Long Beach residents speak out against homelessness, lack of housing and other issues at People’s State of the City

As event enters eighth year, activists call on City and elected officials to address concerns of residents.


Photos by Daniel Green | Signal Tribune

Long Beach resident and activist, Cynthia Macias, was one of two keynote speakers at the eighth annual People's State of the City. In her speech, Macias spoke about housing issues, immigration laws and unemployment.

At the eighth annual People’s State of the City, local activists took their chance to state their grievances on the issues facing the residents of Long Beach, such as housing, policing and funding.

The event was held on Wednesday, April 10, at the First Congregational Church, where citizens gathered to hear local speakers discuss the issues facing local neighborhoods. This is the third year that the church has hosted the event.

Organized by the Long Beach Rising Coalition, the event serves as a response to the State of the City, hosted by Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, in January. While the City’s event focused on the positives, such as a decrease in crime or the increase of local jobs, the People’s State of the City tries to counterbalance this by bringing concerns of residents to the forefront.

Just like the previous year, the audience was given emoji signs with a sad and happy face as they entered the church. The crowd was then encouraged to react to the speech by flipping the sign to show their approval or disapproval of certain topics.

Long Beach residents filled the pews at the First Congregational Church for the People’s State of the City Wednesday. Attendees were encouraged to use emoji signs with a sad and happy face to show their approval and disapproval of the issues facing their communities.

The address was started by speakers Noah Santiago and Mac Harris, both members of the Youth Committee of the Long Beach chapter of Building Healthy Communities.

“The People’s State of the City is put together by community organizations to have a space to share stories, struggles and victories of the people that make Long Beach a beautiful city,” Santiago told the crowd. “We do this because our communities deserve change, and we have the ability to create our vision for a better world.”

After the brief introduction, the pair introduced a short video about Long Beach entitled “My City,” which featured local band, Bootleg Orchestra, before moving on to the keynote.

The first of the two speakers was Long Beach resident and activist, Cynthia Macias. In her speech, Macias addressed housing and recounted the struggles that she and her four children have faced over the years.

Macias continued by bringing up a variety of factors that may attribute to residents having trouble finding housing, such as rising rents and unfair evictions. One of the problems she identified is the potential stadium for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that was proposed in February.

“Everyone knows we’ve been in a housing crisis,” Macias said. “But building an entirely new stadium for the Angels baseball team would speed up the displacement of poor people and drive rents up even more.”

She backed up her claim by pointing to the city of Inglewood, which is currently building a new stadium.

“This isn’t imaginary,” Macias said. “Renters in Inglewood are already feeling the impact and paying the price of new stadium developments. Not to mention the fact that cities like St. Louis, who spent millions of dollars to build their stadiums, are now left with millions in debt.”

As her speech continued, Macias touched on what she called “unjust and immoral” immigration laws, before leading the crowd in a chant of “no displacement.”

In another part of her speech, Macias cited the high unemployment rate among certain parts of the city’s population. In his January address, Mayor Robert Garcia touted the city’s drop in unemployment from 9.8 percent to 4.1 percent. However, Macias claimed that the city has only grown low-level jobs and that 18 percent of Black high school graduates in Long Beach are unemployed.

The next speaker was Dawn Modkins, a community organizer and co-founder of the Long Beach chapter of Black Lives Matter.

In her portion of the keynote, Modkins discussed funding and promoted what she called “The People’s Budget,” a community plan that organizers believe would better distribute the city budget to communities that need funding.
Modkins also announced the Invest in Youth campaign, which will begin collecting signatures this summer for a new local ballot measure. The measure would ensure funding for tutoring, after-school programs and more.

In calling for better distribution of city funding Modkins also criticized the city for its funding of the Long Beach Police Department.

“The City of Long Beach allocates 44 percent of the general fund budget to the police department alone,” Modkins said. “To put this in perspective, our parks department gets 7 percent, the city libraries 3 percent and the health department 1 percent.”

As Modkins wrapped up her speech, she joined with Macias to ask audience members to vote for progressive policies in the next election, take part in the upcoming census and get involved in their communities.

After the event, Macias spoke to the Signal Tribune and said she was happy with the response of the audience and acknowledged the attendance of 2nd District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce. Despite the warm reception of the attendees, Macias is not sure how the City will respond to the grievances of the residents.

“I’m very hopeful, but I’m also realistic,” Macias said, “and you know the city council […] they’ve never really put our interests first as you can see.”