Long Beach, News

Long Beach residents reveal the first ever People’s Budget Proposal

About forty residents gathered on Tuesday morning in front of City Hall to present and endorse the first ever “The People’s Budget Proposal” for the 2019 fiscal year.

The budget proposal was authored by four local activist organizations: the Housing Habitability Coalition, the Invest in Youth Campaign, the Long Beach Language Access Coalition and the Sanctuary Long Beach Campaign. The groups requested that the Long Beach City Council approve a budget for 2019 which includes allocations addressing four areas: immigrant rights, language justice, safe housing and youth opportunities. A proposal for the city’s budget for the following year has not yet been revealed.

“A budget is not merely a spreadsheet but [it is] a moral document that reflects our community’s values and our government’s commitment to the people,” said Jorge Rivera, program director with Long Beach Residents Empowered. “The People’s Budget Proposal is a reflection of the community’s passion and vision for a better community.”

The People’s Budget asks that city officials include the following in their final budget:

  • An allocation of $250,000 from the city’s general fund, meant for setting up a legal defense fund to help undocumented individuals find legal representation, which the city council approved in March.
  • A total of $1,028,572 meant to fund different portions of the Language Access Policy, such as interpretation at city meetings, multilingual staffing and translation of city web pages. A full list of the portions they want funds for, as well as how much each would need and an explanation for these figures, is on page five of the proposal.
  • Funding for housing code enforcement would allow changes such as hiring additional staff to investigate code violations, which the proposal authors say the department does not have the resources to fully address. No specific figure was given, but the proposal does state that code enforcement could become self-funded through the issuing and collection of funds.
  • The establishment of a Long Beach Children & Youth Fund which would be supported by revenue collected from the city’s general fund and taxes on marijuana sales. They also ask that resources for youth development and support be protected from budget cuts. No specific figure was given.

Each component of the budget proposal had a speaker discuss why these requests are necessary. A video of these speeches and the budget proposal presentation can be found here.

Representatives of Better Housing for Long Beach appeared with signs against rent control and rent strikes, topics which the budget presentation did not talk about. They initially set up at a table behind a podium which supporters of the People’s Budget Proposal had gathered around. When the speaker’s podium was moved to be directly in front of a wall, the rent control opposition walked over and formed a half-circle around the presentation, its supporters and media covering the event.

Joani Weir of Better Housing for Long Beach said that her group thought it should participate because of their interest in events dealing with issues they care about, such as code enforcement. Weir stated that her group did not make an attempt to participate as a part of the event with organizers, citing past negative experiences with Housing Long Beach as a reason for not doing so. Housing Long Beach was not one of the groups which hosted the event.

As presenters spoke, some supporters of the People’s Budget attempted to stand in front of the people holding anti-rent control signs who tried getting to the front of the small crowd facing the podium.

Absent were members of the city council; however, the event organizers do intend to engage in dialogue with them.

“[The city council] weren’t [directly] invited to the press conference, but we’ll be scheduling meetings with them in the coming weeks up until the mayor and city manager release their budget proposal,” said James Suazo, associate director of Long Beach Forward.

The proposal’s webpage features a section where residents can endorse the People’s Budget Proposal, which Suazo said would be used to show support for these items to the city council. Suazo also said that the authors of the proposal intend to hold community meetings and encourage residents to speak in favor of these requests at budget workshops, which city council representatives will hold before a vote is taken on the city’s budget proposal.

The city council must approve the city’s official budget for 2019 in September. In the past two years, the official budget proposal was revealed in late July or early August.

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