City of Long Beach officials took their monthly community meetings, dubbed Long Beach Listens, to a room full of concerned citizens at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center on Wednesday.
Many residents of North Park expressed dissatisfaction with minority representation at city hall, and all in attendance were looking to the city for improvements in their neighborhood.
Jim LaCarrubba, the city’s public works commissioner, presented plans for refurbishing Sherman Brown Park that included proposals to restore the basketball courts, add a volleyball overlay, install an exercise center and build new fencing around the perimeter.
“We’re about 90 percent of the way through with proposed improvements for the park, and that’s going to be funded through community development funds,” said LaCarrubba, who kicked off the meeting. “We have a phase two for a bathroom, if we can find some additional funding in the next year or so.”
LaCarrubba added that the city plans to change all lights in North Park to proposed energy efficient lights, and has set plans to replace the old water tower with a pump station. “This will be the first community that is going to see energy efficient lights,” he said.
According to Michael Robinson, director of community development, the city will use $60,000 from the community development funds for improvements and repairs at the MLK Center.
“I took a tour of the facility and it is desperately needed in certain areas,” Robinson said. “We also put some money into parks throughout the community, the boardwalk and youth programs.”
But beside some of the proposed developments in North Park, one resident after another asked the city council members in attendance, President Fran Adelson, Vice President Len Torres and Michael Fagen, for more minority representation in city hall and more transparency from their elected officials.
“Will the minority community ever have full access and be able to run our own center,” said resident William Johnson of the MLK Center. “We asked you this before the elections and you didn't want to answer it then.”
Council Vice President Len Torres assured the audience that the city believes the community should run their own center.
“Our position is that we feel the center should be able to run the entire facility as an entity,” Torres said. “We've had delays in bringing in personnel and reorganizing, and that's what’s going on now with the restructuring in city hall."
Among the other concerns North Parks residents raised at the meeting:
- Several community members condemned the city for what they said was mistreatment of North Park residents, contending that the city is not hiring enough minorities, as well as failing to give voice to and overlooking their neighborhood in general.
- Catherine Calloway asked the council for additional speed bumps near the MLK Center and for repairs to the sewage system near a bus stop, explaining that children have to tread through water when they get off the bus after a rainstorm.
- Linda King requested a resolution that would make it mandatory for the city to post any positions before hiring in an effort to eliminate alleged racial job discrimination.
- Jessie Wilson expressed concerned about speeding near East Fulton Street by motorists coming from the Michael Valenti Memorial Long Beach Bridge.