steve neal 2014

Former Councilman Steven Neal speaking at last year’s People’s State of the City. Photos: Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community 

Wednesday’s People’s State of the City will lack the technological flare and calculation of the Mayor Robert Garcia address delivered in January, but it will include one important factor that that the mayor’s glitzy presentation lacked.

The fourth annual community event will focus on the people of Long Beach and their ground-level views of the issues affecting residents, told in their own words.

“The goal of the event is really to bring Long Beach residents from all areas of the city together to discuss and take action on the issues that are most affecting our city right now,” said Community Organizer James Suazo, who is part of the Long Beach Rising coalition putting on the event.

The event is expected to bring together hundreds of community members, as well as elected officials with the hope that through dialogue, some of the more pressing topics facing the city can be improved upon. The issue of jobs, housing, education, health and public safety are areas sure to be discussed during the forum segment. Some of the elected officials scheduled to be in attendance are Council Members Lena Gonzalez and Roberto Uranga, as well as representatives from the offices of Senator Ricardo Lara and Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell.

2015 peoples state of the cityRecognizing that public safety is a hot button issue both locally and nationally, the coalition chose to locate this year’s event at Stephens Middle School, the site where a 15-year-old boy was fatally stabbed while walking home from Cabrillo High School in March. Suazo said that while policing practices are sure to come up, the goal isn’t to view any one topic through a particular lens, because when broken down to a holistic level, all of the city’s issues are interconnected. The event has rotated its host sites through regions of the city since its inception, and with this year being the first event to be held on the West Side, Suazo said Stephens just made sense.

“This year, we really wanted to emphasize Stephens Middle School as the location of Keyshawn’s death because that’s a really important issue for the community,” Suazo said. “Whether it’s the issue of safe routes to school or general public safety, there’s a lot of healing once a tragic incident like that happens.”

With last week’s vote by the Los Angeles City Council to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020, Suazo said jobs and eliminating wage theft is a topic that will certainly be discussed. A report released last week showed that a minimum wage worker would need several full-time jobs to make rent in the city, as the topic of livable wages has become a national discussion. The program will include a presentation titled “A Day in the Life of a Hotel Worker,” which will be delivered by local artist June Kaesith. Hotel workers received a boost in pay with the passage of Measure N in 2012.

“We’ve seen that happen in Long Beach already with Measure N, but now it’s about moving that conversation forward and creating quality jobs for everyone,” Suazo said.

Getting the conversation started is an important aspect for the coalition’s drive to increase civic engagement. Suazo said they try to stress that being engaged in the community shouldn’t be limited to elections but should extend into everyday issues. Through events like Wednesday’s State of the City, the groups aim to instill confidence in community members to call their council members and let them know the issues that could use some attention. He also added that the motivation behind bringing together so many stakeholders is because without everyone at the table, it’s difficult to arrive at common solutions.

“It helps [to] show our system leaders [that] the community members care about these issues,” Suazo said of the event. “But also other community members that think they’re the only one concerned about an issue that there’s a room full of people here that care about those same issues and want to do something about it. It’s as much about educating people but also empowering people to make positive changes themselves.”

The 2015 People’s State of the City will be hosted at Stephens Middle School located at 1830 W. Colombia Street Long Beach, CA 90810. A mixer will begin at 5:00PM with the scheduled programs to run from 6:00-7:30PM.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.