Why are you running and why now?
After seeing some of the issues that started happening here in Long Beach, [particularly] Measure A in 2016, [which] I was against…, and then in 2018 with Measure M..., I was the budget coordinator for the [Long Beach] Water Department for a number of years. When I saw the [Measure M] brochures, selling it as moving surplus money from the water department and moving it to the general fund. I worked on the budget and I never saw a line item that said surplus, there were reserves for future projects and maintenance..., but nothing like a surplus ever existed, so I thought something was wrong. [later] it was sold to us to help 9-1-1 responders and fix our parks, those types of things.
When we were campaigning [and] trying to address it with our council members, specifically, my council member and the mayor ignored us. [When] we started a petition that’s when the mayor started taking an interest and messaged me. “lets talk about this measure” and “let’s talk about your petition before you get all crazy”.
I was like whoa, he's coming to my house, I guess he [thought its] not a good idea to have these two Latinos here doing a petition [and] threatening each other, so he came to my house to sell us on his way. He said [Mayor Garcia of the Measure] "its to close the write-in loophole because you could run forever in Long Beach" [and then Garcia asked] "are you in favor of people who can run forever?"
[Garcia then said] "then introduce a measure to eliminate the write-in" and I replied, "would you like the President of the United States to increases his terms from two to three?" ... he wasn't able to convince us.
Would you call yourself an activist?
How would you balance being an activist and being a politician?
I don’t think you can totally forget your activist past or the issues that I’ve addressed, like pollution or progressive taxation… I’ll need to merge it with a more diplomatic approach to solve those issues.
But you might have to make compromises?
I don’t think we need to compromise in the way that we have to renege [on] our ethical stance. Because in the end, it’s my ethics I need to march forward. I want to make sure that we address the issue of pollution… We have done a lot of work in Long Beach cleaning up our air here but that report came out last year L.A – Long Beach is like at the bottom of the barrel in terms of poor air quality…This is the air we breathe every single day, we have no choice. Think about addressing issues like e-cigarettes and making a big deal out of them. That’s to me [is] a waste of time because you could choose whether or not you could smoke an e-cigarette or not… those are the priorities that we as a city need to start changing…
The other issue that’s really important is safety, there is more and more crime happening in Long Beach that’s not accounted for.
But even though crime has been going down, what particular type of crime are you talking about?
Shootings or guns being shot into the air, petty crime, breaking into people’s cars, stealing bikes. That’s all on the rise, but that’s not accounted for because most of the time if it's under a certain threshold it’s not really counted… that [these types of] crime is affecting the quality of life for Long Beach residents.
And we could address this in many ways, like the workforce at the LBPD, is it suitable? is it enough? do we need more?
Well, speaking of the police, the department has been sued by former cops for retaliation, there was that Tiger-text app scandal, do you think leadership should change or is it a police-cultural problem?
There are two things, one is when to Measure A passes, some of the propaganda on the Measure A was it was supposed to restore the police force that we lost during the recession. We lost the gang unit…so, we need to address the lack of numbers, community policing doesn’t exist, we don’t police officers talking to people, what we do have is cops writing tickets driving in SUVs spewing pollution… police need to walk around, and not just when a crime occurs, but to engage the with the people…But many of those issues won't be resolved if we don’t start addressing what you mentioned. And that is restoring integrity into our police department. In 2015, the LBPD was known for being the most violent police department in the nation.
And if you’re African-American you’re more likely to die from the hands of a cop than any other cause of death and then Tiger-text, and being sued not only by [former] police officers but by an investigator from the police complaints commission. Hopefully, someday we can develop a police commission have has the power to enforce, the power to fine and fire…right now, the police commission is [just] a rubber-stamping commission, it’s not independent.
On the Queen Mary:
I think the city of Long Beach would have to pay someone to take it away. It's an icon, but I’m hesitant to put more money into it.
Do you have any conflict of interest that might cause you to recuse yourself on the council?:
No, the reason is that I don’t have any special interests or organizations that could influence me. Most of my campaign contributions have come from within Long Beach and within my district.
