What should the city do when confronted with homeless individuals who refuse to go into a shelter or temporary housing?
I know how important it is to have stable housing. My family frequently moved to places where my mom found job opportunities. This experience led me to become a homeowner as a young adult because I wanted to put down roots and establish generational wealth for my family. We have too many who find themselves one missed paycheck away from an eviction notice. As a city, especially in a pandemic, we need to do everything we can to help people stay in their homes and ensure access to the services they need to get back to stability.
Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis that our city needs to address with urgency. We cannot simply prosecute our way out of this problem. Our city will need to commit to expanding our capacity to deal with the root causes of homelessness, mental health and substance abuse and poverty.
I’m proud of my record of bringing forth solutions that are already impacting the city. I spearheaded building our city’s first municipal homeless shelter with supportive bridge housing located in North Long Beach. We are already seeing results since the facility opened at the start of the pandemic, helping hundreds of residents find their way off the streets, while paving the way for programs like Project Room Key. I advocated for our city to localize our mental health and substance abuse services to address the root causes of homelessness directly. I also helped to create our Long Beach REACH Teams, coordinated outreach teams who focus on physical and mental health to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness. I pushed for our city to make it easier to convert nuisance motels into transitional and supportive housing.
I will continue to find creative solutions that leverage funding from the county, state, and federal governments to help our unhoused population and those vulnerable to falling into homelessness.
How would you address crime in the city?
The most challenging moment I’ve experienced as a councilmember is the phone call from a watch commander telling me there’s been a shooting and loss of life. Early in my tenure, three young men were killed in different parts of our community. At their age, I would have been on a college campus. If they had more access to opportunities, would they still be with us right now?
Economic and educational opportunities lead to safer communities.
Yes, we need a well-resourced police department to respond to criminal activity and emergencies. I support the development of Long Beach’s comprehensive Safety Recovery Plan, and I support hiring police raised in our community and understanding the neighborhoods they seek to serve.
But we also need to invest in what creates healthier and safer neighborhoods—mental health services, parks, youth programs, schools, libraries, and workforce development programs.
That’s what we’ve done in North Long Beach. I spearheaded the effort to build the Michelle Obama Library, which has provided a venue for afterschool programs and increased literacy rates. We built the Doris Topsy-Elvord Community Center and the Ron Arias Health Equity Center to provide youth, mental health, and workforce opportunities and family preservation programs like the Fundamentals of Fatherhood initiative.
I’ve supported youth on their path to college by creating a fund for scholarships and championing the North Long Beach Higher Education Center. I brought President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative to Long Beach. I collaborated with the city prosecutor to create the Promising Adults Tomorrow’s Hope (PATH) program that allows young first-time non-violent offenders the opportunity to pursue job training or educational opportunities and get back on the right track.
As mayor, I will invest in community policing, violence prevention and a data-driven approach to community safety. When gun violence increased last summer, our police department reviewed the data and launched a neighborhood walk program in areas with the highest number of violent and property crimes. Their community engagement led to reduced calls for service and an 80% reduction in shootings.
I’ll also place a focus on neighborhood quality of life, by eliminating nuisance sites in the city that drive violence, human trafficking, and crime, including nuisance motels or liquor stores, to make neighborhoods safer and more stable and freeing up valuable public safety resources for responding to community needs and reducing response times. Ensuring everyone remains safe and healthy in their neighborhood will be my priority as our mayor, and we can achieve it by working together.
With oil revenue dropping, and the city facing the possibility that Measure M revenue could disappear, what will you do to balance the budget in coming years?
Residents count on our city to continue providing high quality, public services, no matter the economic circumstances. When Long Beach has faced tough economic times, we’ve found ways to grow revenues that enable us to protect jobs and services, like public safety and libraries.
For the long-term health of our city, I will work with the city to identify ways we can diversify our tax base for a more sustainable budget future, ensuring our city’s health does not boom and bust, along with the economy.
Here are some solutions that I would explore:
- Attract new economic opportunities by prioritizing ease, speed, and predictability, when doing business in Long Beach. By becoming more business-friendly, we can grow our local economy.
- Growing our existing revenue by expanding our property and sales tax base. To do this, we need to ensure that small businesses are thriving in every part of town, not just in a few areas. If small businesses in every council district in Long Beach thrive, that means more revenue that can be invested in city services.
