Mayor Robert Garcia came out to speak with demonstrators at a sit-in at city hall last Thursday, June 4, to call for an end to systemic racism and police brutality.

Long Beach has taken one more step to becoming a more racially equitable city.

The City Council voted unanimously at its Tuesday, Aug. 11, meeting to approve the initial report of the Racial Equity and Reconciliation Initiative, which began two months ago as protests unfolded in the city and across the nation to call for an end to racial injustice and police violence.

City staff and council members heralded the move as a “first step” toward ending systemic racism in Long Beach, while some community members said the 112-page document did not go far enough.

“Long Beach may not be able to directly fix systemic problems across this nation,” Deputy City Manager Teresa Chandler said, “but we can set an example for what the United States should be and what we should stand for given our diversity and willingness to take a stand for what we believe in.

“We see the framework,” she said, “as a starting place.”

The report, which included 21 strategies and 107 potential action plans to address systemic racism in Long Beach, addressed inequities in policing, housing, economic development, healthy food availability, language access and more.

Some of its recommendations include:

Overcome barriers to participation in city meetings through language access, child watch, stipends, free or low-cost access to accessible meeting spaces, and transportation;

Explore strategies to increase affordable and supportive housing opportunities for those who are formerly incarcerated and are reentering society;

Review the use of predictive policing models and their disproportionate impacts on Black people and other people of color;

Establish geographically-based Economic Empowerment Zones to promote investment in diverse hiring, small businesses and real estate owned by Black people and other people of color;

Explore investment in alternative forms of land and property ownership to prevent displacement, such as community land trusts; and

Increase production of healthy, locally sourced food in underserved areas, among many other proposed actions.

But many community members who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting, who also participated in the town halls and listening sessions that were held to compile the report, said the document didn’t focus enough on one major theme of those events: defunding police.

“The participants of this study were not representative of the communities for whom this framework was developed,” said Patrick Swymer, president of the Long Beach Young Democrats. “Even still, among the community members who did participate, an overwhelming amount said that their No. 1 priority was to defund LBPD.”

Swymer pointed out that the proposed Long Beach Police Department budget for 2020-21 is roughly $240 million, only $4 million less than the adopted budget for 2019-20. If approved, the police budget would represent about 44% of Long Beach’s total general fund.

But the proposed reconciliation plan would only receive $3.2 million in next year’s budget under the current recommendation.

“We support the purpose and goals for the reconciliation, but the implementation of this plan must be done in concert with greater structural changes called for by the community,” Swymer added, “specifically, defunding LBPD and reinvesting in our communities to a meaningful degree.”

Still, council members and city staff said the adoption of the report is just the beginning of making the city more equitable. City Manager Tom Modica described the vote as one that would give city staff a general sense policy direction; more concrete actions will come to the City Council for approval in the future, he said.

And for Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson, who first proposed the idea of a “framework for reconciliation,” said the report is a strong starting point.

“This is not the city declaring that we have achieved reconciliation,” he said. “This is the city acknowledging that we need to take steps with the goal of achieving reconciliation.

“It will not happen overnight,” he added. “This will require hard work, dedication and continuing to build and shape our city.”

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