Community Members Lead ‘People’s State of the City’

Apr. 17, 2013 / By

It’s perhaps the biggest congregation of Long Beach activist groups.

It’s the Mayor’s State of the City. Oops, we mean the People’s State of the City.

Dozens of Long Beach’s most active groups amassed last Thursday at Grace United Methodist Church for the event, which is the second ever.

Organizer Nikole Cababa said they sought to tackle the major local issues, but from a community perspective.

“We’re really trying to shift the dialogue,” Cababa said, “to talk about how we can improve the city as a whole.”

Earlier this year in February, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster highlighted the city’s “fiscal health.”

The event last week a community-led response to the mayor’s annual “State of the City,” and is the second-ever People’s State of the City. The first was held last year.

More than 300 hundred people packed the event, organizers said, and focused on several issues:  jobs, environment, health, immigration, housing, and neighborhood safety.

Cababa said providing a comprehensive state of the city shows how issues are interrelated and how problems in one area surpass district boundaries.

Vice Mayor Robert Garcia was in attendance, as were other council members. Garcia said though the traditional Mayor’s State of the City is important, “this is a grassroots take on that.” The People’s State of the city highlighted underrepresented groups, Garcia said.

“The difference is we define the issues,” said Tonya Reyes Uranga, former Councilwoman and speaker at the event. “It’s the people’s city; it should be the people’s state of the city.”

In the video above, we talk to community members on what the state of the city looks like to them.

“Jobs,” said Edgar Gonzalez, a college student and attendee at the event. “I’m really worried that when I graduate, I’m not going to find a job.” He’s seeing what is happening to his friends after they graduate- they are not ending up with college-level work.

Karina Hernandez is also a student who attended the event. The number one issue on her mind? Immigration.

“My parents potentially can do so much better…There’s a piece of paper that’s preventing them from doing so much,” Hernandez said.

Some attendees struggled to identify the issue that hits closest to home. “There are a lot,” said Taitu Negus, a 17-year-old Millikan High student. “I’d like to represent being green.” Negus is a member of the Green Academy at her school.

What issue affects you the most? Leave your comments below.

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Michael Lozano

Michael is an editor and multimedia journalist born to Mexican parents who started their own Domestic Violence counseling center in Southeast Los Angeles. His mentorship has provided youth opportunities to share their stories online on NPR, KCET, the Long Beach Post, and other national websites. His articles have been syndicated and translated into multiple languages via New America Media and ImpreMedia, the nation’s largest Spanish-language news publisher. He was a fellow with UCLA's Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies, and has recently been a Votebeat Reporter for CalMatters and the Long Beach Post. Michael graduated from CSULB in 2011 with research honors in Sociology and a Journalism minor. Follow his work @chicanochico on Twitter and @thechicanochicoreport on Instagram.