Business Unfriendly City

By: 
Merry Colvin

"We give a carrot to every donkey – never mind that it's on a string." This seems to be the philosophy of our current City of Long Beach administration.

As I sit here all alone in my store [Merry's] on Halloween weekend, when in past years I have been swamped with Halloween shoppers, I can feel my blood boil. Right outside my door is an open trench with dirt piled, no sidewalks, traffic lane closed, with no parking signs and orange cones as far as the eye can see – all part of the Broadway "beautification project" – with no thought to us Broadway small business owners trying to survive.

We were never so much as alerted to the schedule of the upcoming street overhaul until it was, conveniently, "too late" to alter its schedule. Once we finally found out about the project, despite many attempts to contact Mayor Robert Garcia, our City Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, Public Works, and City Manager Pat West, pleading the case to postpone Phase 3 of the construction until after the holiday shopping season (October to January) – when we do 75% of our business for the year, allowing us to survive the slow months to come – we were never included in the decisions that would so drastically affect our futures.

Our calls to the city went, for the most part, unanswered. (Did you know that the mayor does not accept phone calls?) Requests for face-to-face meetings between we who are most affected and city officials were denied, except for one instance when I was called by a member of Jeannine Pearce's staff, who gave us a day, time and place for a meeting with her. We business owners arrived and waited for an hour and a half after the scheduled time for Ms. Pearce to arrive. She never showed. No phone call, no apology, no rescheduled meeting.

City officials now feel that they have made a huge accommodation by postponing the paving of Broadway and construction on the south side of the street until January. Really? All this does is make the whole project longer. If they can postpone one side of the street, why couldn't they have postponed the entire project until January, as we had been pleading?

Why all of this? What kind of "business-friendly city" schedules construction in front of retailers and restaurants during the critical holiday season? Are we small businesses disposable to them, or perhaps even viewed as undesirable? Is this part of a greater gentrification plan so the city can lure more big business and corporations with tax breaks and taxpayer-funded incentives?

I am disappointed and saddened by the response, or lack thereof, to the plight of us small business owners here in the "business-friendly city". We have been treated with disdain, as if we are the enemy. It will sadden me even more if, after twelve years of owning and operating my own small business in Long Beach, I have to close my shop because of the pompous culture of self-serving greed that pervades our city government.

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