Civically Speaking is a weekly newsletter on the latest local government news from the lens of the Long Beach Post’s City Hall reporter, who sits through so many city meetings for us.

The City Council is picking winners and losers

I think we can all agree that costs have gone up. 

Gas has been over $4 per gallon for more than two years, dinner for two at a fast food restaurant regularly exceeds $40, and rents, which were tied to the consumer price index by state law, continue to increase due to the historic and persistent inflationary cycle the country is in. 

It makes sense that leaders should be thinking of how residents are going to afford all these increases, but the Long Beach City Council has only focused on two groups so far: health care workers and hotel workers.

The two industries often have workforces made up of women, many of them from communities of color, who do the tough, unseen work inside hospitals and help maintain the allure that draws people to pay hundreds of dollars per night to stay at area hotels. 

They’re both also represented by unions who contributed heavily to get some Long Beach leaders elected last year, and could do the same again this cycle. 

Unite Here Local 11 and SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, the unions behind the push for the two recent wage increase initiatives, donated heavily in last year’s election. Each contributed $125,000 to a PAC supporting three candidates: Mayor Rex Richardson and councilmembers Megan Kerr and Joni Ricks-Oddie

Hoteliers likewise spent similarly large amounts on Richardson’s opponent, Suzie Price, during the 2022 election. 

The council voted earlier this year to pass a $25 minimum wage for employees at health care facilities in the city but that was overturned by a referendum effort and now voters will decide the issue in 2024

It appears voters will also decide if hotel workers should be paid the same $25 minimum wage, with a “path to $30” by 2028, when the region will host the Summer Olympics. Both could be before voters in March.

The current minimum wage of $15.50—hotel workers actually make $17.55 under a 2012 law—is not enough to live on, councilmembers said Tuesday, so they’re looking to voters to increase it. Councilmember Cindy Allen said it’s “the right thing to do,” before some of her colleagues noted that city employees are also in need of the same generosity. 

There are several classifications of city employees who don’t make $25 per hour. Gardeners can make $17.50 -$19.80 with the city as a starting wage, according to the city’s salary schedule. Clerical aides can make as little as $15.60, which is about $5 per hour less than a member of the City Council. 

Ambulance operators and refuse drivers—the city currently has a shortage of both—make under $25 per hour, with ambulance drivers making between $17 and $18 per hour. What about library clerks and aides who make as little as $15.65 an hour? 

Could these low wages be contributing to library closures, trash not getting picked up and ambulance drivers crashing into power polls because they’re overworked? Some employees have hinted at that. 

A lot of these workers are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which is in negotiations with the city for a new contract this year. But it’s hard to imagine that all workers who are currently under $25 an hour will be given the type of bump the council has endorsed for hotel and health care workers in the private sector. 

We don’t know why the council is willing to go to bat for these two unions, but not for the city’s own employees. One of our reporters, Alicia Robinson, reached out to the council members who authored the item but got no response.

The last time the council boosted wages for all workers was in 2016. It was a drawn-out process with studies and tumultuous hearings that pitted business owners against employees that resulted in a $13 per hour ordinance with a “pathway to $15” by 2021.

A living wage calculator for the region published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that if the council is interested in a “living wage” for all workers, it may be time to expand its focus beyond just a few unions who donated to their campaigns.


Is one dog beach enough? Maybe not. The City Council is expected to start the process of creating a new dog park that’s closer to Downtown so people who don’t live near Rosie’s Dog Beach in Belmont Shore can enjoy taking their pup to the beach with less travel. It’s not clear where the second dog beach area could be located, but Councilmember Cindy Allen is asking that it be located in her district, which means it would be somewhere between Bluff Park and Alamitos Beach. The council could be briefed on potential locations for the new dog area by September, but getting it approved would likely require approval from the California Coastal Commission


The city’s budget process is about to begin, and the first Budget Oversight Committee meeting of the year is happening July 18. The committee typically gets the first look at the proposed budget, and because of its singular focus on the budget, can have more detailed discussions about programs and projects that may get more, or less, funding. The city recently said it now has about a $20 million surplus for the current year, which could help infuse money into projects that were underfunded. The Budget Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet July 18 at 3 p.m.

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