Has Mayor Garcia Met His Match?

By: 
Stephen Downing

A new reform movement was born in Long Beach last Sunday. The organizers announced themselves as the Long Beach Reform Coalition (LBRC). Most of the players are not new. Many with the contributing grassroots organizations have been around for years – but one of them stepped up just a few short months ago. His name is Carlos Ovalle, a very interesting guy who has become a sharp thorn in the side of his honor, Mayor Robert Garcia.

We’ll get to Carlos in a moment.

The reform movement is different this time around. The diversity of people who came together in the past to form small neighborhood organizations aimed at keeping an eye on City Hall have recognized that unification can establish a substantial war chest, a strong command structure, and a well-armed beachhead that can fend off the big money of narrow-focused special interest power brokers who currently – and successfully – hustle and fund decision making at City Hall.

According to the press release the LBRC PAC unified leaders have served as “City Hall watchdogs, defenders of neighborhoods, and champions of transparency and good government.”

All of that puts Carlos Ovalle in good company.

The LBRC said that their mission is to “promote and support public policies, laws and candidates toward the goal of a transparent, accountable and inclusive government.”

What got them started?

As usual, they were individually and collectively ignored once again by City Hall. But, this time it was their constitution – the City Charter – that was attacked.

They saw the most egregious of four high sounding charter change measures sent by the council to the ballot box (at a mind bending $600,000 plus) to be a self-serving, dishonestly manipulative change to extend term limits.

They saw that our mayor and his flock of supporting council cronies did not listen when the Long Beach electorate told them in a loud, clear ballot box voice on two separate occasions over the past two decades that two terms are enough. That the people believe a fresh infusion of new blood every eight years is a good thing. That a ballot write-in campaign after two terms is the best way for those politicos who are really beloved by the people to get re-elected. But, still they squandered over $600,000 of taxpayer funds to try again.

So, the birth of the LBRC PAC is the result of our elected representatives’ collective failure to listen.

The reform movement brought eight Long Beach organizations together. The press release listed them in alphabetical order:

  • Citizens About Responsible Planning (CARP)
  • Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO)
  • Eastside Voice
  • Los Altos Center Adjacent Neighborhoods (LACAN)
  • LBHUSH2
  • Long Beach Neighborhoods First
  • Long Beach Taxpayers Association
  • People of Long Beach.

The last one on the list – People of Long Beach – is an organization that began to blip on the radar just a few months ago. Their organizer and executive director is the new thorn in Garcia’s side, Carlos Ovalle, 60.

Carlos has a terrific wit. After the LBRC PAC was announced he wrote an email to his followers telling them that they could find their organization at the bottom of the list. “Such is the luck of alphabetical order,” he wrote. “Perhaps we should have been the Advocates of Long Beach. Something tells me some politicians would suggest a different word that begins with A and ends in S.”

Ovalle then sobered and wrote, “But, it’s good to be at the bottom, just like the foundation of any good building.

Carlos knows about good foundations and good buildings. He’s an accomplished architect who has designed and built multi-family housing, affordable housing, libraries and shelters and sports arenas. He said of his ethos, “Before we build a building I build a relationship.”

We were curious as to just what it was that put him into high-gear activist mode, so we gave him a call.

Carlos first told us he wasn’t into partisan politics and the only thing he’d ever been involved in with the city was trying to deal with a problem oil property near his neighborhood. After a series of back and forth communications on the issue he came to realize that his council representative lied to him in order to keep matters to his own “political advantage.”

That gave Carlos his first taste of the quality of integrity coming out of City Hall.

So, when he first read about the mayor’s move to increase term limits he said, “I started a little campaign on Facebook to oppose it. You know, if the people thought the president of the United States should only get two terms that should be good enough for us.”

Carlos’ Facebook postings opposing the measure soon drew Mayor Robert Garcia into the social network discussions. Garcia began posting his own arguments in favor of extending term limits.

It wasn’t long before it became obvious that the mayors’ talent at written argumentation (logic, honesty and facts) was not surviving the facts, ethics and integrity and core sense of good governance advanced by Carlos.

In spite of losing the social network arguments, his honor was not about to give up. Carlos got a call. It was the mayor. “He said he wanted to come over and talk about it.”

Carlos said that he agreed, invited the mayor to his home and awaited the scheduled meeting.

During his interview with the Beachcomber Carlos spoke deeply about good governance, the real meaning of democracy and what “Of the People, By the People and For the People really means. He was passionate.

We asked about the source of his deep understanding of governance and democracy and learned that he and his entire family are political refugees from Guatemala.

Carlos, his younger brother, Juan – also a major player in organizing People of Long Beach – and his mother and father – escaped and entered the United States with the help of his father’s American friends. Carlos was nine years old at the time.

The Ovalle family odyssey began with a regime change in Guatemala. His father, a skilled technician with the Guatemalan Institute of Cartography, was able to keep his job because of his technical knowledge when the purges of the new regime came.

Carlos said, “But my father’s integrity became too much for those who took over. He stood up to them. And that amounted to standing up against the dictator. He exposed himself to suicide by politics. There were two attempts on his life. The second time they tried to decapitate him with a machete but they only cut him from ear to ear before they threw him in a ravine and left him for dead.”

After his father was found and carried home Carlos was put in charge of nursing him back to health while “Mom cooked and took care of everything else so we could survive, ” he said.

Carlos told us that his father’s American friends worked at the Cartography Institute on an American exchange grant. He said, “Dad would invite them to our home and even though they could not speak one another’s language, they communicated with each other and became good friends.”

Carlos recalled that when his father recovered from the second attempt upon his life his family came to understand that the danger to his life as well as the entire family would never end. “It was then that my Dad’s American friends arranged for our whole family to get safe passage out of Guatemala.”

