Candidates Discuss City’s FuturePublished: April 1, 2014
Five of the leading candidates to become the next mayor of Long Beach had an opportunity to tell voters how they will lead the city as CSULB hosted a mayoral forum March 19 in the campus’ Beach Auditorium.
With the election on April 8 less than a week away, the race to be the city’s mayor is clearly in the final stretch, and candidates were interested in sharing their thoughts for the city and trying to set themselves apart from the other contenders.
The event was co-sponsored by the CSULB Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Associated Students, Inc. and the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
Addressing an overflow crowd that spilled into the University Student Union lobby, the candidates—real estate investor Damon Dunn, Vice Mayor Robert Garcia, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthall, Long Beach City College trustee Doug Otto and Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske—took on a variety of questions on the future of the city’s budget, economic development growth, employment, the civic center project, port operations and more.
Press-Telegram Public Editor Rich Archbold moderated the forum while CSULB Faculty Senate chairman Daniel O’Connor and Daily 49er Editor-in-Chief Daniel Serrano joined Press-Telegram City Editor Melissa Evans on the panel that posed the questions to the candidates.
“It is a historic election that we’re facing on April 8,” said Archibold. “Historic, in the sense that for the first time we’re going to be electing a new mayor and five council people. As the election heads into the home stretch, this is a great time to see these five candidates.”
In all, some 10 candidates are vying for the chance to lead Long Beach at a time when it appears to be gaining renewed strength after the recession. The possible recovery, however, may be accompanied by serious challenges, including rising pension costs, the controversial question of whether to build a new civic center complex and the ongoing tasks of managing port operations and providing effective public safety.
During opening statements, four of the five candidates were quick to point out their connections to the university. Garcia recalled his first address as a student at the university, for which he eventually served as the student body president. Schipske, a CSULB instructor for many years, thanked her students for letting her dismiss class early so she could take part in the forum. Lowenthal pointed out her past employment as a computer programmer at the college and Otto spoke of his days of running the campus’ “Hard Fact Hill” as a student athlete at Long Beach’ Millikan High School.
It seemed there were few differences between the candidates and much agreement on many issues as they answered the questions posed, especially as it pertained to economic development. Throughout the forum, the loss of Long Beach’s economic development office was mentioned by each candidate, sometimes more than once. All five appeared to believe that the office or something like it should be re-established if the city is to continue in its economic recovery and bring more businesses to the city.
CSULB and the city’s education system was a continuing topic of discussion at the event. In fact, both questions Serrano posed had to do with the university and its students.
First, he queried the candidates on their position regarding the California State University system’s request for an additional $95 million for its 2014-15 budget for its efforts to enroll more students instead of turning them away. Then, the 49er editor asked them how they might go about creating jobs for CSULB graduates if they were the city’s mayor.
All five candidates supported the additional funds for the university, including Lowenthal, who noted she would take that support back to Sacramento in her role as an assembly member. On the jobs question, Dunn and Garcia suggested that the city and local businesses look into partnerships with the university. Otto and Lowenthal noted that collaborative meetings with education leaders would be helpful in the jobs arena, but Schipske disagreed with that, saying that it would be much more productive to meet with the students who are graduating and find out why they are leaving the community.
Near the end of the forum, members of the audience and the viewing public were able to submit questions to the panel on index cards and via Twitter as the forum was streamed live by the Press-Telegram and broadcast live on the radio by campus radio station KBEACH (88.1 FM-HD3) via its website and smartphone apps.