Mary Zendejas, 48, is a disabled resources advocate who has lived in Long Beach for 30 years and in District 1 for five years. She is a registered Democrat.
Read the Post’s profile on Mary Zendejas here.
Why did you decide to run?
I felt that I needed to step up for my community and it was the right time to do so.
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?
We need to focus on rebuilding trust in the community with our police officers; we really need that right now. We need to have more community policing and have more officers involved in the community. I do believe they try their best to keep us safe; there’s a lot of violence going on in the 1st District and it’s crucial to have a strong relationship with public safety. It’s necessary to invest in youth programs; they are the ones who fall through the cracks. As far as increased officers: If the money is there, but I think we have good police officers and we should work with the ones we have.
What type of solutions would you propose or support to provide more affordable housing? Is rent control part of your plan?
I’ve been an affordable housing advocate for a very long time. Because of my personal story, I always wanted to be independent. I had polio when I was 8 months old. My parents immigrated because they wanted better health care. They also gave me a chance at life. I was the first in my family of nine siblings to graduate from high school, the first to become a U.S. citizen, the first to get a degree from Cal State Long Beach. But housing has always been an issue. I got my first apartment and had to get four roommates, then found another place and was there for 20 years. The last 10 years I did not have accessibility after I wasn’t able to stand up again. But I was there because I could not find an accessible affordable house for me. We need to build more housing. We have 1,700 units in the 1st District that are rent stabilized, which is more than the whole city of Long Beach. But we need to build more. There’s not of space, not only just in Long Beach, but throughout the state. We need to increase the density. If we have an opportunity to build we need to build—and at all income levels. Rent control passed at the state level, and I think that’s a step in the right direction, but we don’t have enough to house everyone. We have section 8, but there’s nowhere to house people.
How would you address the homelessness crisis in the District, including the issues associated with homelessness like mental illness and addiction?
Homelessness is hard; I am broken-hearted every morning when I get up and see people living on the sidewalk. We really need to find housing for them. That’s urgent. We need to find shelter for them, and not only just temporary, but permanent housing with wraparound services so that they are prepared with the tools that are able to go on on their own. We have to put a stop to chronic homelessness, and it’s up to us in the community to do something about. Children cannot learn under these circumstances. Housing is very important. I want to build, and have shelters for the homeless, because it’s urgent now. We need more shelters. A lot of our homeless are drug addicts, because of the trauma they’re going through. Not only do we have to help in that area, but provide services to help them wean off drugs and stay there. Mental illness, trauma with being homeless and trauma that made you homeless.
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?
This is one of the reasons I’m running. The district is right next to the 710, and right by the port. I am very happy about being a Transit Board director, where we brought in zero emissions buses; for every bus we retire, we bring in a zero emission bus. We need to create some kind of program so that all trucks coming to our port are zero emission; I know it’s not going to happen overnight but if we don’t start it’s never going to happen. We need to have a factory in Long Beach where we can build our own zero emission trucks. On the 710 expansion: I am in favor—but if we could find a way where those businesses and residents would not be displaced, that would be more priority. On the use of the MHF chemical: I wish we didn’t have to use it; it pollutes our air and causes so many problems, not only for us, but for the children.
What have you personally contributed to District 1?
I’ve been an advocate, always reaching out to families. I am a big advocate of affordable housing; I served at Housing Long Beach for five years. A lot of our work had to do with helping familiars who were going through hard times in the district. I’ve also spent time advocating for people with disabilities; that’s a passion for me as well. I’ve been getting to know a lot of residents in the 1st District who have disabilities.
Who is funding or endorsing your campaign?
Everyone. I’m very proud of all my endorsements, especially the ones that come from the community. I have 75 community leaders out of the 1st District and citywide, elected officials, including Mayor Robert Garcia and state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, both of whom held the seat prior to this. They have done a lot of hard work in the 1st District, and they want someone in the 1st District who is strong enough to continue to do good work. I have police and fire; I am definitely proud of that. Being a disabled woman, I rely on public safety to continue to be an indepenendt woman.
Do you have plans for higher office?
At the moment I don’t—but I didn’t have plans for this office, so I’m not going to say no.