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Leadership Long Beach

The City Of Long Beach And The Great Experiment

By Tonia Reyes Uranga, Executive Director
Miguel Contreras Foundation

Leadership Long Beach, Class of 1990

Tonia Reyes UrangaNovember 5th, 2013 – While a member of the inaugural class of Leadership Long Beach, I remember a comment made by one of the original founders, then-president of California State University, Long Beach, Dr. Curtis McRae. The president looked at the inaugural class and, excited about the future of Long Beach, stated, “Long Beach is a great experiment in multicultural democracy.” He went on to say that if we succeeded in this experiment, we would become a great city.

It has been more than 20 years since I was chosen to be in the first class, and I often think of Dr. McRae’s comment. As a city, we have come a long way. And, most certainly, the city is demographically diverse. But that is not the challenge of the “great experiment;” the real challenge is to the voters in the entire city to elect good, responsible leaders who reflect the diverse community.

In past years, we could count on the fact that our mayor and our leadership were elected by voters who lived in the eastside of town, who voted regularly, who are educated homeowners, and older citizens of the same majority race.

Our challenge is to get the majority of our registered voters in every district to participate in the democratic process. Democracy only works if we have an educated citizenry that participates. We cannot be a great city without everyone in every district going to the polls.

Today, we are on the cusp of a transformation in leadership as seven of the nine councilmembers and our citywide officials are positioned for possible change with the group of the most diverse candidates we have ever seen.

If we count on only a few making decisions about the future of our city, we risk the loss of not reaching our full potential.

Mandatory voting, permanent vote by mail, door to door canvassing and increased opportunity for greater public participation at every level are ideas that need to be explored further.

I am proud to have been in the inaugural class of Leadership Long Beach, and often think of what I got out of the experience. For me, it is taking up the challenge given to us by Dr. McRae and that is to make this great experiment in multicultural democracy work.

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(Founded in 1989, Leadership Long Beach offers principled leadership programs by educating and engaging adult and youth leaders on issues important to the city’s future and sustainability.

For more information, check us out at www.leadershiplb.org or www.facebook.com/leadershiplongbeach.)