Over 400 local residents are expected to attend the fifth annual People’s State of the City event. The Daily 49er interviewed James Suazo, one of the speakers and hub coordinator with Building Healthy Communities Long Beach, to discuss issues facing Long Beach right now such as minimum wage and police violence.
What is the People’s State of the City and what is its purpose?
So the purpose of the People’s State of the City is to bring our community of Long Beach together and dial up about the challenges, opportunities and a create solutions for our city from the perspective of residents who are directly impacted.
What kind of impact does this event have on the city and its council members?
Well this is a really highly anticipated event in our community. Last year, we had over 450 people turn out. That included residents, elected officials and other community leaders from across Long Beach. So this is a good opportunity for us to hear about the different issues from a perspective that hasn’t been told in the media.
And [it’s] really aimed to educate more folk about the different issues such as the economy, poverty, the environment, community safety and what it really takes to address these long standing issues.
What kind of impact does it have on the city policy?
In the past five years we’ve seen a major shift in terms of creating more sustainable policy that lists of all of Long Beach and not in particular specific communities. So we’re starting to see policies and other campaigns move forward that not only touch on one single issue, but look at the larger picture, like so we’re talking about looking at prevention programs, we’re talking about more recently raising the minimum wage or looking at policies like language access. So I think one of the big impacts is not only closer community, but also just breaking the profile level on a lot of these issues in the community and transferring that into policy.[sidebar title=”People’s State of the City” align=”left” background=”on” border=”all” shadow=”on”]
When: Thursday, Feb. 25 at 5 p.m.
Where: Franklin Classical Middle School
540 Cerritos Ave, Long Beach, California 90802
What are some of the major issues you will be discussing?
So this year we will be looking a range of different issues, but also looking at the connection between them showing how important it is to really think about the impact on all the issues – not just one single issue. So we’ll be looking at the environment, we will be looking at poverty, police violence and community safety, displacements, developments, and finally access to opportunity for young people – recognizing that all these issues are interconnected or intersectional.
Have any issues from last year carried over onto this year?
Yeah. So a lot of these issues actually are very similar to what we’ve highlighted last year. Some are reiterated in different ways to show a connection between others, but a lot of these stay the same because they’re root-caused issues, meaning that these are what really impact people’s health the most.
So when we talk about improving our communities, they can’t do that with simple Band-aid solutions or services. What we really need to look at are substandard housing or the increase in violence in the community, or high rates of unemployment in specific areas of Long Beach.
Could you tell me more of the opportunities for young people?
One of the things we also recognize is that at the center of all these challenges in our community our youth and specifically youth of color, so we have a duty to invest in our youth and support them with opportunities. And those opportunities go beyond school and education, they go into jobs making that they have living wages to support now and their families and also looking at higher education. So making sure that tuition is affordable for students and that they can actually achieve their goal and graduate.
What will the minimum wage be increasing too, and why is it being increased?
The minimum wage will be to $13 an hour and then eventually we’ll get up to $15 an hour in the future as well. So the significance of this is that when you have the price of goods and services constantly go up and wages haven’t kept up with inflation, so when we talk about the poverty issues in Long Beach where we have families and individuals who work multiple jobs or have full time jobs and are still living in poverty that’s a wage issue. So this is a really big step toward lifting almost 54 thousand workers in Long Beach that will get a raise.
Final thoughts going into the People’s State of the City 2016?
Our message to the community… is to have courage. Both in having high expectations for our city and supporting both solutions for how we change. So we really want our city leaders to walk away with the courage and inspiration to create strong policies and don’t leave anyone in our community behind.