Photos by Keeley Smith.
It’s been two years since Robert Garcia was elected and ordained as the city’s newest mayor. Upon his election, he made history, becoming the first openly gay mayor, and has worked to further a vision he first championed while serving as a city councilmember.
Before the two-year celebratory occasion planned for Wednesday at the Long Beach Convention Center, Garcia reflected upon what he saw as the city’s progress, and the challenges awaiting his next year in office.
“I feel really good about the progress. I feel that the city is optimistic about the future, I feel that people feel like they’re invested in their city, and the voters clearly showed that by the overwhelming support for Measures A and B,” said Garcia. “I think people realize that Long Beach is a big city. And I always remind them, you know—more people than Atlanta, more people than Miami, more people than St. Louis—this is a big city, with big opportunity, but also big challenges. And so we’re doing the best we can to address the challenges, but I think that people are optimistic about the future.”
Images courtesy of the City of Long Beach.
Garcia touted Measures A and B as both his biggest challenge and biggest accomplishment, and promised residents they’d get what they were searching for when the budget comes out in two weeks, as the money is being allocated to projects in the exact fashion the city outlined.
He also counted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s approval of the breakwater study—also known as the San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration Study—as another landmark accomplishment, given the fact that is was basically 15 years in the making.
Other items Garcia said he was proud of included leading the council to approve raising the minimum wage before the state, the unemployment rate’s fall to a low of 4.7 percent in comparison to 13.6 percent in 2010, new residential units downtown, expanding Long Beach College Promise, and increasing internships within the city by 2,600.
“Tourism is at a record high,” said Garcia. “There’s no question the economy is strong.”
One of the ongoing challenges, Garcia acknowledged, includes community-police relations, given the current national climate. The debate was forcefully present at a Long Beach City Council meeting last week, as Black Lives Matter protesters took to the podium to express their concerns regarding police brutality. The took a special vote to hear the attendees speak.
“I support their work completely,” said Garcia of the Long Beach Police Department.
He said they are working at improving the relationship between police and community and implementing programs such as the pilot body camera program and training on de-escalation techniques. According to Garcia, the police department has also increasingly diversified, so that now, “more than at any other time in history, the department reflects the diversity in Long Beach.”
“All of those things I mentioned are things we’re doing today that we weren’t doing a few years ago […] this is a new era for police,” said Garcia. “The police chief knows this, officers know it, and I think they’re being responsible and being proactive. We’re out there doing the best we can to support their work,” It’s important that the community knows that when they call 911, we’re expecting them to help us.”
Other priorities on the mayor’s docket, looking forward, include economic development and civic innovation. In all, he sees the city in a better place than ever, and said he was looking forward to steering the city ahead in the years to come.
“Being Mayor of the city I love is an incredible honor, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done,” said Mayor Garcia. “We still have work to do, but Long Beach is in a great position and our best days are just ahead.”
To attend the free celebration taking place at the Long Beach Convention Center on Wednesday, July 20 at 5:30PM, click here.