• Matt Esnayra

LB Vice Mayor Rex Richardson: The MTLB Interview

Photo via Rex Richardson for Mayor

On one of the biggest nights of his career, Rex Richardson stands on the cusp of being Long Beach's first African American mayor — now he only has to get past his colleague, City Councilmember Suzie Price, to get there. Coupled with the chitter-chatter of small talk echoing from his election night watch party, a visibly fatigued Vice Mayor Richardson, although maintaining a smile, sat down with the Modern Times of Long Beach in a post-primary election interview.


Mayor Garcia led us through the pandemic. How are you going to lead us out of it?

I think about the grit and determination that our city has shown over the past two years. [From] frontline workers, [to] city employees stepping up at 20%, fewer workers doing more... Our, entire city as an organization shifting into a disaster response organization. Putting shots in arms, leading with an equity lens, and making sure the hardest impacted communities had the resources they needed to have access to [COVID] testing, data, and vaccinations.

[Long Beach] was the first major city in America to vaccinate 99% of our seniors. That wasn't easy to do. It took a lot of hard work and determination. And I know there are things that we have to overcome still as a community, but I'm going to lean into the same grit and determination to overcome our city's biggest challenges.

We're going to get our unhoused neighbors off the street. In a way with compassion and by addressing root causes and building our own local capacity to deal with issues like mental health [and] early detection. We're going to commit to building housing that's affordable for people, we're going to make sure that as we come out of this pandemic and this economic downturn, we do so in a way that we don't leave communities behind and we acknowledge equity and acknowledge that people are hurting.

I think the community is certainly made up of people. It's not necessarily made up of circumstances, and [when] those people are hurting, the community hurts, and [when] those people are thriving the community thrives.

If elected mayor, what would be your top priority?

We have to address the rising cost of housing and get our unhoused neighbors off the street. That's [my] top priority as mayor. I look forward to the runoff where we're gonna share our different views on the city. It looks like we'll be in a runoff with Council Member Price, and we have very different views on how to address the challenges.

I look forward to having that spirited conversation because it matters, the details matter, values matter, the way that we make people feel [matters]... We're not going to be able to run away from our problems.

Is there something you could not accomplish as vice mayor that you would like to accomplish as mayor?

Absolutely, a Vice Mayor is only as good as your ability to work with others. It's an indication that you're a leader on the city council, but I'm a council member like everyone else..., and, there are things that I would have loved to do better in North Long Beach. If we had the resources or the attention.

I would love to make a meaningful difference on issues like human trafficking, nuisance motels, liquor stores, and bars. Invest in things that [bring] value to the community, [like] grocery stores, and banks. That's what I've tried to do. That's what I've done as a council member, invest in building things like [the] Michelle Obama Library and the first bank [in North Long Beach], in more than a decade, and restoring first responders, we're going to need to do those things citywide.

There are a lot of communities that need that same spirit of leadership and the spirit of cooperation. I’m running for mayor because I think I have something to offer to our entire city.

What's your stance on the Angels possibly coming to Long Beach?

Yeah, I don't have a position on that right now… the [Long Beach] City Council hasn't had a meaningful discussion just yet.

Could Long Beach even handle a pro-sports team?

I think, if there's an opportunity to create jobs and economic progress for our city, we have to evaluate it, but we have to be smart and put our residents and their interests first. Let that be the sort of the guiding principle of our negotiation if that were to happen, but as of right now, I think it's too premature to form an opinion.

Rex on the runoff:

I would say..., we have a lot more work to do, but I think the results show there's certainly an interest in Long Beach for a leader with a proven track record of delivering on the issues that matter to our city. Like homelessness, public safety, equity, and inclusion. So, I look forward to continuing that conversation in [the] months ahead.

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