Long Beach City Councilman Rex Richardson is the newly installed president of the Southern California Association of Governments, the largest metropolitan planning organization in the country, representing six counties, 191 cities and more than 18 million residents.
At 36, Richardson is the youngest person to hold the office of president in the agency’s 55-year history.
Richardson, who was sworn in Thursday after serving as SCAG’s first vice president for the past year, said his policy priorities will be building an inclusive and equitable recovery strategy that addresses the health, social and economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our communities are facing a crisis on three fronts: a public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis with unprecedented levels of unemployment, and a social justice emergency as a result of longstanding racial inequities,” he said in a statement.
“The communities we serve are looking to SCAG for innovative and forward-thinking leadership. This is a moment that demands we redefine what `resiliency’ means for local government. In the weeks and months ahead, we have a unique opportunity to fundamentally change systems and processes to be more inclusive, equitable and effective,” he said.
SCAG recently released an economic analysis projecting “severe and long-lasting” impacts from the pandemic, including Great Depression level unemployment, supply chain interruptions and significant taxable sales losses likely to be felt at least through the end of 2021.
“In light of this pandemic, we need to act today but we also need to provide a vision for the future. There’s no going back to the way we were before the COVID-19 hit,” Richardson said.
He said long-standing SCAG priorities such as transportation, sustainability, closing the digital divide, housing and homelessness “are still critical issues that will affect our region for decades.”
“It’s crucial that we communicate and strategize together — as a region — to prevent a further loss of life, restore our economy and ensure that local governments have the resources they need to recover,” Richardson said. “This is a time to double down on science and ensure that data, not politics, dictate our direction forward.”
Richardson, who was elected to the Long Beach City Council in 2014, attended Cal State Dominguez Hills, where he served as student body president, and began his career as a community organizer.
In addition to Richardson, SCAG officers elected Thursday are: Eastvale City Councilman Clint Lorimore as first vice president and Palm Desert City Councilwoman Jan Harnik as second vice president. Big Bear Lake City Councilman Bill Jahn will serve as immediate past president.