- Reporters Desk
By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
On July 15, Long Beach swore in its youngest, first openly gay and first Latino mayor, during mayoral inauguration ceremony at the Terrace Theatre.
“As mayor I want our lead our city into the future,” said Mayor Robert García, 36, who was sworn in at the ceremony. “I want us to embrace our destiny as a great international city with good goals and with good peoples.”
García committed to passing a responsible budget, strengthening the city’s educational ties with the university, the community college and the school district. The goal is to strengthen public safety services and parks, he said. He wants to create a more sustainable city, which he envisions also would innovative.
“We will move our city into the new century and we’ll do it together,” García said.
He also made a commitment to working with labor organizations and fighting poverty in the city.
“There are one in five of every one of our neighbors that tonight is struggling between finding healthcare for their children, childcare, food, or a roof over their head,” he said. “And, I believe that no matter what you do or where you live, we are all in the business of helping. We all want to help.”
Five out of nine new council members, a vice mayor, a city attorney, a city prosecutor and a city auditor, also were sworn in during the ceremony.
Former Garcia Chief of Staff Lena Gonzalez, now District 1 Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez was among the new council members sworn in that night. Her district includes the Port of Long Beach, the Wilmore historic neighborhood and parts of downtown Long Beach.
The diverse district has prospered in the past few years under the leadership of former Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal and former Councilman Robert Garcia. However, it still faces challenges with regard to poverty, pollution from the port, and crime. Recognizing these challenges, Gonzalez made a pledge and a request to her constituents.
“I ask one thing of myself and I ask one thing of our first district residents: Let’s continue striving, but let’s also not underestimate ourselves,” Gonzalez said. “We are one of the most … complex, most wonderful districts.”
Newly elected District 9 Councilman Rex Richardson, whose district faces similar crime and poverty challenges, correlated these struggles to his personal experience.
“Our family, we’ve seen the ups and downs that life has to offer, from being born on an Air Force base in Bellville, Ill. to being raised in the backwoods in Pickets County Ala., to finding owning a home and setting roots here in the great City of Long Beach,” Richardson, 30, said.
“I was the kid who barely graduated high school. Statistically, I shouldn’t be here. And, you know, I went on to become the student body president in college and now the youngest councilman … in recent history. My story is not unlike many Long Beach families. It can be very different or it could be very similar. That’s what’s beautiful about our city: Its diversity.”
Indeed, the diversity in the nine-district city is evident not only its leadership but also its geographic area, each having common and unique concerns, from public safety and traffic, to crime and poverty, to business and art support, to pollution and airport concerns.
City Auditor Laura Doud, who was re-elected and sworn in at the ceremony, used a metaphor to describe the city’s diversity and collaboration necessity in order for the city to prosper as a whole.
“Our beautiful, majestic California redwoods can grow up to 300 feet tall,” Doud said. “They can grow and weigh more than a million pounds, but their root system only grows down about 3 to 6 feet. You wonder, ‘What holds these trees up?’… Well, their root systems extend out, instead of going down, they close together and their root systems link together. So, ‘What holds them up?’ They hold each other up. The strength of the redwood trees is in linking themselves together.
“Truly, that is the strength of the City of Long Beach, how we end up all linked up together to support and strengthen each other as we strengthen this wonderful city.”