MTLB Interview w/ Elliot Gonzales Candidate for Long Beach City Council District 1
Why are you running?
"Not only do we have an affordable housing crisis. We have a homeless crisis. We have lots of people sleeping out in the streets not receiving the mental and physical health treatment they need... So, we have a housing crisis, we have environment crisis before us, and I believe we have to address these issues immediately. I’m calling for direct investment in our public needs which would include clean energy which would include adequate affordable [housing], and public housing".
What was your reaction that Long Beach is one of only two California cities to still burn it trash?
"It is a way of avoiding landfills.
So, while Long Beach does burn its trash, its because everybody else is using landfills. [Landfills] create methane, leak into the groundwater, leak heavy metals and they don't biodegrade. ... I believe that we need to update the technology at the S.E.R.F.F facility. I think that it is a worthwhile investment. It seems to be updated because other articles that pointed to, I think its Sweden, use similar technology… it’s their primary way of disposing of waste. And they're [a Swedish city] is prideful of it and they're getting recognized as a zero-waste city.
And yet the Press-Telegram reports it as incinerating the trash, yet this city in Sweden is going zero waste using the exact same technology. So, I think that the S.E.R.F.F facility can be an asset to the city. It's just important that we do a better job of recycling and diverting waste from that facility. And we also make significant investments in [S.E.R.F.F] ...I think S.E.R.F.F claims to capture 95 percent of its emissions.
So, it's not like we're just burning directly into an open pit".
Long Beach is known for many things, the Queen Mary, the Grand Prix and at times a complete lack of parking, what ideas do you have that would alleviate parking?
"I live in downtown, the highest impacted parking regions of the city, there are vacant spaces all around, especially on street sweeping day. You just can’t park there. You can’t park at a lot of business. This is an idea Robert Garcia has talked about, that Lena Gonzalez talked about, Jeannine Pearce. I don't know how much of this idea has been fully developed, but we need to offer some sort of incentive that allows overnight parking at businesses. This alleviates a lot of the parking situation. Maybe, people would need to be out by 7, which would reduce the amount of tickets that residents experience and opens up a lot of space. In fact, that alone might adequately address the overnight parking issues... The other issues when it comes to parking, especially above Anaheim [street]. Communities that are high density, with not enough parking. What we could do a study of the neighborhood and ask the residents if they want to build a parking structure in nearby land and we would have to pay a fee to maintain the structure, and it would have solar panels and it would be what I call a green parking structure. I know sounds like an oxymoron, but it is certainly powered and allows people to charge overnight. ".
Election day is 7 months away, how are you going to effectively convey your ideas to the public in that amount of time?
"Well, there is two methods, we're going to do the conventional approach like mailers and attend community events, and we will try some unconventional approaches. At a minimum; have public discussions, discuss ideas openly in public areas, invite the public to participate, with a sound system, to really get our message out there by taking it literally to the streets, out on the street corner, register people at the grocery store. A lot of times, people approach politics they only reach out to the people who vote, what we are going to do is reach out to everybody, every single voter in the first district. The first district has one of the lowest turnouts in the city, I want to change that to one of the highest. So, that’s how were planning on campaigning and that’s how were planning on winning".
You ran for office before, for the California State Assembly in 2018, what did that loss teach you and how are you going to apply those lessons to this campaign?
"Well, I found out I had a lot more support than I even expected. I ran that campaign in a very immediate situation I was in between jobs. Working gigs, at times not gainfully employed, I was going to school at the time; I was in a bad housing situation; I was living with untrustworthy people, so when I talk about being in a housing crisis, it’s not just something I’m talking about it’s something I’ve experience. And, so despite all of that I still managed to get 9,000 votes, which shows me there are a lot of people that support the values that I’ve been talking about when it comes to environmental values and social justice values, so the main difference between then and now, is that now I think I’m ready, I’m in a much better position to run, I have everything I need to run, including a great team of people behind me, to help me win this campaign. Part of the reason I ran [in 2018] wasn’t only to win the election, my intention was to learn, ..., and I knew that one day when I’m serious, which that day is today, I didn’t want to learn on the job. I didn’t want to learn about campaigning while I was campaigning. I much of rather experience everything, up until election day the whole process, so that the play of that election . I think it made me a stronger candidate. I’m more aware of the issues and I’m ready to campaign".
What’s your take on the city of Long Beach pursuing the Angels, offering to build a billion-dollar baseball stadium?
"I think the fact Long Beach is [offering] to build a sports stadium and try to lure the Angels over to Long Beach and hoping for a trickle-down effect is a shame. We have so-called Democrats proposing these trickle-down economic theories, we need to stop chasing sports stadiums and start investing in communities. They [City of Long Beach] has spent so much already in just proposing, they have already made investments in just proposing, [using] public spaces for a sports stadium they are making decisions against the public will, it’s not like they [LB City Council] asked the public want they want to do, they hired consultants engaged in this project as if the decision has already been made and using an economic theory, that maybe after everything has been built and providing incentives to something we don’t need like a sports stadium, which [The Angels] already have built somewhere else to our city and somehow trickle in a couple of service industry jobs, a couple of construction jobs, and that maybe Long Beach’s economy is gonna do well because of that. It’s an economic fallacy".
There was poll conducted by Berkeley ISP, that found there is still a persistent digital divide, when it comes to internet access, especially for the working poor, what ideas do you have to close that divide in L.B?
"We have to get rid of the monopolies; we have to get rid of Spectrum; we have a duopoly situation; we are spending $60 a month, that’s way too high, in the year 2019. We need a municipal broadband. this is what the cities of the future is investing in, as part of the city’s infrastructure, this would lower the cost for everybody and provide super-fast internet and make it accessible for everybody. It would modernize the city and increase visits. It’s not a new idea there are many cities throughout the country, including rural communities".
Is it time for Long Beach to adopt a rent control ordinance?
"At the minimum. To help stop the bleeding. I do think rent control is something we need to consider. I hear a lot of Dems say rent control doesn’t work, they [Democrats] are also taking a lot of developer’s money. So, it’s hard for me to really trust them. I do think there are some problems with rent control, in terms of house buying, because there is less of a market, incentives to build housing, but not only do we need rent control, we need to build housing ourselves, so that we aren’t subject to the volatility of the market".
What do you mean when you say building houses ourselves?
"Specifically, the city needs to adopt a public land trust, so we are going to own land and build housing on that land, we are going to be homeowners for the public. So, it would be very similar to an individual going out buying land and building housing for themselves, this is the city going out and buying land and building housing for everybody. We need to create rental units capped out at $600, we could get a lot of people off the streets that way".
Do you support SB 50?
"OK, there are some complications with SB50. I’m not yes or no. Here's what I like about it, we need to build affordable housing, that’s the incentive behind SB 50 and I’m glad the state is taking action, because a lot of communities, including the city of Long Beach, who doesn’t have the courage to take action, because they [LB City Council] gets their campaign funding from developers. so, SB 50 is not in the developer’s interest, it's in the public’s interest. my issue with it is that developers can use it as a tool for gentrification if it's not completely overseen by a public entity. My concern is they [the developers] will build a high-rise or what they call affordable housing starting at $60,000, but if you’re at minimum wage, you're not making $60,000, so people are still gonna be left out. A lot of seniors are living on social security and are making less than $1,200 a month, so they’re not gonna be-able to afford a lot of this new housing. Then there is the working poor who do a lot of the heavy lifting in our society, they work the hard jobs and they are still not included in this housing policy, so it's kind of a mixed feeling”.