By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
Lawyer Doug Otto does not consider himself a politician, though he’s been involved in city government for about 30 years.
While he has a stronghold within the District 3, where he lives, he believes that he can bring people together more collaboratively as a mayor to develop a new vision for the city, rather than a district councilman. To him, the mayor has a bully pulpit to offer ideas and lead people in particular directions.
“The right kind of mayor can have a great influence on people who live in this city,” he said. “I have a long history of running collaborative processes, of bringing people together, working toward a result and achieving that goal.”
The 65-year-old Long Beach Peninsula resident’s family moved to the city when he was six weeks old.
After earning his law degree from the University of Chicago, Otto came back to Long Beach, where helped found historic preservation groups.
In the fall of 2013, after years serving as a Community College Board trustee and several committees within the city such as the Long Beach Planning Commission, Downtown Business and Development Advisory Committee, and the founding board of the Aquarium of the Pacific,Otto decided to run for mayor.
“We’ve had a pretty good mayor for eight years, through very difficult economic times, but I think there needs to be a new vision — a new focus and a new plan — and I think I can do that,” Otto said.
His first goal is to support existing businesses by speeding up the permitting process, providing accessible support services, creating an online business assistance portal to find business assistance, offering incentives and training to existing businesses, leveraging existing resources and expanding the industrial sector.
“So, rather than just randomly say, ‘Any business is good business,” you say, “So, what do we do well,” Otto said. “We do port related things; we do things that have to do with logistics; we do things that have to do with imports and exports; we have things that have do with moving goods over time.”
It’s important to retain existing businesses and to help stabilize and grow small businesses through resources.
“I don’t think the future of Long Beach is landing another mega-business like the Navy or McDonnell Douglas,” Otto said. “We will be better off if we could successfully grow a lot of different business.”
A second goal would be to focus on sensible business creation by assembling teams of stakeholders to identify the steps, providing fiscally responsible incentives for businesses to relocate, attracting technology sectors and marketing Long Beach assets.
His third goal is would be to prepare residents for 21st century jobs by continuing the Long Beach College Promise program, supporting CSULB’s efforts to becoming a “hybrid model” university that combines research and teaching, working with LBUSD for more training, encouraging entrepreneurship, supporting business and education relationships and educating youths for future jobs.
Otto’s fourth goal is to encourage recent graduates to start new businesses in Long Beach.
“One of the keys to that is education,” Otto said. “I want to work and [I] have been working at Long Beach City College to make education better, more productive.”
One way he’s helped doing that is through a program called the Long Beach College Promise, which offers ways for Long Beach Unified School District students to prepare for, enter and complete college through a partnership with Long Beach City College and Cal State University Long Beach. The program provides a free semester of tuition at LBCC and guaranteed admission to CSULB by taking prescribed courses.
He wants to recruit entrepreneurs from the community college and the university business classes and offer them reduced business licenses fees for a period of time if they are thinking of starting a business.
He posed that there are more than 8,000 students who graduate from CSULB yearly and more than 1,700 that graduated this past year from Long Beach City College.
“And, often times those graduates will go to Orange County or the west side of Los Angeles and start businesses,” he said. “I’d like to keep them here.”
But at recent mayoral candidate forum Otto was asked about a recall effort he faced regarding his decision to drop 11 instructional trade programs.
“Long Beach City College has faced such enormous cuts that we’ve had to make in the last five year, that we’ve had to make some very tough decisions as to whether we can continue all the programs that we have,” Otto said. “We did it not because we are trying to cut students out. In fact, of the programs that was eliminated, only one was completely eliminated. Every other program, all the classes except are offered still at Long Beach City College, you just can’t get a degree in those programs.”
His fifth goal is to restructure the city’s business development organization by creating an economic development department and new nonprofit entity to promote economic development.
The economic development department would move core functions dispersed throughout the city department to maximize impact, such as workforce development, business outreach, small business assistance, housing development and major project facilitation.
The nonprofit’s functions would include business improvement districts, filming, business loan programs, marketing, and economic impact analysis.
Goal No. 6 is to use technology for information and outreach by enhancing the “GO Long Beach” app, putting permit, zoning and other type of applications online, and using geographic information systems to track code enforcement.
Goal No. 7 is to develop a creative economy by funding arts and establishing an arts and culture commission.
Goal No. 8 is strengthening quality of life by focusing on not just the economy, but also the environment. As with most of the candidates he wants to ensure that the city has an adequate number of police officers and firefighters.
“You work carefully with your police department,” Otto said. “They are professionals; they know how to control crime.”
Otto acknowledges that there is certainly more crime in some parts of the city than in other parts of the city “but you just have to develop policies and tactics and strategies to address those things,” he said.
That may mean more infill housing, or affordable housing. It doesn’t mean new affordable housing but you need to have a pretty good idea about where your housing is and what its quality is before you start addressing it, he said.
Another quality of life issue he might have to tackle if elected is medical marijuana in the city. While he believes it should be available to patients, the delivery systems, thus far, have been problematic, he said.
“If there is going to be medical marijuana, I would hope that the delivery system was changed and perhaps even be handled by the health department or certainly pharmacies or something like that,” Otto said. “I’m not strong on the idea of dispensaries.”
Goal No. 9 is to market Long Beach by rebranding the city as an entrepreneurial town, assembling a team to market the city regionally and nationally, and using social media to tell Long Beach’s story.
Goal 10 is to tackle special projects by creating a biomedical alliance between the city and the healthcare industry through incentives such as expedited permitting, encouraging growth. He also would like develop a Long Beach and Los Angeles port center for research and application that brings together commerce and technology. He believes initiating technology zones such as an aerospace innovation zone at the airport. In addition, inviting ca national competition among architects and developers, universities and think tanks might re-energize Rainbow Harbor and the Pike area. Leveraging the impact of the port could maximize efforts to develop port-related clusters such as logistics and international trade, he said.
His last goal is to ensure ongoing fiscal discipline by using one-time monies for capital expenditures only and not using the m to fund ongoing programs such as tidelands revenue for street repair. He also wants to undertake a multi-year budget and long-term financial planning and making information more accessible to Long Beach residents.
His last goal is to ensure ongoing fiscal discipline by using one-time monies for capital expenditures only, undertaking a multi-year budget and long-term financial planning and making information more accessible to Long Beach residents.
Otto said that this is important because he doesn’t expect there to be much surplus in Long Beach in the near future.
“It’s important that there be public input that there be an open discussion about what the goals in the city should be and I think that that’s been happening,” Otto said.
His experience and track record is what he is relying on to win the race.
“Finally, I’m trustworthy because I’m not ambitious,” he said. “This isn’t a stepping stone for me. This is all I want to do.”