Saying that she wants to build a city that residents are proud to live in, East Long Beach Councilwoman Suzie Price announced Monday that she will run for mayor, making her the second incumbent council member to declare their candidacy for the seat in the 2022 election.
Price, who works as a prosecutor in the Orange County District Attorney’s office, has represented the 3rd City Council district for the past eight years. The district includes Belmont Shore, Naples and the rest of southeast Long Beach. She’s lived in the city for over 30 years and owns a small business on Second Street with her husband.
She said the decision was tough because she’d likely have to retire from her career as a prosecutor, but the choice to enter the race was made easier after Mayor Robert Garcia announced he was running for Congress and Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, a friend of hers, said he was retiring from the state legislature and not entering the mayor’s race.
So far, Price will be competing against Councilman Rex Richardson, who announced his candidacy last week, and former East Long Beach Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske. There’s still time for other contenders to enter the race as well.
Price said public safety and providing essential city services would be at the top of her priority list as mayor.
“When they open their front doors, I want residents to feel pride in their city, that they feel their city is working for them,” Price said in an interview. “Things like the conditions of the roads, the conditions of the parks, whether the city has a handle on the things affecting quality of life. Those are really critical.”
Price got into politics in 2013 after being approached by friends in her neighborhood to run to replace outgoing Councilman Gary Delong.
She had been student body president at Cal State Long Beach and was involved in her kids’ PTA meetings but wasn’t a politician. One of her biggest issues as a candidate in 2014 was getting a crosswalk installed at Eliot Street for pedestrians crossing to the park and Marine Stadium farmers market.
As a council member, she’s drawn some controversy for her votes on affordable housing, hotel worker protections and funding for the Long Beach Police Department, leading to protestors targeting her home, but Price said every vote she takes comes from research, not raw emotion. That’s a style she said she’ll carry with her if she’s elected mayor.
“When you’re standing up saying something, your credibility is at stake,” Price said. “ You have to make sure you know what you’re talking about, that you’ve been mindful because if you stand up and say something that’s incorrect or not well researched or informed, it affects your credibility.”
She’s also the only member of the council that didn’t vote to approve a lease for Urban Commons to operate the Queen Mary in 2016, which she said was the best decision she’s ever made. Urban Commons turned out to be a disastrous operator for the Queen Mary, failing to keep up with required maintenance before descending into bankruptcy amid accusations of fraud and self-dealing. The city took back control of the ship last year and now must decide how to salvage it, something that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Price said that two of the biggest issues facing the city—creating more affordable housing and bringing businesses that can support well-paying jobs—can be addressed similarly by cutting through red tape. Affordable housing construction needs to have fewer strings attached and more support from the city, Price said. The current constraints that require developers to secure grant funding and build near high-quality transit have resulted in slow construction and a worsening housing crunch.
“It’s a disincentive for people to invest in the city if it’s going to take a long time to have to wait for entitlements,” Price said.
Price said being more business-friendly by streamlining the processes to open up in Long Beach could benefit the city even if it opts to forego tax revenue. She said the jobs created would outweigh the loss sustained by the city in the short term.
One of the biggest issues facing the city, particularly the coastal communities that Price currently represents, is climate change. Price said the city’s Climate Action Adaptation Plan would serve as a framework but the city needs to make strides in short-term efforts—such as planting more trees to absorb heat—and longer-term solutions, such as rebuilding wetlands areas.
The city’s reliance on oil revenue also needs to end, Price said. A lot of public services are financed through the city’s Tidelands Fund, which is where the bulk of oil tax money is deposited. Discussions to move away from that model have already started.
“That’s a conversation we need to be having more seriously,” Price said. “It’s definitely something we need to be planning for in the next five to ten years.”
When it comes to homelessness, Price said as mayor she would be more aggressive in enforcing the city’s municipal code, which forbids camping in public spaces, and in offering services to those who are unhoused.
She said one of the first things she would do is invest in more outreach teams and quality-of-life officers so the city could clear encampments but also provide opportunities and services for people to get off the streets.
“Residents want actual solutions,” Price said. “They want to make sure that the parks are a safe place for their kids to play, that the beaches are safe for them to walk on and that the city is not allowing the municipal code to be violated on a consistent basis.”
Price said she would not cut funding to the police or fire departments to accomplish that, adding that those departments still need to be built back up. However, she said she does support police reforms to rein in police misconduct, pointing to her own efforts to finally bring body-worn cameras to the LBPD.
“You have to do things that are difficult as mayor, take positions that may be unpopular with anyone, I’m not worried about that,” Price said. “The right thing needs to happen.”