Making the Case for Voting in Long Beach

Oct. 31, 2012 / By

By VoiceWaves Guest Writer Tonia Reyes Uranga

I want to stress the importance of voting in this very important election this November 6th. As a longtime community activist and former City of Long Beach Council member, I vote because I want a voice. I want to matter. I want to let people know what I think and how I feel. My vote tells my story and it should tell yours, too.

For young people, especially, this is an election that will impact your future, yet many are like the student in class who never raises a hand to ask a question. These students are afraid to be recognized or heard; they want to be invisible. In fact, over 75% of Long Beach voters are invisible; they are not given a second thought. They are ignored. Why? Because they don’t vote.

More often than not, the invisible people are young, poor, people of color, and live in north, west, central and downtown areas of Long Beach and are overwhelmingly, women.

Compare that to the typical Long Beach resident who does vote, who is, overwhelmingly, older, a homeowner, white, votes by mail and lives on the east side of Long Beach.

It has been said that Long Beach is a tale of two cities. In many ways this statement is very true. There are folks in Long Beach who do not worry about having only 5 dollars in their pocket and having to decide between buying gas to  get to work or buying milk and bread for their children. There are some in this city who do not wait for a paycheck and just a few days later are still in the red.

Some in this city never worry about how they will pay the rent this month or if they will be able to make their house note or worry that they might even lose their home. Some in this great city will never have to work two jobs to make ends meet or worry about filing bankruptcy or going on public subsidy just to get health insurance.

And yet those of us who do have to worry about such things have never before in the history of our city been under attack.  Working families and immigrants have been portrayed as the culprits and blamed for this bad economy, yet we are not responsible for the greed of the corporations, the financial collapse of the housing market and the banking industry, nor to blame for the growing price of gas and education.

Locally, the focus has not been on the corporations or the banks but on working men and women and their right to a good pension, their right to collective bargaining and to joining a union, and the right to a livable wage. And regrettably, in many areas of this nation, our very right to vote is being challenged.

But now, like never before, we are united as a community: Coming  together to push for a clean and safe city, for a good, well paying jobs and for an organized effort to give all people who live and work in this city, a VOICE.

Over 100,000 people in Long Beach live in poverty, and over 190,000 or over 40% of the city, live below twice the federal poverty level threshold of $43,908 for a family of four. Where you live and if you rent or own a home is contingent on how much money you make. This is particularly disturbing because much of our wealth is determined by home ownership.

So why is voting important? Ever wonder who voted for mayor in Long Beach? Over 77% of those who voted in the mayoral race in 2010 were white.  This tells me that white homeowners who vote by mail are electing our mayor.  Elected officials serve everyone they represent; however, at times, there is a tendency for elected officials to serve those who voted them into office and ignore the rest.  A good elected official fights that urge.

We see the eastside, in many instances, untouched by foreclosures, shootings, poverty and environmental impacts.   Yet, they choose the mayor and other citywide officials. Who do you think your representatives are going to listen to: Those that voted or those that didn’t bother to vote?

I don’t want you to get discouraged because together we can make a difference. We can make a difference on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Don’t be invisible and don’t let others determine what kind of city we live in. Please vote!

I am urging you to vote for the following important propositions:

Prop 30 will provide students in K-12 and colleges with much needed relief. Please vote YES.

Prop 32 will not prevent the Super Pacs and millionaires from spending their money but it puts handcuffs on working families and silences their voice. Please vote NO.

Measure N provides a minimum wage for hotel workers in high end hotels and will go a long way in providing a good wage for working families. Please vote YES.

Measure O is our very own anti voter suppression measure and will increase voter turn out, especially in the poor and minority areas of this city and in the long run will SAVE our city and schools money.  Please vote YES.


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VoiceWaves is a Long Beach youth-led journalism and media-training project. The youth, ages 16-24, are learning to report, write, and create digital journalism content. Their reports will raise awareness of community health issues and activate change.