Optimism and promise for a prosperous but sustainable future captivated an audience as Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia delivered his State of the City Address on Wednesday at the Terrace Theater.
It was the second address in his incumbency.
Garcia lauded the accomplishments of 2015 while ushering in goals for the new year. He also praised the education system in Long Beach, elaborating on new efforts and funding as a means to provide more opportunity and economic growth for Long Beach residents.
“This is how a city supports its youth,” Garcia said. “And we show, by working together with students and teachers, the future foundation for economic development across the Long Beach community.”
According to Garcia, the city was able to add 750 new high school and community college internships through a partnership with independent businesses in Long Beach. This marks a 50 percent increase from the 1,500 internships offered before Garcia took office.
Associated Students, Inc. President Jose Salazar attended the address.
“I was the one in the center [of the audience],” Salazar said. “Hearing him speak was so inspiring.”
A reflective Garcia spoke not only of the accomplishments of the past, but the shortcomings as well.
Low wages was one of the many issues Garcia spoke on, expressing empathy for those who struggle to live on the current minimum wage and hope for future wage increases. He discussed plans for a steady wage increase, pledging a commitment to following the Economic Development Commission’s recommendation to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019.
“As we debate the final law, let’s use the work of the commission to build an ordinance that works for everyone,” Garcia said, “An increased minimum wage will stimulate our economy and help many families who struggle to make ends meet.”
He elaborated on an affordable housing plan that would, hopefully, prevent any more residents falling into homelessness.
Garcia heralded the city’s effort and success in completely abating the number of homeless veterans, a challenge President Barack Obama gave to every state. Long Beach is the first big city to achieve a 0 percent homeless veteran population, according to Garcia.
Unemployment rates in the city of Long Beach are at an all-time low, decreasing from 12 percent unemployment in 2012 down to a 6.2 percent rate as of December 2015, according to homefacts.com. Private investment within the city is growing, while the Workforce Development Department, which Garcia praised for its work, placed more than 1,900 Long Beach residents into jobs during 2015.
Garcia also spoke warmly of the Long Beach Police Department and the officers who serve on it.
“Long Beach supports our police officers, and we can best support public safety by working with our police—not against them,” Garcia said.
Garcia discussed new changes to the LBPD, including the installment of body cameras, as well as mental health initiatives to benefit police officers. Garcia spoke on the police force’s vitality to public safety, ensuring that more police officers would be patrolling the city this year.
Garcia left the stage in a storm of applause, but not before extending a hopeful message to the audience.
“This is Long Beach,” Garcia said. “The people here tonight are what make Long Beach great. While there are challenges to face, I know we can build a better Long Beach—together.”