ONE QUESTION FOR … ASSEMBLY CANDIDATE TONIA REYES URANGABy Dave Wielenga
The back story: Nearly three years after Tonia Reyes Uranga last held a public office—or ran for one—the former Long Beach City Council member has signaled her return to the political ring. She has filed to run for the 70th district seat in the California Assembly that term limits will force Bonnie Lowenthal to vacate in 2014. Reyes Uranga represented Long Beach’s 7th district on the City Council from 2002 to 2010, and was a strong advocate for the concerns of a constituency that mixed ethnicities, the poor with the working class, a strong base of homeowners with renters in neighborhoods that are adjacent to the pollution of the Port of Long Beach and the 710 Freeway. The 70th District includes Long Beach, Signal Hill, Catalina Island, the Los Angeles community of San Pedro, and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together take in 60 percent of the imports shipped to the United States. Reyes Uranga pursued a third term on the City Council as a write-in candidate in 2010 and forced a runoff, but ultimately lost to James Johnson. During her three years as a private citizen, Reyes Uranga has remained active in the issues she championed on the City Council, serving as executive director of the Miguel Contreras Foundation, and spearheading the People’s State of the City event, which gives a grassroots perspective to Mayor Bob Foster’s official State of the City address. The second People’s State of the City was held April 11 at the Grace United Methodist Church, which is where we asked her one question.
The question: As you begin your run for the 70th district seat in the California Assembly, how have you been affected by spending the last three years out of public office?
Tonia Reyes Uranga’s answer: My time away gave me a different perspective on the issues. It emphasized the lack of information we get as regular citizens—knowing there is so much going on that we don’t know about. This motivates me to be more assertive and aggressive—if that’s possible—to make sure we get that information so we can make the choices we need to make at the ballot box or just so we know where to stand on issues. That’s the one thing that struck me when I left office. It wasn’t so much the glamour of being in elected office, but the information that the regular resident does not get. The lack of diversity in our newspapers, of course, doesn’t help. Then, there’s the fact that most people are just so busy. So we hear snippets. But how do you put what a city council or any governing body does into a 10-minute update? That’s why I’m so passionate about the Coalition [the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community] and the People’s State of the City. How do we get people involved when they have so much else to do—trying to feed their kids, get them through college, pay the rent or mortgage? You know, maybe they’ll grab a paper—although not for 75 cents—to find out what’s going on. Last year. I heard Mayor Foster’s State of the City address, and heard him talk about unemployment, saying “All you need to do is get on line and get a job—there’s plenty of jobs.” But you know, a lot of people don’t have computers, they don’t have internet access. Man, we—and I include myself—unless we make an effort, we can become so detached from the reality of people in the community. We need to have a People’s State of the City—see what they want to talk about. They don’t want to talk about finding a job on the Internet; it’s about food on the table. It’s a whole different perspective. The last three years have made that clearer than ever to me.