Incumbent: Robert Garcia
Garcia is the first openly gay mayor to be elected in Long Beach, taking 52 percent of the vote in 2014 against Damon Dunn. The former Republican and graduate of Cal State Long Beach became a member of the Democratic Party in 2004. He is running against James Henry “Henk” Conn.
- Government transparency
Since he was elected in 2014, Garcia said he has strived for a more transparent relationship with the public. In an effort to make documents regarding city projects and changes more accessible, the city launched DataLB. Created with Esri, a mapping software, citizens are now able to pull up information on different projects, renovations and construction projects throughout the city using an interactive map or list of projects. Many of the pages include pictures and plans of what is coming up, including the way different ballot measures will impact specific parts of the city.
- Rent control and taxes
Rent control has been something of a touchy subject for the incumbent.
Community activist Robert Fox made a stand against rent control, threatening to run against Garcia if nothing would be done, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported. A widely-publicised meeting between the two ended the conflict, but many in the community wondered if there was a political deal made to resolve the issue behind the scenes.
Garcia has said that he opposes rent control in the city and would instead focus on building affordable housing. His office has put forth a number of ideas, including a housing task force setup last year.
“We need housing of all types but especially for seniors on mixed income, working families, college students and those experiencing homelessness,” Garcia said during a Long Beach City Council meeting in January.
- Public transit
Garcia was a major supporter of Measure A, a ballot initiative which took revenue from a tax increase to invest into the city’s infrastructure to the tune of $384 million. Passed by 60 percent of voters, the money has gone to repairing and renovating local roads, libraries and parks, as well as increasing energy efficiency across Long Beach.
- Addressing homelessness
The mayor’s office has made a number of efforts to combat the growing issue of homelessness across the state and within Long Beach. The Mayor’s Fund for the Homeless is a city program working with local nonprofits to offer relocation assistance, job training and placement services, winter shelter programs and more.
The city received an $8 million federal grant in February to spend on the epidemic, which should help expand capacity at shelters and add more substantial services.
Homelessness remains “one of the top priority issues we continue to address day in and day out,” Garcia said in a statement to the Press-Telegram.
- Recreational marijuana
While the substance is now legal within the state, the city is still without a recreational pot shop. A small number of business licenses have been issued, but the details are still being “ironed out.”
Garcia joined nine other mayors of major cities in sending a letter to US Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, asking the lawmaker to reverse his rolling back of a federal policy, which gave a low priority to the prosecution of marijuana offenses in legal states like California.
Challenger: James Henry “Henk” Conn
James Henry “Henk” Conn is a substitute teacher and former social worker who is advocating for rent control, police reform and more accessible public transit. He is Mayor Robert Garcia’s sole challenger.
- Addressing homelessness
The candidate stated that sending people to housing with a lot of rules does not work. Conn believes that homeless residents need to have the support of counselors and medical professionals to be helped until they feel ready to accept housing.
“The solution is not to shoo away the people that we see as being messy,” Conn said.
- Animal shelters
Conn said his vision is to convert animal shelters in the city to “No Kill” shelters. Conn said he would rather support shelters in which animals could be given long-term aid, “instead of putting them on the fast track to euthanization.”
- The environment
The candidate stated that he would follow the suggestions made by environmental impact reports when it comes to new projects, such as the Belmont Beach and Aquatics Center. He also said that his plan for public transportation would aid in improving the environment.
The substitute teacher said he wants to make parks a place where people will spend their time, and that hiring more staff to keep parks clean of trash can help accomplish this.
“What I think we should be looking at is more benches and places where our senior citizens can come and watch the day go by,” Conn said.
- Police reform
Conn declared that he wanted to reform the Long Beach Police Department. He said that not all crimes require a forceful response, specifically if the suspects are not violent or causing harm. Conn also voiced support for police officers wearing body cameras, which the Long Beach Police Department has struggled with but plans to expand its use of.
“It protects the police officer and it also protects the people that they want to protect,” he said.
The candidate said that police officers are tasked with a lot by being made responsible for responding to violent crimes, domestic disputes (which he implied family counselors should handle) and the presence of homeless people (which he implied “homeless outreach workers” should handle).
Conn was also critical of the Bike Chop Shop Ordinance, which third district representative Suzie Price introduced, because he believes that it can result in profiling. To prevent this, he said that he would want police to operate solely based on evidence.
“The ways we address things are not cost effective,” Conn said. “A night in jail is not cost effective.”
Shifting training to focus on the de-escalation of situations was cited by Conn as a preferable method of operation.
- Public transportation
To help stimulate local businesses and community involvement, Conn aims to make Long Beach Transit bus fares free on weekends. Conn also said that this would allow people with disabilities and those on fixed incomes more access to the community.
- Recreational marijuana
The candidate stated that he believes the city can collect a lot of revenue from the taxation of marijuana sales.
“I think we should have medical marijuana businesses because we voted for it as a state,” Conn said. “I think we should have recreational marijuana businesses because we voted for it as a state.”
- Workers’ rights
Conn voiced abjection to prioritizing a company’s profits over a person’s health, which he believes current city representatives did when responding to an ordinance known as “Claudia’s Law.”
When asked how he would support the workforce, Conn did not explain specific actions, but did declare that he would fully support unions.