Q & Advocacy: Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia Talks UCLA Partnership, City Services, Civic Engagement

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia speaks with UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Dean Gary Segura during a spring meeting at the Long Beach Civic Center.

During the spring, UCLA officials and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia made a promise to open a dialogue and seek out new ways for the two entities to partner now and into the future.

Luskin School of Public Affairs Dean Gary Segura made the trip, and officials discussed subjects including housing, homelessness, tenants’ rights, multi-modality, the U.S. Census, and even how public policy and social welfare graduate students might be able to intern and work with the City of Long Beach.

As a way to keep the conversation going, Garcia agreed to a short correspondence regarding this new burgeoning partnership, issues affecting his city, and how to get others civically engaged.

The following is the transcript from the email interview.

Q: What is your relationship to higher education and how can the city of Long Beach and UCLA become greater partners, which both groups seem to be open to doing?

A: I am an educator by training and have worked in higher education for many years. I am very passionate about creating stronger partnerships between the City of Long Beach, our local community, and the great educational institutions we have throughout the region. There are many ways I believe we can establish deeper connections with UCLA.

The Greater Los Angeles region is known for its outstanding higher education institutions. Locally, we have developed the Long Beach College Promise, which creates a direct pathway for local high school students to attend Long Beach City College and then Long Beach State University. I would like to expand this type of partnership to include universities across the region, so that our youth have an opportunity to participate fully in the colleges and universities that best fit their needs.

I also think there is an opportunity for our City government to work closer with the renowned scholars at UCLA, including the innovative California Policy Lab. UCLA has some of the top researchers in the world, and we would like to work with these experts to identify solutions to complex policy and governance challenges facing the city.

Currently, we have initiated partnerships with higher education institutions in Long Beach to support our City’s objectives around economic development, international trade, and housing and homelessness challenges. It would be great to make this a wider regional effort to bring UCLA into the conversation as well.

My hope is to develop sustainable partnerships between the City and higher education institutions. UCLA has an incentive to produce high-quality research. And as a City government, we have an incentive to craft well-reasoned policies based on this research. Bringing the right people together to test out new ideas is a win-win for both government and university.

Q: Long Beach has long positioned itself as a multi-modal city, and you have often talked about that issue coupled with housing/homelessness/planning issues for your city. This is applicable to Los Angeles County as a whole. How do you see this issue evolving now and into the near future? Is there a research gap that could be helpful in solving this?

A: The California Policy Lab (CPL) at UCLA is officially partnered with the City of Long Beach to help it conduct a randomized control trial (RCT) of the Long Beach Justice Lab’s Multidisciplinary team (MDT).

The MDT convenes City and County service providers to better coordinate and reduce the burden on individuals accessing and navigating services such as mental health, substance abuse, and homeless services. The RCT is invaluable at being able to measure the actual impact of the MDT and understand its replicability elsewhere and where the model can be improved.

Currently the City of Long Beach is in discussions on the potential to partner with CPL for other initiatives.

UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Dean Gary Segura and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia take a moment during a spring meeting.

Q: You were part of a wave of new and young faces that turned the elected body of officials in Long Beach into one of the youngest in the nation. With that in mind, people, and especially students and young alumni, are looking for ways to activate and become civically active. How should they get started?

A: I got my start learning to engage my community and be civically involved when I was in student government at Long Beach State.

Some of the best proving grounds for learning to become civically engaged are student government associations at our colleges and universities. You have to run campaigns where you talk to voters, ask what they want, and turn those campaign promises into deliverable policies. We need our student leaders to keep this practice up as soon as they graduate.

I look around at my current colleagues on City Council, and several of them were involved in student government, including two that were student body presidents. Even if you don’t run for campus wide office, there are so many ways to get involved as students that mirror non-elected involvement including social and ethnic clubs, and other advocacy groups that focus on a set of issues.

But the key is to start that culture of being involved early, get that experience in, and continue to always find growth.


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