At the last week’s debate, seven of ten mayoral candidates, fought for one chance to lead the City of Long Beach for the next four years. The event, moderated by Mat Kaplan, was televised on the Public Access Digital Network live from the Long Beach Community Action Partnership studio and focused on economic growth, the arts, and funding city services.
Candidates Richard Camp, Damon Dunn, Robert Garcia, Bonnie Lowenthal, Steven Mozena, Doug Otto, and Jana Shields were all in attendance.
As voters’ top concern is job creation, each candidate explained their vision for Long Beach’s economic future. Otto, an attorney, made his vision clear: “Making Long Beach the most business-friendly city in America.”
Pension reform was also a key discussion point, and according to Shields, is the core issue of her platform. She said it was time for Long Beach to create real pension reform to close loopholes.
The event also featured questions from three panelists– Long Beach Post editor Sarah Bennett, Leadership Long Beach’s Board past President Jim Kruger, and the Gazette’s Executive Editor Harry Saltzgaver.
Many candidates shared the belief that Long Beach arts can also generate revenue in the city, home to a vibrant arts district, an art walk for artisan crafts, and various museums scattered across the city. Lowenthal, State Assemblymember from the 70th District, said she intends to develop an arts complex that has been in the works for some time. Shields said she would bring more attention to the historic districts, which have been bringing in film contracts.
Each candidate was also asked to choose from a list of principles that included integrity, vision, and teamwork, as to which single principle may serve as their guide during their mayoral service.
“Teamwork,” said Garcia, currently Long Beach’s Vice Mayor. “You got to work and build consensus,” he added. Lowenthal also chose teamwork. “I will be building a strategy with community task forces,” she said.
Dunn, businessman and former NFL player, chose vision, invoking his life story of winning against the odds by growing up in poverty and still getting into prestigious schools. He added that many residents feel Long Beach could do better. “We’re going to need visionary leadership,” he said.
Twenty percent of Long Beach residents live in poverty, which poses a challenge to candidates wishing to replace outgoing mayor Bob Foster, and candidates were asked how they would cope with those figures. Camp would encourage more entry-level jobs conducive with the expansion of trade schools.
Lowenthal pointed to her record of working with communities of color and their local organizations. “Seventy percent of LBUSD kids are eligible for free or reduced lunch meals,” she mentioned.
On matters of restoring funding to services, “we should do things not proportionally but by priorities,” Dunn said. Shields offered a contrast. Where she lives, she said she sees people in need of parks and libraries and said she would restore funding to these resources proportionally or by more, she said.
“Our libraries are part of the public safety team,” Garcia said. Lowenthal would plan to bring in youth programs back into parks.
In the video above, VoiceWaves interviewed audience and participants for their reactions to the forum.
The full event can be streamed online at www.padnet.tv.