People’s State of the City–Long Beach, California

15 Apr

12 April 2013

About 320 people from the community attended the second annual “People’s State of the City,” organized by the civic engagement committee of the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, on Thursday, March 11 at the Grace United Methodist Church, where affordable housing, clean environment, good jobs, healthy and safe neighborhoods, immigrant rights and quality education were discussed.

Tonia Reyes Uranga, Christopher Covington and Liam Cheun from Khmer Girls in Action presented the state of Long Beach. Uranga, who is the executive director of the Miguel Contreras Foundation and a former councilwoman, described some of the city’s issues. She said her presentation was not to criticize, but to inform, educate, inspire and motivate people to organize and to act. Long Beach residents in poverty are 25 percent of the population. One out of two children lives in poverty. Uranga said, “The fact is as union membership increases so does family income. Ask the hotel workers union.” She then addressed the other issues of affordable housing, higher mortality rates in the poorer areas, environmental pollution, especially on the Westside, school truancy, teen pregnancy, and immigration.

Cheun focused her remarks on the lower voting rates among the poorer area in the city, but she pointed out the rates increased when Proposition N (Living Wage Ordinance) was on the ballot because of the proposition’s relevancy to the voters.

Covington from BHC: LB Youth Committee described the demographics. Long Beach is the seventh largest city in California with a population of almost 500,000. Women are 51 percent of the population. People under 18 are 25 percent. The latest census shows the highest density of African-Americans is downtown and toward the north; whites are about 30 percent of the population and are concentrated in the Third, Fourth and Fifth Districts on the eastside and toward Belmont Shore; Latinos are 41 percent of the population and are significant in all the districts, with higher densities in the western half of the city, which are the First, Fifth, Seventh and Ninth Districts; Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American and Indigenous communities are 13 percent of the population with concentrations in the Fourth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Districts.

Indigenous Steward Aunty Xochitlmilko Portillo, in her welcome, in Tonga, English and Spanish, told a story, illustrating racist bulling, where a 30-year-old woman bus driver yelled, “Go back from where you came from!” at a 5-year-old immigrant, Spanish-speaking-only boy. Portillo, later asked, “What legacy do we want to leave our descendents seven generations from now? What do you want your descendents to say about you? What heritage are you going to leave your descendents?”

The church’s Pastor Nestor Gerente, who characterized himself as a first-generation Filipino immigrant, also welcomed the audience.

Also attending were city council members: Robert Garcia, Patrick O’Donnell, Gerrie Schipske, Al Austin and Steve Neal, and LBCC Board of Trustees: Roberto Uranga and Doug Otto.

Meanwhile during the resource mixer, Professor Julian Del Gaudio, who teaches history at Long Beach City College and who attended the first “People’s State of the City,” which he found enlightening, said, “This is where we need to look to see what needs to be done to improve the quality of life in this city because the perspective is not from the top down, which is the mayor’s ‘State of the City.’ It’s from the bottom up.”

Ofelia Rivera, a community activist with the Long Beach Time Exchange, said that it was an important event to attend because it provided an opportunity for community members to find out about resources and to network with others.
Tina Lopez, a member of Military Families Speak Out, agreed with Rivera that it was an opportunity for community members to network with each other.

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