This was the man who opened the door to the mayor of Long Beach when he arrived for their scheduled visit.

Carlos has lived in the 7th district of Long Beach since 1972. He said that when Mayor Garcia arrived at his home, “He started off really nice. A really pleasant guy. Charming. When he got down to business he said that he actually wanted to protect Long Beach voters because he discovered a loophole in the Charter that allows people to run for office forever.”

Carlos knew that even if the write in provision was taken out of the Charter when they added a third term people could still run ‘forever’ in write in campaigns because state law authorizes it. [This text from the printed Beachcomber is being deteted from the online version, per the writer's request.}

Carlos said, “The more he talked the more I thought he was speaking another language. He told the mayor, “How could you have just discovered it?” He knew that Garcia had to know that several former council members had termed out in the past and ran write-in campaigns. Those that were beloved were elected for a third term. Those that the electorate felt should move on did not win. There was no “loophole.”

Carlos said the mayor was very disingenuous and kept repeating over and over “this loophole thing and as I pointed out the real facts over and over he finally saw that we were not convinced.”

When the Mayor finally understood that Carlos and his brother Juan, who was also in the meeting, were not going to buy into his dishonest arguments, Carlos said Garcia changed his tune and said, ‘Look, I really like you guys and you have great interest in the city. Would you be interested in an appointment to one of my commissions?’

Carlos said, “NO.” He said the mayor repeated the offer a number of times. “It was a quid pro quo offer,” he said, “to get us to stop opposing his term limits expansion.”

Unable to get Carlos or Juan to serve on one of his commissions the mayor took his leave and Carlos and Juan went to work. “We began making posters, putting more stuff up on Facebook and Nextdoor and starting getting a following,” he said.

That following continued to grow and is now a part of the umbrella organization – Long Beach Reform Coalition (LBRC) – that has established a beachhead to “Better Long Beach Government and Defeat Measure BBB term limits Extension – along with what they call “all of the other self-dealing – shiny – Charter amendments.”

We’ll get into all of that In future columns as we recount and follow Carlos Ovalle’s ongoing match with Mayor Garcia – all the way to Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

Praising his father as a principled man, Carlos said, “When my dad saw ineptitude and corruption, he’d speak up and it nearly cost him his life. But, he refused to kiss ass.”

Carlos is clearly his father’s son.

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.

stephen@beachcomber.news

Category:

Comments

Carlos is a fine gentleman. Garcia is blatantly disengenious, a phony baloney who is desperate to stay in power. It’s rather sad really.

Great stuff. Found your writings on Nextdoor and look forward to more.

I want to thank you for your honest reporting and for giving the citizens of Long Beach the opportunity to join other like-minded people in this city, that "know" that there is corruption and undue influence at City Hall and with the mayor's office. 

One of the biggest problems in or political system, is that the fourth estate has been co-opted to allow those with money, influence and misanthropic agendas to control the narrative or that the mainstream press was always a mouthpiece, for the corrupt and for the powerful. 

What your article in the Beachcomber has done, is to pour a foundation for, what I hope, will be the unveiling of a very big iceberg of corruption that starts with city governments as its foundation but does not end there. The City of Long Beach has set itself up as a poster child for an agenda that can be traced back decades.

An Interested Citizen

 

Short answer - no. The people behind the anti 3 term are a small, vitriolic group of chatterbox Garcia haters. The concept may be in fact valid but their presentation is so hate-filled and contentious, it's hard to take them seriously as some of them are so abrasive it's difficult to get beyond it and focus on whatever message they are trying to get out. Some of us even wonder if Carlos isn't trying to use this as a launching pad for a campaign of his own. If that's not the case, I'd love to hear Carlos deny any political ambition.
If they were serious at their "town hall", why not present both sides, invite the Mayor to a debate, let people ask questions of BOTH sides? In fact, I attended the "town hall' and was one of about 25 people in the end (I think it may have started out at about 40 attendees) as several slowly dwindled out. Like others there, I wasn't interested in hearing them all pat themselves on the back. I was looking for facts, professionally presented, so that I could make an informed decision as opposed to listening to them each say the same thing. Maybe it was just my perspective but I walked away feeling like I wasted my time. Even on NextDoor, if anyone asks a question, they are quickly admonished by one of the Carlos fan club members and the information sought is never given - just a condescending retort or anti LGBT dog whistle. This isn't the way to win people over. As evidenced above by Julee Stover's juvenile pop-shot with the "Dr." Garcia remark, the mayor has a PhD. It's Dr., as that's the proper title for someone with a doctorate degree. Although I'm not unhappy with the direction LB has gone it, I'm not a Garcia fan, but this group is rapidly converting many of us in his direction. I'm sure the Carlos fan club will berate me on this, but I don't care. People want facts, not a dog and pony show touted as a town hall, nor to be talked down to when seeking information.
It needs to be said; this group has the wrong spokespeople.

Garcia is crooked as f____. Him & West literally runs the city and the police department DIRECTL (despite the fact that all these different “city departments have a very well payed Dept heads). Luna doesn’t have ANY intestinal fortitude to stand up to them and is basically a mouth piece for the mayor.
Gracia does not have the political background to be able to move on to a higher political office and he knows it & that is why he is pushing for expanding term limits, otherwise his political life WILL end after his current term.
The ego on this guy!!!!!! If 8 years is the limit for the highest political office of this great nation, then IT IS good enough for the mayor of little old Long Beach. Garcia needs to cool his jets & take a back seat & let someone else get into office. Pathetic!!!!

The same Carlos Ovalle who passionately backed JARED "I'm a Lawyer-- Nah, just kidding!" MILRAD for District 7, all because he hates the Urangas?

He's disqualified from all this hero adoration until he publicly apologizes to us for that.

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