The SeabytheCity MEET THE CANDIDATE series continues with Allison Blanchette, Green Party candidate for Long Beach City Council.
I’m going to step away from my usual intro with this one. I’ve known Allison for a long time now. We’ve been though a couple of battles together. We have had lots of talks and share a very similar vision for Long Beach. She’s very smart, passionate and honest. Working on projects with her, I have witnessed the dedication and enthusiasm she has for this city. She deserves a good look as your next City Councilwoman. Is that an official SBTC endorsement? Yeah, why not. She deserves my vote, so I’m giving it to her. Please give this a read. Hi Allison, tell us about yourself.
Moved from NYC to Long Beach ten years ago, currently living in the East End with my boyfriend, Jonathan and our two cats, Demon and Mr Kitty.
I have a degree in urban studies and planning from Hunter College and went to grad school for public administration and public policy at CUNY School for Professional Studies. I am the Executive Director of a non-profit organization Long Island Streets and partner with several non-profit organizations throughout New York. My work includes digesting public policy and legislation, writing original think pieces, sourcing state and federal funding for transformative planning projects, organizing bicycle law and outreach events, and educating elected officials and school children.
I have lobbied elected representatives in Nassau County, Albany and DC for 5 years on behalf of federal public health bills, dedicated state funding for Complete Streets, increased trails, amending safer passing laws and increased dedicated funding for bus riders.
In Long Beach, I serve on a Safe Routes to School Steering Committee. My civic memberships include North East Bay & Canals Civic Association, Eastholme Civic Association, the Westholme-Walks Civic Association and occasionally I crash WENCA meetings.
I have spoken at City Council meetings since 2011, boldly advocating for our community to have safer streets, more dignified bus amenities and a cleaner, safer LIRR-bus station that includes working cameras, better lighting and more secure bike racks to tackle the high rate of bike thefts at the station. I articulated concerns before our Council voted to change Park Ave traffic signal timing that doesn’t give any of us a fighting chance to safely cross the street.
-Addressing the Streetscape Initiative on Park Ave, which was intended to improve walkability but, due to no public participation, resulted in creating large obstacles for people with disabilities and parents with strollers, at the expense of taxpayers.
-Partnering with Eastholme Civic and SeabytheCity to painting boulevard curb ends to prevent illegal parking and increase driver visibility, and making intersections safer for our children, dog-walkers and all of our neighbors.
-Assisted an amazing Girl Scout Troop who kickstarted a two-month cycling club, a bike art show, and a presentation of asks to the City Council.
-Organizing 3 annual events in Long Beach, including the only bicycle and pedestrian safety education event in the City of Long Beach, the Lemonade Pedal every September. CycloFemme, an all-woman’s ride in solidarity, is approaching its 3rd year in May. World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims is a rally and ride to the sites of traffic victim crash sites, in its 4th year this November.
Pictures of these and so many more great projects are on my campaign website: ALLISONFORLONGBEACH.ORG
Why are you running for city council?
This blog partly inspired me! SeabytheCity and online communities like Project 11561 crowdsource spectacular ideas, offering a platform to encourage broader participation, and introduce us to some amazing community champions ….but how many of these people and ideas do not get realized because doors are slammed to people and ideas that disrupt the narrative dictated by political insiders? This is wrong. City Council members have been maintaining the status quo instead of championing the changes we ask for and need. People deserve new, strong leadership that will be more responsive, treating ALL PEOPLE as respected participants and collaborators.
We also have everyday issues that are invisible during election season, so running let’s me force these issues. How are candidates going to approach social challenges or more importantly, will they? Healthcare, gun violence, vulnerable youth, homelessness, food insecurity and access to social services are a few of the everyday issues that City Council members have the ability and the responsibility to tackle. I do not believe all candidates are qualified or interested in representing ALL people. I have the courage, vision, ideas and skills to provide inclusive leadership and offer creative solutions to challenges facing ALL people.
All candidates like to present glowing visions of the communities they are running in to have some impact, what is your realistic vision for what you would like to see LB become over the next 5 to 10 years?
Long Beach has yet to peak, she has the potential to be a model beautiful city, economically vibrant, community-driven, dynamic, with safe streets and central districts that have a mixture of primary uses.
The changes I would prioritize include re-imagined transportation and complete streets that level the playing field for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles, not just for our CBD’s but all neighborhoods. This improves equity, public safety, public health and transportation options while providing a tremendous boost to our economy and local businesses.
I would like to see Long Beach embrace open data. Opening government data through an online portal that holds all public information is a realistic and necessary change from our current wonky website and burdensome access to information via FOIL. We need open government data, a website portal with the budget and city checkbook online so residents can see how their tax dollars are spent. Other data sets would include vendor contracts, RFP’s, zoning documents, DPW active plans on which roads are being fixed, permits, crime incident reports, city hall electricity use – literally all public information. Opening government data would create greater government transparency, honesty, accountability, efficiency, civic engagement, community activism and economic growth. It also reduces waste and abuse and saves taxpayers money.
Related to the last question, What would you say are the most important challenges that our city must address that you feel might be presently being ignored?
Through my lens, one of challenges I feel is overlooked is making sure every person has a voice. Too often critical planning decisions happen behind closed doors- nothing good can happen when choices are made that don’t include all stakeholders including people with disabilities, marginalized or underrepresented groups. This really ties into my decision to run- because too often people are left out and not represented.
Parking challenges are not ignored but the clear solutions are. Suggested solutions from other candidate platforms are auto-centric, with unrealistic promises of 1000 new spaces, striped parking spaces and 20% discounts for electric vehicles at the LIRR. These are short-sighted solutions at the expense of taxpayer, and will increase congestion. We need smarter parking management that encourages and strengthens other modes, right-sizes the price of parking and does not incentivize driving.
Speeding and bad driver behavior are encourage by wide street and intersection designs. No amount of enforcement could or should be tasked with solving dangerous streets when it’s a combined effort of enforcement, engineering and education- with heavy emphasis on the engineering design of our streets which are largely ignored. We have over $3million in grants for bike lanes and safety improvements on Park Ave that the city has been sitting on because they cannot figure out how to re-design our streets, and there has been zero public outreach. These are our streets, let’s reclaim them.
If the situation presents itself, what are the specific criteria that you will apply in the search for our next City Manager?
An education in public or business administration, with experience with budgets. Resume aside, I would question how a candidate for the position would reach beyond the throng of campaign volunteers, political party, donors and personal friends to find the best individuals to work in city government, especially for key positions such as department directors and her/his own deputy and assistants. With the authority to handpick personal staff and an army of private citizens appointed to serve commissions, the City Manager can dominate public discourse in City Hall, using staff resources to launch new ideas and the appointed assistants to influence the direction of city departments. It is very hard to gauge how any City Manager candidates would do with those tasks, but it is as important to consider as a resume.
If elected, would you serve your full term?
Any additional comments you might like to add.
All of the candidates have outlined bold visions for the city and how they can best represent constituents, but there is little way to gauge whether they’d be effective in implementing their ideas. I have a track record of advocating for people – this is what I do and have dedicated my life to.
As a candidate running independent of insider politics, with the courage to make tough choices and driven by the best information and data to make the best civic minded, rational choice for the PUBLIC GOOD, I am beholden to no political boss or special interests, just the realization of Long Beach’s greatest potential as one of the best places to live in the country.