By Rex Richardson

Every city budget is an opportunity to meet Long Beach’s biggest challenges and deliver results for our residents. This year, our Mayor and City Council understood the task at hand — continue to invest in solutions to reduce homelessness, improve community safety with an emphasis on crime prevention, and prepare Long Beach neighborhoods for the future with infrastructure and climate action and adaptation.

I’m proud to have collaborated with my City Council colleagues to ensure that our budget is a reflection of our Long Beach values and ensures that we are creating a future where every resident has the opportunity to thrive. Let’s break it down.

As the number of unhoused people continues to increase in our county, our city needs to do our part to help move people off the streets and connect them to supportive services. We’re continuing to increase our outreach capacity by allocating funding for a third REACH team. We’re adding $77 million for housing services including short-term and permanent housing opportunities, direct services for unhoused residents, and converting an additional hotel to a Project Homekey site.

Keeping our community safe will continue to be among our city’s top priorities. That’s why we’re investing in public safety that has proven results, such as our community policing pilot programs. Instead of reacting to violence, our community policing strategy will add more officers to proactively address the conditions that give rise to crime.

Our police department piloted the Neighborhood Walks program in areas of the city where there had been an increase in shootings the year prior. Officers walked around assigned locations where data showed recent instances of crime and engaged with the community at parks, schools, businesses and faith-based organizations. After launching the program, shootings in the Washington Neighborhood dropped by 40%. In North Long Beach, emergency calls were reduced by 7.6%, and shootings were decreased by 80%.

I worked with my colleagues Council members Cindy Allen and Suely Saro to ask Mayor Garcia and our council colleagues to continue investing in what works to address crime. I’m excited to report that in this budget, we are creating 20 new police officer positions to implement our Bicycle Beats and Neighborhood Walk Program. We’re also establishing the Bureau of Collaborative Response and Engagement to continue building trust between our police officers and the community they serve.

Our budget also invests in programs that create a healthier and safer city — mental health services, parks, youth programs, libraries, and workforce development programs. We’ve added funding so that the Michelle Obama Neighborhood Library can be open on Mondays. We’re designing North Long Beach’s first public pool and upgrades to playgrounds, picnic areas, and sports fields and courts.

Our community has to also think about the future of safety in our community. That means adapting to a changing climate and protecting access to reproductive health. Just last week, we experienced intense heat followed by flooding brought on by a tropical storm. We witnessed the coordinated efforts of our fire fighters, multiple city departments, and numerous volunteers as they worked tirelessly to ensure that our communities along the coast were protected.

We can’t wait for the effects of climate change to get worse. That’s why we are establishing the Office of Climate Action. This new team will be tasked with coordinating our public health needs and help us prepare for sustainable economic opportunities and help us transition away from fossil fuels.

In response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, we’re providing funding for our health department to pursue pilot programs that will help increase access to abortion services and reproductive health care.

As Vice Mayor, I am proud that we’re continuing to lead the region with a proactive approach to our most pressing challenges. We delivered because we heard from residents and community organizations on how we can best meet the needs of our community. I look forward to collaborating with you to ensure Long Beach is continuing to be a city where we can all thrive.