After more than a year under a state of emergency in response to homelessness, it remains one of the most pressing issues facing Long Beach. What would you do differently to address this crisis of housing, addiction and mental health?
Tiny homes are affordable, quick to put up, portable and can house people now. The city received millions in grants in 2022 to build them and nothing has been done yet. And after spending tens of millions on motel purchases, we need to get the work done and fill those unused rooms now! The Luxury Inn was purchased over a year ago to address homelessness — while the Motel 6 and Holiday Inn were purchased by the county a few years ago — yet they all lay vacant. We need to treat the homelessness emergency like a genuine emergency.
We urgently need to hire more Mental Evaluation Team and Quality of Life officers to handle issues with people in need and crisis. There needs to be an active network of communication established between all agencies and nonprofits involved, instead of each one working for itself. There is an enormous disconnect, even regarding something as basic as where there are open beds at any given time.
The fact that the Multi-Service Center, our city’s homelessness hub, has extremely limited hours is really a shame. It needs to be open 24/7, there needs to be transportation to it, and the people working the MAC (mobile access) trucks need to actually walk around and do outreach and not just wait for people to walk up to them.
Housing first is housing only. What we need is a wrap-around system that addresses the issue, establishes the treatment, then works on support, encouragement, and assistance to get re-integrated into society.
Transparency, accountability, and progress should be how we measure success. Long-term housing, rehab, and mental health treatment successfully completed for individuals are the only things which genuinely constitute results, not how many water bottles and sanitary packs are given out by LB Homelessness Services personnel.
2. The city has recently had extensive hiring shortages affecting everything from trash pickup to police and fire response. How would you speed hiring and improve retention?
Sign-up bonuses. Pay competitive wages. Shorten hiring times. Offer on-the-job training. With regard to public safety personnel, we need a true recruitment drive to alleviate the extreme overuse of overtime that is exhausting officers.
3. Long Beach has long been dependent on oil revenue, but that stream of money is going away. How should the city make up that revenue to avoid major budget deficits?
Oil extraction has brought money as well as pollution and health problems. The city should have considered the damage caused by it and started planning a green alternative a long time ago. But as always, money drives choices. Other beach cities are thriving and they don’t have oil rigs. The answers are right there: Tourism, technology, innovation, art.
But we cannot build a thriving local economy if we continue to fail to address quality of life issues. Crime and homelessness are out of control, with only homelessness recognized as a crisis officially by City Hall.
We also need to assess how much waste is built into our long-term fiscal situation. We see questionable contracts and purchasing choices, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, made all the time. We need an outside firm to make some tough but truthful assessments about how we have been spending money in this city. Other cities, which don’t have oil money, a high local sales tax, utilities tax, or revenue generated by a port, can still pay their bills, why couldn’t we?
4. The 2nd District includes several beachfront communities but also some of the city’s lower-income neighborhoods. How will you ensure that not just your most affluent constituents will be listened to if you’re elected to office?
Everybody in my district is affected by the same issues regardless of their socio-economics: safety, homelessness, and parking. Those are the issues I am running on because people don’t feel heard and changes don’t happen quickly enough. Ironically, most of the complaints and community activism tend to come from the upper-income neighborhoods, who are newly experiencing these issues as they become citywide problems. Yet the lower-income areas have been dealing with these challenges for much longer. That is a fundamental injustice that can only be corrected by a truly responsive government. I plan to do broad outreach and meet with all parts of the district, and I will work to establish neighborhood associations and small business corridor associations in those areas where they are missing. I believe that these associations are a crucial link between the elected officials and the communities.
5. Parking is a huge issue in the 2nd District, with nearly all of the district considered to be “parking impacted.” What specific solutions should be used to fix that problem?
There is no reason why we can’t demand permitted overnight parking for residents. Our entire district is severely parking impacted and needs special attention in this regard from City Hall. We can work out arrangements with existing parking lots and incorporate apps to maximize the use of existing spaces. We also need to look at enhanced parking requirements for new developments, like those downtown whose residents’ parking needs have spilled over into Alamitos Beach.
And of course enhancing our mass transit system, making it welcoming and useful to as many residents as possible is key to getting folks out of their single-occupancy vehicles where possible.
People sheltering in their vehicles need to be directed to “safe parking program” areas where they can receive services and support. “Safe parking” needs to be expanded and treated with a greater level of seriousness, so those who currently feel the need to park in residential neighborhoods will actually prefer to park in a designated area, with 24/7 public safety.