Long Beach Councilmember Stacy Mungo is encouraged by her 5th district’s consistent progress in promoting businesses along Spring Street and paving various streets in the area, not to mention the low rates of crime and unemployment. And, despite the risk of rain during her State of the 5th address Monday at Douglas Park, the councilwoman informed her community about 2017’s accomplishments and the Elm Street Band gave local residents a show of various song covers and original music.
So, perhaps there are clear skies ahead for Long Beach’s largest council district.
On March 12, Mungo also briefed the 5th-district audience about growth in the Long Beach police and fire departments and reducing homelessness. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia was also on-hand to provide citywide information.
Mungo credited her council district’s 18.4-percent decrease in crime to the efforts of community- and neighborhood-watch groups who are vigilant and report suspicious activity to the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD).
She said the district has increased its budget to accommodate an additional 48 police officers and 30 firefighters. Moreover, the Long Beach City Council has sponsored three police academies, which has graduated 175 police officers and filled vacancies left by retiring baby boomers, Mungo said.
“That means that our police officers are ready to go, and we’re not pushing them to the brink of the limit, working two or three shifts in a row,” she said, “because we need our police officers to be fresh and ready to handle anything that comes their way.”
Mungo said the additional firefighters have reduced response times in the district. As 5th-district residents are getting older, Mungo explained that the needs for 24/7 medical services are increasing.
“So, it’s really important that our call times and response times are low,” she said.
The councilmember said the utilization of mobile application PulsePoint, a resource that alerts local and CPR-certified bystanders that someone nearby is having a cardiac emergency and may require assistance until medical help arrives, has been a beneficial aid for residents.
In the last two years, Long Beach has reduced its homeless population by 21 percent, according to City statistics.
Mungo said the Long Beach Fire Department’s Homeless Education And Response Team (HEART) has enhanced its approach, along with assistance from the City’s health department and LBPD, by performing better outreach and establishing re-homing programs. Federal and state funding and nonprofit grants support the programs.
Mungo said that, last year, $14.3 million in outside funding was generated for homeless programs. So far, $8 million of that amount has been renewed for this year, and Mungo hopes that the rest can be renewed within the next several months as the grant periods begin to open.
“The reason we’re able to renew this funding is because our programs are showing results,” she said. “We are able to demonstrate that we are putting people into transitional housing, we are putting them back on their feet with jobs, and those jobs are relating to their ability to transition from transitional housing to permanent housing and finding them a place to live. And, that is all good for all of us.”
Mungo said that when she first came into office in 2014, the vacancy rate of the 5th district’s commercial corridors was growing. She sought out to unite businesses in the community.
The nonprofit Spring Street Business Association unites quarterly to find ways to promote community growth and encourage an increase in business, finding ways to promote local establishments at citywide events, such as the Festival of Flight and Beach Streets.
“They did a lot of great marketing and promotion and, because of that, we’ve seen sales of businesses in the 5th district go up,” Mungo said, “not just because each of those businesses are doing better, but because we’ve added an additional 762 business licenses to the district– which equates to over 2,275 new jobs, and that is right here in District 5.”
Mungo said her policy of performing street repair by need last year was approved through the support of all the other eight Long Beach councilmembers. As the largest region in the city, the 5th council district was receiving a ninth of the total funding to repair its streets. Mungo said her district was far behind on those repairs compared to the rest of the city. Now, thanks to the changes in the last year, the district has had 86 streets repaved, the councilmember said.
“One of the neighbors told me that their favorite part of things that are going lower in the district– it’s not just that unemployment is low and crime is low– but those bumps on the sidewalk are low too. We’ve gone out this year with an infrastructure plan that repaired almost $1 million in sidewalks in the district. If you see a community torn up, it’s because, right now, we are finishing up that funding and fixing the city of Long Beach, specifically the 5th district, to make it more walkable.”
At the event, Mayor Garcia reminded residents of the many successes the city has achieved just in the last year, reiterating some of the points he made during his own address for the State of the City at the Long Beach Convention Center a few months prior.
While Mungo emphasized the city’s east-side crime numbers, Garcia focused on citywide statistics, adding that Long Beach is experiencing some of the lowest levels of crime in the past 40 to 50 years, attributing the low numbers to efforts made by the LBPD. In 2017, the LBPD recorded a total of 22 homicides, an all-time low.
The mayor said unemployment in 2017 was also at the lowest level it had ever been, hovering at around 4.4 to 4.5 percent.
The Port of Long Beach was no exception, as it had the best year on record, according to Garcia. During the State of the Port address in January, Mario Cordero, executive director of the port, said the facility moved 7.5 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in 2017, the most the harbor has ever moved in its 107-year history.
Last year, Cal State Long Beach received more than 106,000 applications, ranking it as one of the most popular universities in the country, Garcia said.
“Certainly, there are more universities that are harder to get into,” he said, “but there are only four universities in the country with more interest than Cal State Long Beach.”
At its March 6 meeting, the Long Beach City Council approved an updated version of the city’s land-use element, after months of planning and revisions. The mayor said he hopes the finalized plan is reflective of the community’s wants and needs.
“It was our commitment, and it has been from day one, certainly I’ve said it multiple times, that we would work to keep suburban Long Beach suburban,” he said. “And, that’s why people live in the suburbs, it’s to keep their communities and the character of their neighborhoods whole. I hope that during this process you saw the City do the right thing, which was, yes, have some growth, but ensure that we’re growing where it’s appropriate, which is in the downtown and along our major transit corridors along the Blue Line.”
Mungo expressed gratitude to her community members who championed for consistent revisions to the land-use element to preserve “the character” of the 5th council district.
“The last few weeks have been tough,” she said. “We were defending ourselves against the potential for change. We want to grow together, but we want to grow smartly. For that, we, as a community, are able to voice our united concerns related to the land-use element. So many of you were standing by our side at community meetings, coming to the council and expressing your opinions. Together, we were able to preserve the commercial corridors that have been growing and thriving and [have been] successful over the last four years. Many of these businesses owe you a debt of gratitude, because they want to extend their leases and make sure that they have a home in the 5th district for years to come, just like you do.”