Three candidates, including two-term incumbent Councilman Al Austin, are vying to represent the Long Beach City Council’s Eighth District in the March 3 election.
Voters will begin making their choices soon, as vote-by-mail ballots were sent out starting Monday, Feb. 3. If no candidate wins 50% of the vote, the race will go to a runoff Nov. 3.
But first, voters in the Eighth District, which stretches from the 405 Freeway up to South Street, should get to know the contenders. So each candidate has been asked about what they see as the district’s challenges, what their solutions would be and why they are the right person for the job.
Responses have been briefly summarized. To read the candidates’ full and unedited statements, visit bit.ly/2GzUcJp.
Austin was first elected to the council seat in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016. He ran a short-lived campaign last year for the state Senate seat that ultimately went to his colleague at the time, then-Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez.
Austin said the biggest challenges in his district are housing and homelessness, the need for economic development and the livability of the community. Although he acknowledged the scope of the issue, Austin said the work the City Council is already undergoing to tackle homelessness — things like the forthcoming year-round homeless shelter and investing in prevention services, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing — will make a significant impact.
Regarding economic development, Austin said bringing more jobs to the area will be critical. He also said he would advocate for parks, open space, business districts and neighborhoods to make the area more livable.
“I have a demonstrated record of delivering for this district, and there are many exciting projects in the works, such as new housing along our corridors, new park projects at Davenport and the 51st Street Greenbelt, the Lab’s “The Beat” development at Atlantic and South,” he said, “and much more that I will bring to completion, and it doesn’t make sense to halt that progress now.”
Ovalle, a small business owner and member of the Long Beach Reform Coalition, said public safety, environmental health, homelessness, business development and a lack of leadership are among the top issues of concern for the Eighth District.
To address those challenges, Ovalle said he would push for more fiscal responsibility to free up more money that could be invested in public safety. He also said he would work with the ports to accelerate the work being done through the Clean Air Action Plan and find new funding for the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association.
“I know how to be responsible for the welfare of others and to be honest when difficult choices present themselves, rather than kicking the can down the road,” he said. “That’s what politicians do, and increasingly it’s what the politicians at Long Beach City Hall do.”
Thrash-Ntuk, a nonprofit director and former co-chair of Long Beach’s “Everyone In” Economic Inclusion Policy Task Force, said the housing crisis and a lack of investment are the biggest challenges the Eighth District faces. She said she would develop a comprehensive strategy that would include building more affordable housing, supporting small businesses and revitalizing the area.
Thrash-Ntuk also said she would organize “block-by-block” to fix streets and sidewalks, plant trees, invest in public safety, attracting housing to empty lots and work to bring small businesses to abandoned store fronts.
“If we want our community to improve, we need to change our leadership,” she said. “I’m a mom who believes every Uptown Long Beach family deserves to live, work, and play in a safe and thriving neighborhood.”