Voters in Long Beach’s Eighth District will choose in the Nov. 3 elections who should represent them for the next four years on the City Council: incumbent Al Austin or nonprofit director Tunua Thrash-Ntuk.
The Eighth District stretches from the 405 Freeway north to South Street.
Austin and Thrash-Ntuk represent differing visions for the area. Austin has represented the district since 2012 and is seeking a third term, while Thrash-Ntuk has argued the district needs a new voice.
Both candidates identified the coronavirus, economic recovery and public infrastructure as some of the biggest issues the district’s residents currently face. But they have different ideas about how to address them.
“We are already working on addressing these issues,” Austin said in an email, “and I will continue and expand upon these efforts in another term.”
He pointed to the city’s emergency rental assistance program, small business assistance grants, the Open Streets program and the new year-round homeless shelter, among other initiatives, as evidence of his and the city’s work amid the pandemic.
He said that if he were re-elected, his first priority in a new term would be to see through the projects that have already started under his watch, like the Market Street Improvement Project, the new Fire Station 9, the Davenport Park expansion and the 51st Street Greenbelt.
“I will continue working,” he added, “on ethics reform, improving Police Civilian Oversight, and advancing innovative solutions to homelessness.”
Amid health, economic and racial justice crises, Austin said, his experience on the council positions him better as a steady hand to lead the Eighth District.
“These times require an experienced, proven leader you can trust and who knows Long Beach and the many diverse neighborhoods of the Eighth District,” he said. “This race provides a clear contrast in that regard.”
Thrash-Ntuk, meanwhile, said in a phone interview that she would engage more with residents, push for more assistance for renters and small businesses, and advocate for more coronavirus testing in the city’s densest areas, including parts of the Eighth District.
“The COVID-19 crisis is going to be with us for some time, and it is not only impacting people at a household level, but it is going to — and has already started to — have some pretty significant impacts on our city and the amount of resources we have available,” she said. “First and foremost, we’ve got to make sure that testing is occurring in the densest parts of our city, as well as those areas where you do have higher numbers of people who are frontline workers and are much more likely to be exposed to COVID-19.”
Thrash-Ntuk, though, said her major work on the council would start with building more infrastructure for community engagement. She said she’d like to see more residents stepping up as leaders in District 8 and more neighborhood associations to advocate for the area.
“I want to hear from them,” she said. “So creating mini town halls within various neighborhoods and kind of starting to deputize block captains and folks who will be on a list to become part of a training to really become neighborhood leaders are all things that, in my mind, I already see. And I see a vision for making that happen.”
Austin has been endorsed by Mayor Robert Garcia, Congressman Alan Lowenthal, the Long Beach Police Officers Association and the Teachers Association of Long Beach, among many others.
Thrash-Ntuk has been endorsed by state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 65 and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, among many others.