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A weekly newsletter on the latest local government news from the lens of the Long Beach Post's City Hall reporter, who sits through so many city meetings for us.
 
Metro, marathons—and politics at play

I don’t like writing letters. I can’t even remember the last time I bought a postcard that wasn’t destined to be pressed to my refrigerator by a novelty magnet.

The Long Beach City Council apparently doesn’t like writing letters either.

If you were able to tune in to the meeting Tuesday night—some people could not because one of city’s fiber cables was cut—you might have wondered why such a big fight was being had over whether to send a letter to LA County Metro over its policy of emptying its trains every night at the end of each of its rail lines.

In Long Beach, that means at approximately 1 a.m. every day the A Line is cleared at the First Street platform in Downtown.

Councilmember Suzie Price said this practice might be contributing to the city’s population of people experiencing homelessness growing by 62% while others in the region saw much smaller growth, or even decreases. She requested a letter be sent to Metro asking it to stop.

Is the Metro policy of emptying trains so they can be cleaned inadvertently dumping people experiencing homelessness on cities like Long Beach, which happens to sit at the end of the line?

I don’t know, and neither does the city.

Councilmember Cindy Allen tried to make the case that it isn’t in her opposition to the letter to Metro.

Allen poured over her notes from a survey she said was conducted when she was the representative of the area where the A Line ends, before redistricting.

During that week-long survey, 63 people experiencing homelessness were forced off the train. Forty-eight were from LA, 15 were from Long Beach. And 40 of them ended up boarding a bus bound for LA, she said, concluding that the data didn’t support that it might be an issue.

But that data point could show it is. Extrapolated over a year, that’s 416 people. Two years? It’s 832 people.

The 62% increase the city saw in this year’s count showed 1,262 more unhoused people in the city over 2020, the last time the city conducted a count due to COVID-19.

But we don’t know how many people ended up in LA who may have departed from Long Beach. And really, many would say the discussion should center on getting these people help, rather than arguing about where they came from.

While it’s unclear how much Metro is actually contributing to the city’s homeless population, it’s clear that politics played a role in the debate.

The candidates who were opposed to sending the letter have endorsed Councilmember Rex Richardson for mayor. Those who supported it have endorsed Price.

Another factor of what played out Tuesday night: There’s an unspoken code of not mingling in another district’s business, even if that council member isn’t addressing it.

This has bubbled up from time to time, with mini-turf war arguments playing out behind the dais. It’s not my job to take positions on issues, but from a general point of view, a government likely runs better if it can be cooperative and not let politics get in the way of policy that is trying to help the people it represents.

As President Harry S. Truman once said, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS WEEK:

The Long Beach Marathon is back! For most of the city that doesn’t really mean much unless you’re planning to head Downtown or in the general area of Belmont Shore or Cal State Long Beach. Those areas will be affected by street closures in the early morning and early afternoon to allow runners to safely complete the course. I used to run marathons, and even ran the Long Beach half-marathon as an assignment a few years go. But now most of my steps are accounted for when I walk to Tim Grobaty’s desk to show him pictures of my dog.

PAY ATTENTION TO THIS NEXT WEEK:

The
City Council is voting on two substantial projects this coming Tuesday night. A $43.8 million overhaul of Artesia Boulevard could be approved by the council, with nearly all of that money coming from grants from a variety of sources, the largest being from LA County Metro. The council could also acquire an unused building in Downtown from Southern California Edison to convert into a new police crime lab and senior center. The building located at the corner of Elm Avenue and First Street had been previously discussed as potential office space for the Los Angeles Angels if they had relocated to Long Beach. I guess this officially means the city is out of the running for the team. The price tag for purchasing the building is $21 million with an additional $23.4 million needed to renovate. The city could look at selling more bonds to finance nearly $20 million of the total cost.

Please feel free to contact me at jason@lbpost.com with questions, suggestions, or story tips.
 
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