On working at Lehman Brothers before the crash:
I worked Lehman Brothers for a few years and you could tell that something wasn’t right.
Did you notice any issues with subprime loans?
Yeah, we were monitoring the subprime loans issue and notice how one bank after another was going down…So, we made sure to tell our friends, colleagues and family don’t waste your money.
Did you sell subprime any loans yourself?
No, we sold what were called AMD papers.
Did those events change you or your political views?
Yes, it made me more appreciate what I had and what others were desiring as well... that basically what happened was the largest companies sold [the public] a dream that they could not fulfill… And that we have a lack of education in our school system when it comes to financing. Kids today don’t know how to balance a checkbook or know the market at all… we need to make sure we educate on the basics. The city of Long Beach could hold workshops on financial literacy to help people [or] an actual class in high school.
On transparency on the closing of Fires Station #9.
Right, you have to get it out there. We have to make sure everything is disclosed. When they closed fire station #9, they made-up all types of excuses, they said it was due to mold. We talked with the mold company they said the mold was fixed…so when we made an issue of it the city had a knee-jerk reaction and held a town hall to talk about issues. They kept repeating it was the mold issue and then they said there were other problems… they simply wanted to brush the residents of district 6th off.
It's not the fault of [our] firefighters. It's not the firefighter's responsibility to fix the roof or clean the gutters... it’s the city of Long Beach…So, to go back to your first question of why I’m running [it] is because I lived here for many years and I should [have] opened my eyes when I was [a] 30-year-old rather when I was [in] my 50’s. but I was busy with work, I have my own business and I was battling cancer. …when I was diagnosed my wife was pregnant. All I wanted to do was to be alive. To see my kids’ birth, to be alive when they graduate from high school.
You just wanted to be alive
Over 50+ women, including Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, have signed onto an open letter titled "We Deserve Better Than Al Austin", accusing the current 8th District Long Beach City Councilmember Al Austin of exhibiting "profound disrespect for women" in a blog post published Saturday.
What They're Saying:
The letter states five accusations in which Austin displayed sexist behaviors.
According to the open letter, Austin was asked by a woman at an L.A County Democratic Party endorsement meeting about his stance on Claudia's Law, a bill that would of creating a safe work environment for housekeepers by establishing panic buttons and a hotline to safeguard against harassment and sexual assault, Austin allegedly replied to her that " she couldn’t imagine the type of rape that happens in prison".
Austin supposedly gave a "gag gift" of a panic button to Claudia's Law supporters.
The hiring of Julio Perez as an advisor, a former executive director for the O.C Labor Federation, Perez was fired due to multiple allegations by women of sexual harassment, inappropriate conduct, and workplace retaliation.
The open letter also alleges that Austin did "hurl insults and spread misinformation" toward Councilmember Jeanne Pearce
The signatories of the letter are demanding Austin " acknowledge these troubling actions and publicly apologize to the women and girls of our community".
Updated: Feb 11, 2020
The Long Beach Health Department has confirmed "several" cases of the highly infectious hepatitis A with customers who ate at 555 East American Steakhouse located in Downtown Long Beach.
Guests who ate at the restaurant near or on December 24th, 2019 could have been exposed to the infectious disease.
According to the Health Department, the "source of the illness is still under investigation, and the restaurant’s management and staff are fully cooperating".
At this moment the restaurant doesn't pose a risk to the public.
Hepatitis A is an infectious disease of the liver. It is transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Most adults with hepatitis A have symptoms including fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, dark urine, nausea, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
The 555 East Has issued a statement to MTLB:
The 555 East has been a community partner in Long Beach for the past 35 years. Our highest priority is food safety, food quality, and unsurpassed service. The report from the health department does not indicate that anyone who dined in our restaurant or any employee who works in our restaurant were a direct cause of this Hepatitis A outbreak. According to the health department, the source is unknown and the restaurant does not pose an ongoing risk to the public. We are fully cooperating with the health department at this time. - Kelly Ellerman, Chief People Officer, The 555 East
Long Beach Health Department confirms eight cases of Hepatitis A from a Downtown Long Beach steakhouse, according to KTLA.