By Nick Diamantides
The June 8 election is only three-and-one-half weeks away, and incumbent 7th District City Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga hopes the voters will elect her to a third term in office. “I am running for re-election so that I can make sure our district receives its fair share of resources,” she said. “It’s going to be tough times ahead and I want to be there to fight for the 7th District.”
“As I was knocking on doors, one person told me, ‘Someone came to my door and said it’s time for a change, but I told him Tonia is change. This is the first time we’ve had activist representation in the 7th District,’” Reyes-Uranga said. “That shows me that people recognize that I have worked very hard to improve the quality of life in the District.”
Reyes-Uranga came in second in Long Beach’s April 13 nominating election. She received 1,685 votes, or 30.9 percent of the votes cast, in the 7th District race. Assistant City Auditor James Johnson received 2,443 votes, or 44.8 percent of the votes cast. The three other candidates (Jill Hill, Jack Smith and Fernando Bernabe) received the remainder of the votes. Because neither Johnson nor Reyes-Uranga received more than 50 percent of the votes, they must face off against each other in the June 8 election.
Reyes-Uranga stressed that there are three reasons why voters should choose her over her opponent– James Johnson. “One is that I have the experience,” she said. “It does take an effort to figure out what is going on at City Hall and how to get through the staff that outlives us all.”
The second reason she believes she would do a better job is her thorough knowledge of the district. “James has done a good job of getting out to the community, but I know the district intimately, and it is important that every part of the district gets representation on the council,” she said.
According to Reyes-Uranga, there is a third reason people should vote for her– she knows how to get the five votes needed to get things done on the council. She explained that her eight years in office have enabled her to establish relationships with the other council members, to support their efforts to improve their districts and to garner their support for her efforts to improve the 7th District. “I think that in the past eight years, I have done a good job of getting the votes necessary to accomplish important things for the 7th District,” she added.
Reyes-Uranga noted that she derives great satisfaction from the things she accomplished as the 7th District’s councilwoman. “One is the doubling of the park space in the district,” she said. “We know that the goal for the city is eight acres of park space per 1,000 people, but the 7th District falls very short of that goal.” She explained that when she first joined the council, the district had about 1.3 acres of park space per 1,000 people. “We are now creeping up on doubling that because of the new parks we have opened in the district since I was first elected,” she said. “But obviously there is more work to be done.”
Another accomplishment that brings Reyes-Uranga satisfaction is her work with other council members to get the Port of Long Beach to meet with residents to come up with a pollution mitigation program. “After many years of dealing with the negative impacts of the port’s expansion, unfortunately the economic downturn gave us some breathing room, and we could see how reduced port traffic resulted in less air pollution,” she said. “For the very first time, the port had to face its impact on the community, and it decided to put money into the community to mitigate that impact to the tune of $15 million. That didn’t just happen because they just wanted to be good guys– it happened because the community put pressure on them to do that, and as a councilmember, I was part of that effort to put pressure on the port.”
Reyes-Uranga explained that the port put that $15 million in a “community mitigation fund” that will be spent to soften the effects of pollution on people’s lives. “Last month the port sent out a request for proposals for schools, preschools, senior centers, hospitals and clinics,” she said. “The port is looking for places where it can invest in air-filtration systems, asthma mobiles, and other measures to mitigate air pollution effects in neighborhoods impacted by port-generated air pollution.”
Reyes-Uranga also noted that she has worked very hard to put pressure on the Long Beach Airport to mitigate some of its negative impacts on the city’s residents. She explained that she and 8th District Councilwoman Rae Gabelich worked together to move the “Quieter Homes” program forward. “That came into effect this year,” she said, explaining that now the residents most impacted by the airport will receive grants to have their homes insulated from aircraft noise. “Rae and I finally got that program approved by the council,” she said. “We now use a portion of the passenger fees to retrofit the homes to the tune of about $60,000 per home.” She added that 10 homes are included in this year’s Quieter Homes program and more homes will likely be added next year.
“When you look back over the past eight years, we have succeeded in getting two huge entities, the port and the airport, to acknowledge their impacts on our neighborhoods and to set aside some of their revenues to mitigate those impacts,” she said. “I think the residents of the 7th District know that I have been fighting hard to make their lives better for the past eight years.”
Reyes-Uranga said she was also proud of the important role she and her staff played in solving storm runoff problems in the Arlington District adjacent to the Los Angeles River. She explained that homes in that area have been flooded every two years for the past two decades. “We finally brought that neighborhood up to par with the rest of the city,” she said. “We used some city money and federal funds to build a water-retention basin on the nearby Edison property that holds the water for a while and later releases it into the Dominguez Channel.”
Reyes-Uranga said she felt fortunate to have many neighborhood activists in the 7th District who have worked with her to bring many positive changes to the communities. “I hope I can count on their support and they trust me enough to elect me to another term,” she said. “I think most people realize I am totally committed to the 7th District and I have worked hard to serve all the neighborhoods in the district.”
By Nick Diamantides