As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?
I’ve been a resident in Long Beach ever since I was a child and started off in the neighborhood youth program and so I was schooled here. I schooled all my three children here. And as an employee for the Long Beach Unified School District, my task was to model for the children and youth, education and the pursuit of success with the opportunities that came at them. That’s me in a nutshell. And I’ve been since I was an employee for the district, I’ve had other jobs as well in the Long Beach district and I have been on every coalition possible in this district. And what has happened to Long Beach is that it’s always been ‘We,’ not ‘I.’ And if we’re going to make a stance at moving forward for Long Beach in bringing in whatever it takes to see that middle class families, along with the disadvantaged population to work for Long Beach and to bring resources and tools, there has to be an empowerment in the communities. And I know firsthand, being involved in the seamless education, the homeless education, and not only the homeless and the inner-city, not only that is being a part of the middle-class family agendas and what they wish as well, because again, it’s not ‘I,’ it’s ‘We.’
If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?
Well, I believe that again, transparency is key. You ask any neighborhood or community or persons or families, they really feel that that hasn’t happened in California and in District 33. I would push for transparency so that whatever is done after that can be very well known in the neighborhoods that I will represent. And can I add to that also, it’s a start for me because the communities in the 33rd District need to know that what I do, I’m going to include them in empowering their neighborhoods and to do that, honesty has to be forefront.
Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?
I would have to say that endorsements really don’t vote people in. It’s the quality of the personal and professional experience of the candidate running. And I believe that in this election, it’s going to be just that. Don’t get me wrong, I believe endorsements are relevant. However, I’ve run on letting the people make up their minds on who is the best candidate.
Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?
So in follow-up to the question, the first part of the question is that it is so important to take consideration on who you have as supporters and who is funding your campaign. Because if you take monies that don’t serve the people at large, then you’re indebted to that supporter. You’re indebted to that person that endorses you and you become a puppet. And one of the things that I have taken great pride in is, I’m opinionated and I don’t want to be indebted to someone that’s going to tell me what is best for the people of the 33rd District. I will have my own team of many disciplines, multi-discipline individuals—both at the neighborhood level and at the professional level. And I mean by neighborhoods is that you have the mom or the grandmother or the families that choose to either work in their homes or to choose to raise children, not that that their jobs are any less valuable, it’s all valuable. But I want to have the stakeholders in a community, in a neighborhood present, because all voices are relevant whether they be stay-at-home moms or you have someone that had a corporation or as a head of a corporation or is head of their own business, a small business.
How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?
My heritage is this: When I was a little girl at 5-years-old my mother and my German stepdad flew me and my grandmother and my uncle, from El Salvador. We flew in to Wichita, Kansas and I went to a red little schoolhouse. I was taught by a teacher very quickly to speak English because she saw me crying that I wanted to communicate to the children, but this is what my stepdad said. He said, ‘You’re an American now. You’ll act and speak like an American.’ And I became an American. With that said I am, again, from Central America. My grandmother and my uncle resided in Huntington Park, Bell Gardens, Cudahay, you name it, they died there and I still have family in Huntington Park. So I was raised in that community because I visited my grandmother and my uncle often, and it’s a Central American community: hard-working people, business owners. With that said, I am a staple in Long Beach like I said, I was raised by a single mom in West Long Beach. And I grew up here of course, I went to school and I raised my children. Now they are half Mexican descent. So when you talk about a mixture of Central Americans and Mexicans and with my brothers being Caucasian and my sister, you can see that in my family were multicultural and there’s diversity. And my studies at Long Beach State was also in multi-diversity cultures. So I studied that in my undergrad as a social worker and my masters as a social worker, that was my field of study. So not only did I study my own culture, I studied the cultures around the world and that’s what gave me the personal and professional experience to be hired by the Long Beach Unified School District as a counselor social worker at Franklin [Middle School] and Stevenson [Elementary School], which carried the most diverse population ever with a Cambodian community, Hispanics, African Americans, so you have a variety in the Long Beach district. Actually we’re the most diverse city, I would say, in the United States—and I’m really thankful that I’m still here in the city serving the population as such.
