What You Need to Know About the Mayor's Economic Recovery Advisory Group

Gerrie Schipske

Note: After years of writing on the history of my native city, I am glad to switch over to providing the answers to questions about how Long Beach operates … and sometimes does not. Send your burning questions to gerrie@beachcomber.news and I will do my best to answer.

Q. What is the Economic Recovery Advisory Group?

A. The city’s public information office states that ERAG “will provide input to the city on strategies for the Long Beach economy to recover when safe to do so. Their recommendations will assist City Economic Development, the Health and Human Services Department, the Emergency Operations Center and various other city departments as they strategically transition the city back to normal operations once the pandemic allows for a change in the current health orders.”

Q. So who really set up the Economic Recovery Advisory Group announced by the City of Long Beach?

A. It is not clear by the city press release and the coverage in several news outlets. The city announced the formation of the ERAG but does not disclose under what authority it will operate. Local press has various stories of how former Mayor Foster was placed in charge. However, it is not clear if Mayor Foster came up with this idea himself or Mayor Garcia “tapped” Mayor Foster to head it up.

Q. Why is important to know who set up ERAG?

A. If the current mayor set up ERAG then he violated city code by failing to place ERAG on the council agenda for approval. City code requires that any proposed “citizen advisory” group have the approval of the council and that a complete fiscal impact analysis (City Code: 2.03.075 – Fiscal impact analysis for citizen advisory committees and commissions.) Also, if Mayor Garcia set up ERAG, then its meetings must be open to the public under the state open meetings law and its agenda must be posted according to the Brown Act.

However, if the former mayor set up ERAG then all bets are off about how it can operate.

Q. Who was appointed to the advisory group?

According to the city’s press release, the following persons have been “assembled by former Mayor Bob Foster.” Several appointees do not live in Long Beach. Several appointees have made political contributions to both the current and former mayors.

  • Blair Cohn, economic development commissioner and executive director, Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association
  • Bob Foster, former mayor, City of Long Beach
  • Caroline Choi, senior vice president of corporate affairs, Southern California Edison
  • Griselda Suarez, executive director, Arts Council for Long Beach
  • Jeremy Harris, incoming president & CEO, Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Josh La Farga, planning commissioner and director of government affairs, Laborers’ International Union of North American Local 1309
  • Josh Lowenthal, president, freeconferencecall.com
  • Kerstin Kansteiner, restaurant/small business owner
  • Kraig Kojian, president and CEO, Downtown Long Beach Alliance
  • Lou Anne Bynum, interim superintendent-president, Long Beach City College
  • Luis Navarro, restaurant/small business owner
  • Mario Molina, doctor/healthcare professional
  • Randal Hernandez, chair, Long Beach Economic Partnership
  • Ryan Choura, CEO and founder, Choura, an Experience Company
  • Sean Rawson, co-founder, president of residential division, Waterford Property Company  
  • Sharleen Higa, president, Long Beach Century Club
  • Steve Goodling, president & CEO, Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Steve Neal, harbor commissioner and clergy
  • Tommy Faavae, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11
  • Vic La Rosa, CEO, president and co-founder, Total Transportation Services (TTSI)

Q. Who was not appointed to the advisory group?

A. To start off on a long list of who was not appointed, let’s begin with the absence of the major employers of Long Beach: Long Beach Unified School District, Long Beach Memorial Center, Veterans Health Administration, California State University, Long Beach.

In fact, where are the representatives of local hospitals or any medical professional living or working in Long Beach?

Where are the apartment owners or the taxpayer association members?

While electrician and laborer unions are important, where are the city employee union representatives and the front-line workers at our local hospitals, the registered nurses represented by California Nurses Association? Where are the teamsters and the longshore worker unions who keep the port going?

Where are the shippers and members of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association?

And why no representatives from the senior and LGBTQ communities who have been hit hardest by COVID?




I've been asking the mayor about this every since he formed the group. His claim has been to "seek the best medical and scientific advice," yet of the 20 members there is only one (non-practicing) medical doctor. Where are the front-line doctors and nurses? The epidemiologists? The scientists?

"We're in this together" say the politicians from the comfort of their single-family homes, with their good health insurance, a backyard for their children to play and their computers so they and their family can live in isolation. But what about the renters living two families per apartment because they can't afford the rent in our gentrified city? Where are the representatives of the renter community?

"Safer at Home" rolls off the tongue nicely, but where is home for the homeless? So we bus the homeless people to westside Long Beach, of course, but not El Dorado Park or other locations on the eastside. We have far more vacant hotel rooms and apartments than we have homeless people. Could we have our own and better Project Turnkey? And can we have homeless representatives in the group?

For over a month we've been reading of the racial inequality of COVID-19 reports that the hardest hit communities are blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders; especially the seniors among these groups, those living along the diesel death corridor and the LGBTQ among them. So where are the representatives of these communities?

And now, despite recent statistics for Los Angeles County that show the situation isn't letting up, Long Beach is starting to open up because the virus won't cross the imaginary boundary between LA County and the City of Long Beach? But our workers, those who don't have the luxury to work from home, the luxury to buy an N95 mask or good health insurance or a private automobile – mostly work outside of the boundaries of the city. How will the virus know that they're from the LBC therefore untouchable? Why are those workers, mostly POC and poor, not represented in the group?

Thank you Gerrie for answering these questions! We need to see things clearly in Long Beach so that we can vote appropriately in the future.

Don't you get tired of the cronyism via the highest donation. How many Medical Administrators does it take to over see a patient? In this group of donors...absolutely (0) zero - no hands-on experience with COVID patients or direction and as recent as a couple years ago a 20 million plus loss. Maybe this brain trust you call for the next sell out of having someone start a school of Medicine in Claremont. Guess what the rest of his Healthcare venture in clinics became dissolute too. I can guarantee none of these "NEW THINKERS" are creatively guiding small business back to prosperity nor can they find the right scientific data to turn on the lights. No more restaurants so I guess we are doomed for home cooking. Every Mom and Pop store will suffer while they hem and haw. I also think not much will be accountable as to guidance when you have a Planning Commissioner who is almost mute and can barely put two sentences together at any given meeting that involves shaping the community. The surprise here will be if he shows up at all and there is something other than some form of corporate greed to guide the answers to what the committee will recommend or how they can buy or donate their way hand picked candidate election. This committee is not about data, science, small business or the community but nepotism and cronyism. Thank you Ms Gabelich and Ms. Schipske for the questions and insight.
As far as business answers and help we are better off praying some will finally get back to business. Whether there is any COVID involvement and decision or connection / direction to opening business is limited with this brain trust. The thoughts will be only to the amount each can in imaginary thoughtfulness. That means it will be just short of a dollar amount. I guess when the bobble head nods yes, the buy in is where there answer will be. Unfortunately, business will continue to suffer as they remain shuttered for lack of data scientific or otherwise.

Thank Gerrie for your article.
My letter to the editor was an objective assessment of the Economic Advisory Group from public health perspective. A rush to open will produce a second wave. It is occuring in Orange County as I write this.

When are the safeguards for workers who will be forced to go back to work? There was no section on Paid Sick Leave, Worker Return and Worker Recall which is before the City Council on Tuesday May 14. The conclusion is the recommendations were written by corporate interests. Business as usual in our fair city.

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