Al Austin II Seeks 69th Assembly Seat
By Dianne Anderson
Al Austin is contending for the shiny new 69th Assembly District seat where he is preparing to tackle many of the same old issues that plague most other cities across the nation – affordable housing, an exploding homeless population, and rising crime.
If that’s not enough, add health and mental health to the list.
“All of these issues are intersecting, but our economy is very important,” said Long Beach District 8 Councilman Al Austin. “It’s a big issue on the minds of our residents every day, dealing with inflation, the high cost of living, housing affordability, access to healthcare.”
He is ready to get down to work, not only with his Democratic colleagues, but all members of the state legislature. As the federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars are now coming down for his district, he feels this is a unique time for the state of California with its $97 billion budget surplus.
Cities and governments statewide have received some ARPA funding to help deliver more resources and services, and help local businesses.
For the 69th, he said funding is set to impact over the next couple of years, but the road ahead requires a mission-centered approach.
“If we get it right coming out of and hopefully recovery from COVID, our economy with record surpluses in the legislature, we can make some great things happen for our state,” said Austin, who currently chairs the city’s Budget Oversight Committee.
To get reach the goals he has in mind, he stressed that it’s going to take investing heavily in community health, reentry programs and mental health support, which are especially lacking right now.
“We can’t spread the pork around for everyone to get a piece of the pot pie,” he said. “We need to be laser focused on the big issues, building more affordable housing and providing incentives for cities and builders to do that.”
Arguments in the past against using vacant buildings to warehouse the growing homeless population prevented alternative solutions, but Austin was part of a better way.
About three years ago, the city sponsored motel conversion bill Senate Bill 450 by Sen. Tom Umberg. Austin, vice-chair the State Legislation Committee, said Long Beach wanted to go bold on re-purposing motels to address the housing crisis.
They went to the state legislature to get the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption.
“There’s a need in the housing crisis to be innovative about creating affordable housing opportunities and we got that passed,” said Austin, who is also a member of the Government and Elections, the I-710 Oversight, Charter Amendment, and Housing Authority committees.
That legislation opened more doors to house the homeless statewide. So far, the city of Long Beach has three motels that created 350 beds with great wraparound services with social workers and supervision to keep people off the streets. He said they are buying more units.
Austin has garnered a long list of support and endorsements, and he said he is proud of his contributions to supporting the community with 30 years as a labor representative, 20 years as a community activist and ten years on city council. Austin has two more years until his term ends in 2024. If elected, the seat will open up for a special election.
He said he is most proud of supporting the creation of the African American Cultural Center, and for the past nine years championed the National HBCU college fair that draws over 50 HBCUs to Long Beach to recruit local students to new opportunities.
He said he will continue to be a voice for the community in Sacramento.
“Public service is in my heart, I love my community, I love Long Beach. I think we’ve done some good work over the last ten years on city council and it’s time to expand my sphere and scope and continue to work to support for Long Beach and Carson, and the cities in the 69th Assembly district,” he said.
June 7 is the last day to vote by mail or at their polling places that open from 7:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m.
The top two vote-getters for all elected offices will then go on to compete in the November election.
For more information, see https://www.alaustinforassembly.org/