The City Council elected Anissa Moore as its new president at Tuesday’s meeting. She became the first African-American to hold the position.
The vote for Moore, who was nominated by outgoing President Anthony Eramo, was unanimous. (Outgoing Vice President Chumi Diamond was absent from the meeting.) Councilman John Bendo was elected vice president with a vote of 3-1, having been nominated by his colleague Scott Mandel, with Eramo casting the lone dissenting vote. Eramo and Diamond both lost in the Democratic primary in June, and their terms will be up in January.
Many people in the audience stood and applauded as Moore switched seats with Eramo. Several residents said they expected Moore to bring a style of governance that is different from her predecessor.
“Since 1967, this has been the best and most inspiration council meeting I have ever attended,” said resident Phyllis Libutti. “She made this feel like it was a church or a temple, because the respect she gives people and the way she brings people together is really outstanding.”
Moore, a communications professor at Nassau Community College and the executive director of the Long Beach STEAM Academy, made history in 2015 by becoming the first African-American to be elected to the council, running alongside former council President Lens Torres and Eramo on the Democratic ticket. At her inauguration in 2016, Moore reflected on her journey.
“And here I stand today as a black woman to lead this city,” she said. “It wasn’t long ago that members of the NAACP [were] standing in front of apartment buildings here because black people weren’t even allowed to enter. And it wasn’t that long ago thatDr. Martin Luther King actually came to Long Beach, in 1958, to see the conditions of the city. But he left us a legacy of social justice, a legacy of peace, a legacy of love and strength. His words still resonate within me, that not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”
Moore, who moved to Long Beach in 2009, went on to note that her great-grandparents were part of the black American migration to the North in the 1920s, fleeing the oppressive Jim Crow-era South for a better life, and that her grandmother toiled in a shoe factory in Brooklyn so her children could have a college education. Moore added that her great-great-grandmother, Lucy Brown, was born a slave in South Carolina.
In her tenure on the council, Moore has garnered a large following. In January 2018, more than 50 supporters demanded at a council meeting that she be given a more prominent role. Among them were civic leaders and clergy from the North Park community, who urged the council to resume its short-lived practice of rotating the presidency, which began in 2012. Moore’s supporters claimed that since she received the most votes of the three candidates who ran for the council in 2015, she should be given a leadership role.
“Teaching the ropes to someone is just as important as the opportunity,” Torres said in 2016. “I believe someday Anissa could be president.”
Moore’s election was met with excitement by many residents.
“This is a great day,” James Hodge, chairman of the Martin Luther King Center’s board of directors, said on Tuesday. “This is a day that many may not know.” On Aug. 6, 1965, Hodge noted, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, outlawing the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War. “You may not know,” Hodge said to Moore, “but you made history on a historic day.”
Moore will seek re-election in November, running as a Democrat on the Republican line as part of a coalition ticket, alongside Long Beach resident Mike Delury, a Democrat and the treasurer of the Village of East Williston; and Republican newcomer Lauren Doddato-Goldman, a West End resident, a former assistant Nassau County district attorney and the principal law clerk for Nassau County Court Judge Terence P. Murphy. They are vying for three open seats against New Wave Democrats Liz Treston, a community advocate and the chairwoman of the Long Beach Community Organizations Active in Disasters; Karen McInnis, a finance executive; and Ron Paganini, a retired city worker and former union leader.
“I know that change is here, I won’t say it’s coming –– it’s here,” said the Rev. Delores Miller. “I’m hoping that there will be more togetherness with all of us, and that when she serves, she serves everybody.”
“As a leader of the City Council, my role is to simply facilitate the meetings and to collaborate with my colleagues, so we can restore stability,” Moore said. “Our system is broken, and we will begin discussions on how to fix it. This is a ceremony, but also a statement that we’re moving forward to a commitment to transparency.”
Bendo, a nuclear engineer and a former president of the West End Neighbors Civic Association, was elected to the council in 2017, was also voted as Vice President on Tuesday. “Long Beach residents have been expressing their desire for a realignment of the City Council for some time at City Council meetings,” he wrote in a statement to the Herald. “The overwhelming response in the Democratic primary that took place on June 25 further showed the need for a change. The change in Council leadership is a first step in making the City Council more responsive to the residents. The goal is to bring more civility and a sense of collaboration between City government and the residents. Changing the tone and tenor of City Council meetings is the first step in that process, which the change in leadership will facilitate.”
(Correction: There was a typo on the original version. Anissa Moore is the first African-American to hold the position of City Council President.)