Elliot Gonzales, 32, is an activist who is a native of Long Beach and has lived in District 1 for 12 years. He is a registered Democrat.
Read the Post’s profile on Elliot Gonzales here.
Why did you decide to run?
We’re in a state of multiple crises, including the housing crisis—best epitomized by the people we see sleeping on the street, some of them students who are couch surfing. I am for the working class, working to end economic displacement and high cost of rents. My number one issue is the state of the planet; that will lead to our doom. Our future is at stake, and young people need to play an active role in that. We need to make a massive divestment away from fossil fuels. We know that the air causes cancer, and we allow it continue to exist. I don’t think that the other candidates will talk about that. The state of the climate is something that needs to be addressed.
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?
Solutions to reducing violence start at addressing the lack of investment in communities in general. We live in a violent culture, one that sells violence and markets violence. Communities have been divested for decades. When we talk about where the violence is happening, we tend to speak of lower income areas—these are the communities that have been divested of public investment. They’ve got portable classrooms and neglected communities. There’s a lot of people experiencing hopelessness. Solving this would require federal funding, and a jobs program. This nation is so wealthy that we can guarrantee everybody a job. We need to offer people in desperate situations a guarranteed jobs program, doing things like planting trees, mulching, etc. Increasing police officers does not reduce violence. It doesn’t solve the root issue.
What type of solutions would you propose or support to provide more affordable housing? Is rent control part of your plan?
I support rent control. My solution is creating a public land trust, in which the city or a nonprofit would essentially own and develop land for the purpose of creating affordable housing. Most housing is viewed as an investment. When looking at a hot market, someone’s house can make them a millionaire; we have an inflated housing market built on speculation. People who don’t have a home are left out. When you have an entity outside of the market to do this, you take out the market. This gives us an alternative. If were to allow only market-based building in Downtown, the working class people would get pushed out. Developers don’t see anything wrong with that. If we build affordable housing we ensure the market stays stable throughout the entire area.
How would you address the homelessness crisis in the District, including the issues associated with homelessness like mental illness and addiction?
The solution to homelessness is to provide homes. That work can be done; we need to finance housing for the homeless. We just built a civic center at triple the original price; if we can find $900 million for this project, then we can find $50 million for a homeless shelter—and that is more impactful and has more economic benefit than a monument to [former Mayor] Bob Foster. … This is going to take a lot of planning and coordination with federal funds, and a public bank. We need a public bank. If we had our own bank in Long Beach, we would be able to finance these projects.
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?
I definitely do not support the use of MHF. MHF is a gas that can spread about a mile and kill everything. So I don’t support having a bomb in the city—for what benefit? So the oil companies can make a profit? They’ve built the infrastructure to support that chemical. These industries need to be antagonized. Very few people are talking about these issues. We have only five to 10 years before we reach the point of no return for the environment. Oil companies are treated as the backbone of the economy, because they’re wealthy for extracting oil. It’s an indusry that’s built on lies, and built on death. These toxins cause asthma, and the company’s continue to expand everywhere because of their wealth. We are lacking in the current City Council anyone who’s willing to challenge them because they’re taking oil companies’ money. On the 710 expansion: All science and studies indicate that adding lanes does not reduce traffic; all you do is make more room for more traffic. This issue of traffic congestion is caused in part by port traffic. If anyone expands lanes it should be the port to have their own separate lane, not something that the public should have to pay for. Do not place this burden on the public. We need more public investment in renewable technology: We need to put solar panels on every roof, complete the energy grid, invest in electric vehicles. We’re all still here using gas and we shouldn’t be. If Long Beach were to invest in this, we could put a lot of people to work. We could power our port, rebuild the wetlands and improve our air quality.
What have you personally contributed to District 1?
What I do in my free time is garden in public spaces. I’ve planted gardens throughout the city along Cedar, 10th and Long Beach Boulevard. I’ve participated in rallies and advocacy. I served on the sustainability commission for eight years. We had the first public review of the city’s oil and gas regulations done.
Who is funding or endorsing your campaign?
I have zero big donors—it’s mostly friends, community members. I’m amazed; my average donation is $87. I’m keeping the cost of my campaign very low. This gives me the freedom to not respond to the Police Officers Association and other special interests. I get to speak out against police misconduct, police power, realtors and developers. We see a lot of their agenda push through. I get to serve my donors; they are my people, my community. I have made a pledge not to accept donations from corporations, and I am asking other candidates to do the same.
Do you have plans for higher office?
At this point I am not seeking any higher office. It’s not what I’m thinking about right now—I’m thinking about serving the City of Long Beach. I will be involved in politics for the rest of my life.