At the end of January, we announced that we would change the way we cover elections. It’s not just a departure for how we deal with candidates and key issues, but it’s a departure for how the media in general handles the build-up to Election Day—too often by printing or airing candidate endorsements and their carefully tailored self-promoting press-releases and otherwise providing space for candidates to use for their personal soapbox.

Instead, our aim is to focus our coverage on the concerns of you, the citizen and voter.

Our initial step in the process is to send out surveys to our readers to determine what issues are of greatest concern and what questions you’d like us to get candidates to answer.

So far, the response has been great, if not indicative of all the people in Long Beach—at least not yet (see more on that below). More than 300 people have submitted their responses as of Tuesday, most of them in East Long Beach, Belmont Shore, Downtown and Bixby Knolls. Most had incomes above $100,000, and the majority were White. 

Still, many of the responses were helpful and thoughtful, including these comments regarding on how we should deal with the candidates:

  • Candidates need to unpack “public safety” because it seems like they think that’s the way they get to avoid answering for our exorbitant police budget. 
  • Do not allow a politician to sidetrack your question—continue to pursue until you get a direct answer. Circle back if they go onto a different path, and make all candidates think about “how” they will accomplish their goals once in office, not just “what” they want to accomplish. The “how” forces them to ponder the details and not just spew propaganda.
  • Keep responses on point—don’t allow candidates to veer off into self-serving monologues or name-calling.
  • Make the candidates give their plans to solve Long Beach problems and specify why their plans are feasible or how they will make them feasible. Too many candidates are just loud and angry about obvious problems (homelessness, crime), which wins over loud and angry constituents, but it doesn’t mean anything if they have no plan to solve the problems (besides some vague infeasible promises to lower taxes while also increasing policing).
  • Concentrate on what a candidate’s focus and goals will be and what PROVEN solutions they may use to achieve those goals. The candidates should stick to problems and solutions their office gives them authority to address.

As for the areas of most concern to respondents, it’s pretty much the one-two punch you might expect: Homelessness/housing and crime, trailed by such matters as infrastructure (mainly potholes) and budgetary matters. Some sample remarks:

  • Housing costs have skyrocketed; seems like most development is of luxury condos that replace and displace locals. The workers who make this city run have fewer places to live.
  • The city needs to work on programs for affordable housing and stop the construction of high rise buildings on streets near the beach and downtown. These buildings are only an unwelcome addition to more congestion in a city that is not large enough to accommodate them.
  • Financial and fiscal responsibility. We have way too much money tied up in budgetary columns that are considered “untouchable” by the politicians. Every item in the budget should be up for debate—every position, every expense!
  • The biggest issue is structural inequality. We are not truly an inclusive and diverse city if we do not prioritize affordable housing for everyone, have public schools that are equally funded and strong, have clean air to breathe across Long Beach, and living wages for all.
  • If we had leaders that would take action, we wouldn’t have to have police tending to so many homeless incidents, wouldn’t have to have city services clean up abandoned “camp” areas, and wouldn’t have so many desperate people committing crimes because they have no other options. The late Demond Tutu said, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

This is a great start in our effort to get more feedback from readers, but it’s just the beginning. 

To increase the scope of responses and the diversity of respondents, we are planning more intimate conversations with residents, particularly in underrepresented areas such as North, West and Central Long Beach, by working with neighborhood leaders and community groups to host listening sessions over the next month and during the primary election season.

In addition to our community outreach (details to come), you can, if you haven’t already, fill out the survey (in Spanish here) and urge your friends and neighbors to fill one out, too. Also, feel free to Email the Elections Team at [email protected], or DM us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.