according to Gabelich. She said the coalition acts as another source of information focusing on various issues that other local activist groups are arguing against. She explained that, for her, the LBRC helps inform 1st council district residents about an 8th council district issue.

Gabelich said the LBRC will continue to grow over the years and is always looking to work with other grass-roots activists groups– no matter the size.

“Other organizations are encouraged and welcome to join our efforts,” she said.

Now, the LBRC is turning its attention on the upcoming March elections.

Patton said the organization’s next mission focuses on campaigning for two city council candidates, who are also LBRC board members, running in the election next year. Patton declined to release further details as of press time because the organization has not officially announced the specifics of the upcoming campaign.

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