- I would advocate for a modern state tax code that prioritizes growth. Cities across California face deficits, while the state has generated a $90 billion surplus last year. Our tax code’s reliance on sales taxes effectively rewards cities that build car dealerships and shopping malls, and penalizes cities that build housing.
- I would explore alternatives to declining oil revenue, by investing in aerospace and new and emerging technologies.
I believe in empowering our residents to have a voice in local decision making. I’ve hosted community budget meetings and facilitated participatory budgeting processes that help residents understand the impacts of the decisions the city council makes. At times like these, civic engagement is critical. I’ve seen the power of residents uniting to create change from the ground up. We have proven that when we work together, we can overcome any challenge.
We will work together to deliver the resources our residents need to thrive by prioritizing budget decision based on three major areas of focus:
- Addressing the root causes of homelessness
- Creating safer and healthier neighborhoods
- Navigating our way out of the pandemic with an equitable recovery
These strategies, along with a strong collaborative spirit, are how we will maintain a balanced budget and a thriving economy in our city despite changes in revenue from sources like Measure M.
The state is requiring Long Beach to make room for 26,502 new housing units by 2029. How should those housing units be distributed throughout the city?
Housing has become too expensive for too many Long Beach families. We need to do everything we can to address the rising cost of living in our city.
Our city’s existing Land Use Element already accounts for locating opportunity sites within our city for the approximately 26,000 units of housing that are required to be built. However, those units will not be realized unless we identify a local source of revenue to build housing that is affordable for the average Long Beach resident or family.
I have long sought solutions to our housing crisis. In early 2020, I proposed a housing bond to generate $4 billion in affordable housing production in Long Beach. A coalition led by my opponent, Councilwoman Suzie Price, voted it down.
As mayor, I intend to continue my track record of advocacy for building new housing. By working together, we created housing opportunities for all income levels sustainably while preserving the character of established neighborhoods.
Policies such as inclusionary housing and permitting Accessory Dwelling Units are already making a difference. I will continue advocating to build along transit corridors, increase mixed-use development, and partner with neighborhoods to identify opportunities.
I will partner with our schools and colleges to identify opportunities to build student and educator housing, which will add to our units. I propose establishing a Long Beach Housing Promise that could help uplift those who need it the most while utilizing land already zoned for housing or education.
Finally, we must consider community needs in any of our housing decisions and make all efforts to involve residents at every step. Hosting roundtables and listening sessions is not enough. We must empower the organizations on the ground to make a collective vision.
The Queen Mary will require at least tens of millions in repairs to just remain in the state that it’s in currently. Is this a wise investment for the city, or should something else be done with the ship?
The Queen Mary is a historical landmark that is a part of our city’s history and still an iconic asset for the city. Like any asset, it requires investment and upkeep in order to continue to ensure an extended life and profitability.
The Queen Mary and its adjacent land presents a rare opportunity to develop 40 acres of our Downtown waterfront and create a major economic benefit to our city that will help ensure a stronger long-term budget and quality city services for residents.
The reality of the Queen Mary is that regardless of what we do with it, it will require a significant investment. It will cost more than $100 million to remove the ship. It may take approximately $125 million-$250 million to make the ship secure, remove it from resting in corrosive ocean water and extend its life.
However, this is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Significant public outreach, transparency, fiscal and peer review, and accountability must be a priority, in order to ensure the public’s trust and confidence in the vision and plan for the Queen. We need to ensure the process is transparent to the public, that the plan is fiscally responsible and sustainable for the extended life of the ship.
We should work together to save the Queen Mary and ensure that we submit the asset to our children’s generation in a better position than the way it was submitted to ours.
The city never imposed a vaccine mandate on its employees, and recently lifted its indoor mask mandate. What should the city do if there’s a new surge of COVID-19 infections?
We need to continue protecting the health of our community members. Long Beach has been recognized for our proactive COVID-19 response and ensuring our residents had access to testing and vaccines.
I helped support food distributions, provide funding for businesses to keep their doors open, and help residents remain in their homes. I helped start the Office of Equity in our Public Health department, which has led to improved health outcomes and ensured an equitable response to COVID-19.
The variants are reminders that we need to continue to be vigilant when combatting COVID. I will collaborate with our health department to prevent spread, ramp up testing, and increase access to vaccines and boosters. I’ll work with businesses to provide support they need to remain open and safely return people to their office spaces. I’ll coordinate with our school district to ensure students, teachers, parents, and administrators are safe in their classrooms.
In the last two years, we have learned that when we work together, we keep people safer.
That’s what I intend to do as mayor.