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Councilman-elect Al Austin
He becomes the third Black City Councilman in history of the city where he will represent the 8th district, the most diverse district in the city.
Newly elected Long Beach city councilman, Al Austin said he will "work hard" for his constituents once he officially takes office July 17. Austin beat his opponent, Lillian Kawasaki by a little over 400 votes in city's recent election. Now, for his 8th district, he is focused on tackling public safety, education and developing a stronger sense of involvement among residents.
"I'm looking forward to representing my community for the next four years for sure," he told the Sentinel in a recent interview.
"I plan to use the neighborhood council model [that seems] to work well in Los Angeles. It's a great tool to get people involved in their communities."
Austin's district includes the historically prestigious Bixby Knolls neighborhood as well as Los Cerritos and North Long Beach. A racially mixed group of Whites, Asians, Latinos and African Americans live there. But, said Austin, for all of the residents there are not enough resources right now to maintain adequate public safety.
"The primary role of local government is to protect its residents and property," Austin explained.
" Right now, our community faces the lowest public safety staffing levels in a decade, and property crime and robberies are on the rise. For that reason, I support the immediate funding of a police academy and support the current lateral fire academy..."
His critics had warned voters before the April election, that in order to accomplish that goal, Austin is considering raising taxes.
But, he told the Press Telegram after his victory, "Obviously, our message resonated with the 8th District ... I think the voters made a strong statement."
Austin will be only the third African American to serve on Long Beach's city council since it's inception in 1908. His political career began as an aide to Senator Kevin Murray. However, he said, his passion for politics began long before then.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I had a burning desire to be involved in politics," recalled Austin.
" My family back in Detroit was very involved in politics. My uncle (Richard A Austin) was a statewide elected official in Michigan. I was exposed to politics at a very young age. I got a chance to sit in rooms and listen to strategy discussions with my grandfather and other family members. I developed an interest from there..."
Richard Austin had been his first mentor, giving him a steady stream of advice while he was growing up. His other mentors, he said, include [L.A. County Supervisor] Mark Ridley Thomas and Murray. He is bringing their wisdom and advice to the 8th district.
"I feel like I can make a difference," he said.
Besides public safety improvements, he also wants to make a difference in the local economy and the area's schools.
"The Eighth District is home to many successful small businesses in Long Beach," Austin said.
"As councilmember, I will partner with them to promote our corridors and create local jobs for our residents. I will also work to provide business owners with the resources they need to be successful. This means exploring new ideas and resources, including: New Market Tax Credits, Community Development Corporations, and/or Enterprise Zones..."
Austin said he hopes to forge a stronger relationship with the school district, working together with them to get more resources for after school, tutoring and mentoring programs.