Long Beach mayoral candidates Rex Richardson and Suzie Price spoke at a mild forum Wednesday night in front of 250 people, addressing issues such as affordable student housing, environmental issues and the homeless crisis.
Long Beach vice mayor Richardson recognized the issue of expensive rent prices for students in the city and proposed the Long Beach Housing Promise in collaboration with Long Beach, Long Beach City College and the Long Beach Unified School District.
“In the city, half of our renters pay more than half of their income on rent,” Richardson said. “As we move forward, we need to lean into our Long Beach College Promise and expand it to include housing and jobs.”
Councilwoman Price regarded the rent crisis as an issue of supply and demand and said there was not “enough housing in the city to allow for us to have housing at entry points at different price points.” Price offered the solution of micro-unit housing, similar to student housing employed by other universities around the country.
“Micro-units will allow for a communal style of environment designed for students and recent college graduates that can be built with public private partnerships and is successfully happening in university towns around the country,” Price said.
In regard of environmental issues in Long Beach, Richardson noted the 17-year-difference in life expectancy in different parts of the city due to the air quality. As part of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the vice mayor “fought for landmark reform on oil refineries that requires them to keep the air pollution onsite.”
“I am proud to be the only candidate in this race for mayor that hasn’t accepted a dollar, and will not accept a dollar, from oil companies,” Richardson said.
In her own response to the question, Price said students live in a time of the internet and should “fact check things” they heard that night. Furthermore, the councilwoman included reducing port pollution as one of her top environmental priorities. As chair of the Port Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Price said the port in Long Beach was “known around the world” as a green port that is environmentally sound and has zero emissions goals.
“But that does not mean our port doesn’t have a lot of opportunity and room to grow,” Price said.
On the issue of mental health, both candidates acknowledged the severity of mental health issues in young adults. Price said people should have access to free subsidized mental health services through both the city and the campus, as well as any other institution.
Richardson acknowledged the diversity of Long Beach residents, noting the need to localize mental health services to the demographic of the people.
“Long Beach is one of three cities in the entire state with its own public health department,” Richardson said. “That gives us a tremendous opportunity to localize our mental health services.”
Richardson said the city should have a single mental health crisis line so “people who are having a mental health crisis know where to call.” The vice mayor said this is best made possible by localizing mental health, a process that he already began in his partnership through the county.