Above, Youth Reporter Alvin Engo sits with 4th district council member Daryl Supernaw. This Q & A is part of our ongoing city leader series featuring interviews and collaborations led by Youth Reporters ages 15 to 25. More to come. Photos by Michael Lozano.
On September 17, Daryl Supernaw welcomed VoiceWaves for a Q & A interview in his office at Long Beach City Hall. As the 4th district council member, we asked Supernaw a wide range of questions, including his start in politics, career highlights, his views on youth and social programs and his plans for the future of greater Long Beach.
VOICEWAVES: Who are you and what led up to you being a city council member?
SUPERNAW: I was born and raised in the city of Long Beach and I was very active in the community. I don’t know why. I don’t know what’s in my DNA that causes that but I just cared a lot about the community and was involved as a private citizen. And one of the big projects I did which runs along Atherton next to Cal State Long Beach is what was called the Atherton ditch. It was an open concrete culvert that didn’t get covered for years and years. So I became known for [solving] that… And then in 2012 I was recruited to run and that was it.
I lost that election in 2012 and my predecessor went off to the assembly. Then there was a special election in 2015 that I ran in and won. So I served one year that term and then in 2016 no one ran against me. So I’m [in office] until 2020, until the next election.
VOICEWAVES: So I was actually looking into your Twitter posts and the one thing that surprised me was I couldn’t see much activity out of that. Why is that?
SUPERNAW: So what we use Twitter and Facebook for is what I would call a teaser.. because our form of communication is the newsletter and that goes out every Friday… We have 15 items in it and for a once a week publication that’s
what we think the public can tolerate — about 15 different topics. People always say to me, “gee, you sure do a lot in a week.” Well, we do a lot more than that we just don’t put it in the newsletter because you have to have a finite amount of items in there or you lose your audience and it’s all about it’s all about promoting the district.
When I came into office I knew our district needed to [promote the community and] the residents need to take pride in the district so the newsletter has always been named Go Forth! [Our Social Media] is very light because we’re trying to encourage people to click on that link to go to our newsletter.
VOICEWAVES: Do you have any memorable community stories that you would like to share?
SUPERNAW: The nature of the job is just 24/7… Everyday I’ve been in office, every vote I’ve ever cast has context. We live in a soundbite world as you guys well know… So there are a lot of things that have a lot of meaning but it would take a lot of explanation, you know, where we have constituents reaching out and whether it’s some part of the infrastructure they can’t deal with or if it’s a nuisance property next door.
We treat those quality of life issues very seriously and we try to address them, [giving] residents a comfort level that you know the councilman has your back on this, that we’re gonna’ do the right thing here.
VOICEWAVES: The People’s Budget was passed justs a couple months ago. I wanted to know your thoughts on it?
SUPERNAW: Well, we put a lot of money into programming. I think it’s important to council members across the board. We have that buy-in but we wanted to apply it across the board.
You know, I think that’s my job to make sure that my district gets a fair share of of the programming available. I think all council members, the mayor especially, we all see the benefits and the need for programs both for youth and the other piece is seniors. That was part of that whole package. So my job at that point once we approve it is just make sure that our district is up and up and getting the fair share.
VOICEWAVES: If there was ever any more proposals for youth funding to also help students with getting them out of crime and poverty, what would your thoughts be on how to implement that?
SUPERNAW: We have a budget that we deal with and each council office has discretionary funds. I would always be willing to step up with special programs if someone wants to petition our office or solicit funding individually.
We have a couple of sources of funding… I also have an office holder account where people who want to donate to this council district can do that, and so that’s almost like private funding that we can use to support things.
I talked to the nurse at Wilson — which is across the street from the my district — and found out that kids who couldn’t afford school uniforms had them provided for them by the Assistance League. But there was no one providing logo sweatshirts and there were students at Wilson who could not afford them. So we brought up our own funding and created this sweatshirt program for kids in need for they could get a logo sweatshirt because, you know, they’re very expensive. Wilson is in Suzie Price’s district so now we’re partnering around that. I donate and open it up with like a $1,000 donation or something like that for the year.
We also found out from a constituent that that there was no all-inclusive playground equipment in Long Beach at parks. So what we did was we picked a park, that Parks and Rec was able to tell us would be suitable for this and we put in all-inclusive or American Disability Act-friendly swings at that park. We used our discretionary funds to do that. We take the savings from our office operation and put it into that. So at one point, I actually made a contribution in Community Hospital for an architect of $150,000. So that was a council item that was approved by council but it’s those kind of special needs that we have to address. And then we’ve also asked Parks and Rec, “Can you identify other areas in the fourth district” because we’d love to do that all over. We’d like for kids with special needs throughout the district to go to be able to go their local park and have access. We’re doing a new playground at Whaley Park right by Cal State Long Beach that will have better access.
VOICEWAVES: What do you think about the homelessness issue in the fourth district? How do you plan to solve it?
SUPERNAW: So this is really a [nationwide] issue that we’re not getting real good results on… We’re putting money toward the problem; the city of Long Beach spends $14 million a year on homeless issues. But what we’re doing as a council district is we have areas where we have chronic issues. We’ve partnered with the city prosecutor’s office and brought in what is called a neighborhood impact prosecutor.
And so so the model for the city is that we provide services. That’s how we try to eliminate homelessness. In cases where people are refusing services or refusing to go to rehab or not, this is where the city neighborhood impact prosecutor can be involved and give them incentives to use it.
[My single staff member] Barbara works also all the time with homeless services, the multi-service center and outreach. The Fire department has a HEART system. LBPD has quality of life officers. Parks and Rec and Marine is involved, Public Works is a big one, too.
We had a classic case where we had a chronic homeless woman on the corridor and we tried everything. And at one point they got the clergy involved and that was the that was the ticket. That was the tipping point. I know it’s cliche, but it takes a village. It just takes a broad range of resources… [I always heard] a number that’s associated with it. It’s like 17 visits before someone will get help. So it’s a real challenge. But the answer is don’t give up. The answer is to keep after it. Keep working.
VOICEWAVES: I’d like to maybe inquire a little bit more about you have any future major proposals for Long Beach or your district in general?
SUPERNAW: The Community Hospital is a real big issue that is huge. We have to get that in order and do that community outreach and whatnot to bring that forward.
We also have a council agenda item coming up to streamline the council meetings a little bit because my feeling is it’s just not fair to the public for us to have a meeting that goes to 2 a.m. We’re losing a lot of people after 10 p.m. So I think we just need to step up and do something to try to get the information to the public in a more efficient way. Are there ways we can do this where we’re serving people a little better? Because I don’t think anyone is watching by the time we get to the table.
The budget season takes three or four meetings and they typically are long. That’s the one where you want everyone involved. Like, here’s the taxpayer money, you know? And when you’re meeting and going into the wee hours of the morning, it’s just not working.
So I just want to open the question: is there anything we can do to bring about a system that is more transparent, gets the public more involved and what not? Maybe it’s self-explanatory — if we’re going to 2 a.m. I’m just not sure how well that’s serving the public.
This Interview was edited for brevity and clarity.