Suely Saro and Dee Andrews

Suely Saro and Dee Andrews

Dee Andrews, the incumbent in the race for the Long Beach City Council’s Sixth District seat, said Wednesday, Oct. 7, that while the district has made progress, there’s still unfinished business.

However, opponent Suely Saro claimed during her closing argument that it was time for a change in leadership for the Central Long Beach district that houses large shares of the city’s Black, Latino and Cambodian communities, as the two squared off in a debate Wednesday night, Oct. 7. The debate was co-sponsored by the Press-Telegram, Long Beach Post, Grunion Gazette and Long Beach Business Journal.

Both candidates say they plan to bring voices to the table to discuss the issues the district is facing.

The city’s budget, police reform, housing challenges and continued coronavirus concerns were among those topics. While the two candidates agreed in principle on their ideas, their strategies differed, primarily in the way of police reform.

Both advocated for looking deeper at the police budget and law-enforcement reform. Andrews supported a full audit of police funding, while Saro advocated for looking into shifting to social workers, psychologists and other specialists to respond to non-violent social issues as opposed to enforcement.

In terms of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, both candidates said they valued education over fines amid a public mask mandate. And both advocated for keeping businesses open while ensuring employee safety.

Andrews said his primary focus was to help small businesses, but acknowledged that “if we don’t follow the rules, we’ll never get back to what we used to be. If we follow the rules and doctors’ guidelines, we can at least get back to some form of normalcy.”

With many families living in small spaces within the district, Saro said she’d like to see rooms made available for employees to quarantine in the event they contract the virus, aiming to lessen the probability of passing it along to family members.

“We need a program for essential workers who get infected and want to go to a space, perhaps a hotel room, to quarantine and not affect other family members,” Saro said. “That’s probably why the rates are so high and I think it’s unacceptable that it continues to be this high.”

The candidates also discussed housing issues, including preventing landlord harassment and assessing housing density within the district.

Andrews said he supported higher-density housing where it made sense and continues to advocate for affordable housing, but “we need to respect our single-family homes, they worked hard to get where they are.

“My biggest goal right now is to keep people in their homes, and for those who are not, how can we make it affordable for them,” he continued.

Saro, however, said there was not enough low- to moderate-income housing in the district. She focused her response on a variety of possibilities, including building new housing, modifying existing properties, empowering residents to be able to buy their property and incentivizing residents to rent out extra rooms that aren’t being used.

The Sixth District stretches from San Francisco Avenue east to the city’s border with Signal Hill and from 10th Street north to 31st Street.

Andrews, a council member since 2007, is seeking his fourth full term in office, while Saro, an adjunct professor at Cal State Los Angeles, hopes to become the first Cambodian American to serve on the City Council.

Andrews’ endorsements include Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, the Long Beach Police Officers Association and the Long Beach Firefighters Association, among others.

Endorsements for Saro include state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the Long Beach Young Democrats, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, among others.

The debate is available for viewing on presstelegram.com/debates, where you can also see Monday’s Second District debate between candidates Cindy Allen and Robert Fox — and additional forums in the days ahead.

The rest of the Long Beach debate schedule:

Thursday, Oct. 8: City Council District 8 candidates Al Austin and Tunua Thrash-Ntuk;

Monday, Oct. 12: LBUSD Board of Education District 2 candidates Erik Miller and Tonia Reyes Uranga; and

Wednesday, Oct. 14: Long Beach City College District Area 4 trustee candidates Herlinda Chico, Dick Gaylord and Lee Loveridge.

Each debate will begin at 6 p.m.

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