When the City of Long Beach cancelled the festival portion of the Quiksilver Pro New York surf competition in September after Hurricane Irene flooded the city, many residents expressed concern that Quiksilver may decide not hold their competition in Long Beach again.
This issue turned into a question for the six candidates running for City Council to answer at the candidates debate at the Long Beach Library Oct. 20: “Do you or will you take responsibility for Quiksilver-type events? … How can we get others to come and maximize income to Long Beach?”
City Council President Thomas Sofield Jr., an eight-year Republican incumbent, took issue with those he said Long Beach was lucky to get Quiksilver. “I think, ‘yeah, that’s true,’” Sofield said.
“But Quiksilver was also lucky to get Long Beach,” he continued, highlighting the city’s natural resources, “dynamic business district,” and “caring citizens.”
Sofield, who said the city is now speaking with Quiksilver to get them to return next year, admitted the event didn’t go “perfectly,” but, he added, “most times when you get involved in something of that magnitude, there are little things that have to be tweaked going forward. We all live and we all learn.”
Councilman Len Torres, who won a two-year term in 2009 election, and fellow Democrat Fran Adelson, who lost by 12 votes, thought the city planned poorly for the event and failed to solicit community input on a 15-day event that was expected to attract many thousands of people.
“If people had been informed if there were a hurricane, ... three or four months beforehand, that a different or alternate date had been established, I think it would have helped,” Torres said.
Adelson said residents experienced “a lot of stress and anxiety” because they were left in the dark. “They did not know what was going on with the parking because the parking situation was not worked out until two weeks before,” she said.
Democrat Scott Mandel, a newcomer to politics, thought the city should have known beforehand “exactly” the pros and cons of hosting the event, from parking to policing to concert schedules. “These are things that shouldn’t have to pop up and be dealt with on an ad hoc basis or an emergency,” Mandel said. “We should enter it like any business would enter any contract.”
Like the others candidates, Council Vice President Mona Goodman agreed the surfing competition was ultimately a successful event, one in which surfers in the final rounds enjoyed substantial waves. In reply to Torres’s comments, Goodman noted that hurricanes breed such waves and the tour is booked to potentially coincide with them.
Goodman said she would love to host more Quiksilver-type events, but within certain parameters. “I’d certainly like them to come back and expand in addition to the next competition, in terms of bands and motocross and things like that,” she said. “But it has to be something that is not too big for the community.”
Marvin Weiss, a second-time candidate for City Council, views the preparations for the Quiksilver event as a stepping stone from which to learn. As examples, he pointed to the Michelle O’Neill Volleyball Tournament in September, the largest tourney of its kind on the East Coast, and the Polar Bear Plunge on Super Bowl Sunday, two Long Beach events that attract many thousands of participants and spectators.
“Were we prepared the first time we did that,” Weiss said about the Polar Bear event. “No. And then it grew and it grew. Even now, we still have some problems and things like that with the Polar Bears. But we maintain, we go, we do.”