Ganem, 73, is a retired police officer, city manager and developer who has lived in Long Beach for 14 years and in District 1 for eight years. He is a registered Democrat.
Read the Post’s profile on Joe Ganem here.
Why did you decide to run?
I went to a forum that was held at Toxic Toast, and saw the other candidates because I was curious what they had to say. I felt the district needed a little more horsepower, someone with more capacity and deeper ties to the district and dealing with its issues. I argued with myself about it, but shortly after, at 3:30 in the morning, shot out of bed and said, ‘I have to do this.’ I didn’t see the substance there. Very nice people‚ but they didn’t have the background to deal with the problems before us. They had broad answers without specific solutions I want to make this count. I want to do something. I want to make sure we get the community on the right path. It’s time to pull up our big boy pants and do something.
The 1st District has some of the highest rates of violence among the city, including shootings. What solutions do you have to reduce gun violence? And does that include increasing the number of police officers?
The community has got to get way more involved with the police department. We must have stronger relationships, and that goes down to neighbors; neighbors can see something coming, they can communicate those things to the PD and police can become active in that area. I’ve volunteered for four years to interview police and fire recruits and I am familiar with their training, but they can’t be everywhere all the time. The extra set of eyes and ears is critical. We must build that trust between officers and the public. It should be a requirement that every officer belong to one civic institution, or help coach a Little League team. We want officers and the public to know each other. “You can’t stop people from picking up a gun and shooting, but you can deter a lot of that behavior.”
What type of solutions would you propose or support to provide more affordable housing? Is rent control part of your plan?
Housing is such an incredibly important issue regardless of what economic position you’re in, and it will come crashing down on the state economy if we don’t address it. There are a lot of people being displaced from their homes. I’ve devised a plan and presented it to attorneys and bond experts. It’s quite simple: We create a municpal tax free bond that can be sold to investors who are expecting a return only when a property would sell or transfer. This would allow you to take out a $100,000 loan, and that would become a subordinate mortage, and when you sell the property you pay back the $100K. It could also help finance rental housing; in the 1st District, 80% of people are renters. Instead of using techniques like inclusionary housing, which can be difficult to incorpate into housing policies, and have an unfair disadvantage to newer buildings. Housing is all of our resonsibility, shouldn’t be arm-twisted out of a single building. We depend on the baristas, grocery clerks, they need a place to live just everybody else. The entire community is affected by the inability to provide adequte housing. I am against rent control. It has the consequence of making people think they’ve solved the problem when it’s delaying the problem. What we should do is use this period as a time to ensure that we start building more housing, because the real problem is supply and demand—that’s driving up the prices, not the high rents. We’ve got people that oppose housing in increased density; for every project that they oppose, they are limiting options for their own children and seniors in the community. Density is a fact of life in an urban enviornment.
How would you address the homelessness crisis in the District, including the issues associated with homelessness like mental illness and addiction?
I spent four years on the Homeless Services Advisory Commission, but felt like it didn’t get anything done. I learned a great deal, and I have the highest respect for the Health Department and for people who work in that field. But imagine treating someone for alcohol abuse and thinking the only thing you can do is send someone back under a bridge? Permanent supportive housing is the only solution; anything less than that and we’re just playing with Tiddlywinks—we’re not solving the problem. Studies have shown that when you house people you begin to stabilize them and then you can solve the needs they have. We are all paying the hidden costs of dealing with the homeless (from agencies like police, fire, public works). We can afford this, but our priorities are in the wrong direction. How we treat the homeless is a reflection of ourselves.
What is your plan for improving air quality in Long Beach? Do you support the expansion of the 710 Freeway and the use of MHF in nearby refineries?
Most people are just thinking about their health and welfare. We depend on those jobs as we do fresh air. We dealt with the problem of noise surrounding Long Beach Airport; we found ways to mitigate that, like insulating housing and changing hours of operation, etc. There has to be ways to mitigate the issue of air pollution, like turning the trucking system from diesel to electric. All of those things have to be wrapped into a cohesive plan. The 710 will be expanded. The question is how do we handle that expansion to do the least amount of damage to the existing environment? Things are moving in that direction but not quickly enough. The city has beefed up bicycle paths (I’m a big advocate of biking); this is an issue that’s close to me personally. We have to solve this problem, we have to move faster in the progress that we’re making toward getting there. As far as the chemical: In most cases the businesses were there before the houses, but we didn’t realize the problem. A corporation is looking at numbers. We have to make it cheaper it cheaper to fix the problem that keep doing it.
What have you personally contributed to the District?
I am the president of Downtown Residential Council. I led a leadership conference that trained neighborhoods on how to become effective leaders. I was part of a group that put on a ‘meet your next mayor’ event. I helped to establish neighborhoods. I’ve participated in tree plantings at Cesar Chavez park and setting up community garden. I am on the board of my HOA, and participated in fundraising and food drives around the holidays. I’ve been involved in the Long Beach Rescue Mission.
Who is funding and endorsing your campaign?
I have no endosements. Due to the political machine, there pretty much was not a shot at getting endorsed.As far as financing, the record is out there; most of my money is coming from friends and community members, some from out of state.
Do you have plans for higher office?
I have no plans for higher office. Absolutely not. That’s a point that should not be lost. There’s a heck of a lot of work to do. Low voter turnout gives an unfair advantage to machine politics. These are elections not coronations; we’ve got to get people out there voting.