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    Redevelopment & Race: LB LULAC Leader Alleges Impacts

    (December 22, 2004) -- A Spanish-language flier, distributed to Redevelopment area residents prior to a December 21 City Council hearing on whether Councilmembers should govern LB's Redevelopment Agency (and remove LB's current non-elected RDA board) said current Redevelopment projects "are replacing our homes with costly [expensive] apartments and condominiums" and advised, "Don't get caught sitting, waiting for them to remove us from our houses or apartments." has learned that the flier was authored by Thomas Gonzales, President of Greater Long Beach LULAC [League of United Latin American Citizens] Council 3088.

    Mr. Gonzales told he stands by the flier in substance and approach...and adds that community concern over Redevelopment has revitalized LB's LULAC branch. posts the flier in English translation below, along with a pdf version of the Spanish original.

    [begin translated text]

    that you attend this meeting because it affects all of our families.

    We live in a Redevelopment zone [area] where the City of Long Beach is making many changes without taking us into consideration.

    Don't get caught sitting, waiting for them to remove us from our houses or apartments.
    Don't let them get rid of our familiar businesses which we built with great effort.

    Come to the meeting to learn how to stop these injustices.

    These people without scruples represent our neighborhood but they are the ones that have kept us marginalized.
    The projects of the Redevelopment zone [area] are replacing our homes with costly [expensive] apartments and condominiums.
    Nice way of saying, get out of here.

    The people in power making these decisions which affect our well-being are people with money who do not take us into consideration and we're not important to them.

    We can stop them because we are the majority.

    Join us, come to our meeting, unity has power!

    Friday, Dec. 17, 6 p.m.

    St. Anthony Church

    [To view the Spanish language original, click here]

    The December 21 Council hearing on Redevelopment was marked by an unusually large turnout of Spanish-speaking residents. 7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga, who supports replacing the current non-elected RDA board with a Council-run RDA board, said at the hearing that she had requested a translator in advance. (The translator didn't show up...and LB City Clerk Larry Herrera and Lisette Covarrubias on Councilmember Lowenthal's staff were pressed into service to handle translation.)

    At the Dec. 21 Council hearing (and at previous study sessions on the issue) speakers identifying themselves as from LB LULAC Council 3088 testified in support of the Council replacing LB's non-elected RDA board with the elected City Council.

    On Dec. 21, Councilmembers deferred a decision on RDA's future until an "independent study" is completed in June 2005.

    "I drew up the flier, and I had it translated into Spanish by one of the community members working with me on the project," Mr. Gonzales told He said the Dec. 17 community meeting at St. Anthony church was attended by (among others) Councilmembers Tonia Reyes Uranga and Bonnie Lowenthal, incumbent RDA Board members Rick Meghiddo and Alan Burks and some city staffers. Mr. Gonzales noted that these officials and community members expressed differing viewpoints on what to do with RDA. "We had a frank discussion on the issues with different viewpoints expressed," said Mr. Gonzales.

    Mr. Gonzales indicated that incumbent RDA boardmember Meghiddo did not support changing the current non-elected RDA status quo, although LULAC does. Mr. Gonzales said that Councilwoman Lowenthal indicated at the meeting that she had not made up her mind on the issue.

    Mr. Gonzales acknowledged that a person at the community meeting had raised the issue of the allegedly "alarmist" flier...a description with which Mr. Gonzales does not agree. "Where is it alarmist?" he asked rhetorically, adding "It alludes to an urgent meeting being called that redevelopment is something that should concern them and that their homes were in danger, that they needed to come and find out what's happening and what's being planned that could remove them from their homes and make them relocate," Mr. Gonzales said, adding some are crying "foul" because we're alerting people to the gravity of the situation." He added, "If this were in the Bixby Knolls are and just one person were forced to move, there wold be outrage and no one would claim we're being 'alarmist.'

    Mr. Gonzales said "LULAC's mission is to uphold the civil rights of all Americans, not just Hispanics, but about people's rights whether they be Latino or another group. Part of our mission statement is that housing and health issues are our most important issues."

    He said LULAC's Council [branch] 3088 began in the summer of 2003 in order to address the Redevelopment issue. "LULAC had a LB branch for many years, but it wasn't functioning at highly as we'd like," Mr. Gonzales said. He said that he helped organize a new LB LULAC branch, which was approved by LULAC's local, regional and national offices. The former LULAC group then "melted into ours," leaving the new LULAC group (3088) the only LULAC LB presence...and focused on Redevelopment, he said.

    Mr. Gonzales said the Dec. 17 community meeting was informational and designed to make people aware of what Redevelopment does, including the possibilities and impacts it could have.

    "We want transparency in the process and we want to be able to go to whoever is making the decisions," Mr. Gonzales said, adding "We can't do that with the current RDA board, especially when they meet at 8 a.m. on Monday."

    Would changing the meeting time change Mr. Gonzales' position that now favors a Council-run RDA board? "No, because elected officials are the ones who handle the funds...and if they're not doing a good job, we should get rid of them. We can't do that with the current [non-elected] RDA board, and it's been a headache from the beginning."

    "219 people in the last few years have been displaced and 45% of those displaced were Latinos," Mr. Gonzales said, citing a Dec. 15, 2004 city management memo responding to questions by Councilwoman Lowenthal. The memo was cc'd to the Mayor and all Councilmembers and obtained by we've posted it online. To view it, click Dec. 15 city management memo re displacement issues.

    Mr. Gonzales said that while the current numerical data are important, he's not persuaded by city management's explanations for the disparities. "What they should be looking at is contiguous census tracts to see a larger picture of neighborhoods...and then coupling that to their Strategic Plans to get a better idea of who are the families that will be displaced. The numbers they've shown so far are only the tip of the iceberg," Mr. Gonzales said.

    But is playing the "race card" fair? Is it right to inject race into Redevelopment? The last time that happened (when Mayor O'Neill rejected some PAC-proposed RDA board nominees on grounds she wanted greater diversity) it produced one of the most divisive Council meetings in recent history.

    "It's the impact of the Redevelopment process that makes race an issue," Mr. Gonzales said. "Redevelopment has an impact on groups of people...To point that out and have people criticize us for it is in itself a type of racial statement."

    He added, "We would be remiss if we didn't raise this issue right now...remiss in our mission as being a housing advocate and being for those who have no representation."

    Mr. Gonzales, who ran for the 7th district City Council seat in 2002, told us he's sold his former home and moved into the 1st Council district.

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