Residents seek more input from North Long Beach voters
BY BRITTANY WOOLSEY / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Christine Petit, co-founder of the Long Beach Time Exchange, said the residents of Long Beach, particularly on the North side, need to have a stronger voice in the city.
That’s why the Long Beach Time Exchange, a group aimed at strengthening relationships in the city, joined with 13 other organizations to start the People’s State of the City three years ago.
“What we’ve seen over the last few years is an emergence of an organizing culture in Long Beach where residents are saying, ‘These are the issues that are really impacting us,'” Petit said. “We want to see those issues addressed by our elected officials and through our community work. When we work together, we’re stronger.”
When it started, the goal of the People’s State of the City was to give residents more of a voice in city decisions.
They succeeded in having their voices heard regarding the wages of hotel workers. Together, the 14 groups involved in the People’s State of the City worked together, through Measure N, to have the wages of hotel workers raised to $13 an hour in 2012.
“For several years, we weren’t able to pass policy through the council for working families,” said Jeannine Pearce, director of the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs & a Healthy Community, another participating organization at the event. “We took it to the voters. It was from doing stuff like this, from leadership development and voter outreach, that we were able to pass that. People didn’t think it was going to be done.”
Now, issues like childcare, quality affordable housing, air quality and the lack of voters in North Long Beach are on the groups’ radars.
These issues and more were discussed at the People’s State of the City on Thursday evening at Church One in North Long Beach in front of more than 300 attendees, including several city council candidates.
North Long Beach was an ideal location for the address, said Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.
“We need more votes from people in North Long Beach,” he said. “The city is segregated.”
Jitahidi encouraged those in the room to engage voters in North Long Beach by going door-to-door to discuss issues and urge them to vote.
“We don’t need anymore votes in Belmont Shore,” he said. “We don’t need anymore votes over by El Dorado Park. Guess where we need more votes from? North Long Beach. We need to challenge ourselves to a historical level of change.”
The dangers of Long Beach’s air quality were also discussed, as a performance group called “The Air We Breathe” acted out how the problem is affecting residents, including pollution from the port and an increase in asthma among children.
Young adults from the Filipino Migrant Center also performed skits revolving around the low wages for immigrant workers.