How would you address climate change?
You know that is a question in itself and it has many variations. First of all I would want to say that corporations have not done well in serving the Long Beach community at large. But you look at also the working families and the middle class families that depend on those jobs. So again, there’s many stakeholders when you’re asked a question of climate change. However, I have to say that I am grateful for legislation that has passed, that keeps our air clean, that keeps our water clean and that deals with climate change.
Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development. This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development? What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?
That is very simple to me. [State] government has no business interfering with local government. And I think it’s an outrage that the governor is suing certain cities, for right now, Huntington Beach, where they have done so well and they have brought so much revenue to the state of California. I feel like this: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. So my answer is: they have no business interfering.
What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?
Again, I have served as chair for the New Image Shelter for 12 years. I dealt with the [founders of the shelter] that had an office here in Long Beach and they were the largest shelter in California and I would say this United States. They ran a top-notch shelter and it was, again, multidisciplinary approach with many tools and many services because not only do you need to take care of their living situation, it’s far beyond that. As a social worker, as working with them alongside, it is an issue that you cannot continue to throw money at the situation. It takes neighborhoods, it’s again, not an ‘I’ problem, it’s a ‘we’ problem. And so I would say to Sacramento: ‘Stay out of the local homeless situation and focus on working families, education, clean water, clean air for the people of California.’ So when I was working with the homeless shelter, we did just that, we included the stakeholders and we have various board members from various areas and donors as well. And so when you have someone that is marketing a homeless shelter, you get the corporations involved, then you have the funding and you don’t have to depend on the grants per se, because I know firsthand that when you have a grant, you have to write grants again and again and again and sometimes those grants go away and then you have to start from scratch. I know that because I wrote grants when I was in the Long Beach Unified School District and we utilize those grants, but they didn’t have sustainability. And so what happens when Sacramento decides ‘We’re going to switch agendas,’ so that where does that leave the local governments to deal with the homeless situation? I just don’t believe that it’s a homeless situation, I believe that it’s a government mismanagement.
Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?
I believe that any organization needs reform. It’s an ongoing training. I myself was an adjunct professor for the police department to train them and how to deal with the public. So I believe that it’s ongoing. I do believe, I want to have it to go on record that I do support the law enforcement as well as the firefighters that keep us safe and protected. And mainly because I have a deep stake in having that happen because my two boys are firefighters, one’s a lifeguard under the L.A. Fire Department and my son is a captain in the fire department—and he’s going to be a battalion chief soon. So I’m very proud of them and I’m very proud that they work as public servants to keep the community safe. So we need our law enforcement to keep us safe, but with that said, we do need to reform because we all have employees that are not suitable in any organization, in any government organization.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment. What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?
Can I say that I am against any tax increase of any sort, and this is why we have really created a government that wants to be involved in all aspects of our lives. And I believe that the Long Beach voters and beyond are sick and tired of being taxed at every level. So I believe that we can work to solve any problem to any solution without taxing the public.
Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?
I have not given it serious consideration. I would like to see more plans, more information before I would make a decision. I do know that we need infrastructure. We need to rebuild and repair, whatever it takes, because it’s the working families that utilize those freeways. And if they’re going to travel for 30 miles or more, they really need safe roads.
Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?
I would like to say that I want them to know that I never give up and never give in. Because the governor came to Cabrillo housing and he asked the residents there, ‘What else can I do to help your situation?’ They said this: ‘Help our children in education.’ So with that said, that is my staple. I came here, my mother brought me here for the opportunity. I took the opportunity. I got my doctorate in education so that I can model and I have modeled all my adult life to the children and youth that whatever their paths are, whatever they want to do that they could succeed. And education and experience is key. And with that I want, I ask the teachers, I ask the parents, I ask the business owners, I ask community leaders to come together and vote Martha Flores Gibson for state Senate in the 33rd District.