Long Beach’s three incumbent City Council members who are up for re-election this year say they plan to seek office again in the fall. James Hodge, former board chairman of the Martin Luther King Center, said he is exploring the possibility of a run.
In an email last week, incumbents Karen McInnis, Tina Posterli and Liz Treston told the Herald they would run as a team. Referring to themselves in the third person, they wrote that in the few years they have been on the council, “they have helped get the city out of the most fiscally stressed municipality in the state by the NYS Comptroller’s office. They advocated and received millions of dollars for needed projects. They want to continue moving Long Beach forward.”
McInnis and Treston were elected to four-year terms in 2019, and Posterli, council President John Bendo and Roy Lester were elected in 2021.
At a council meeting Tuesday night, Hodge said, “Don’t believe what you read in the newspapers, but maybe you should.” He was referring to a posting on the Herald website last weekend reporting that he was in fact running.
Asked for clarification Wednesday morning, Hodge said he was “exploring the possibility” of running, and then added, “I plan on making it to the ballot.”
In an email, McInnis wrote, “I wish James all the best with his candidacy. I can see why he would want to be a part of all the great work that this administration has done … and will continue to do so … I can tell you governing through this period of transformation for me has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to truly make a lasting, positive impact on the future of the city by the sea for generations to come.”
At the Christian Light Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday, Hodge, 47, said he would be running. He confirmed it later that day at a Ladies of Jazz & Blues tribute concert at the Long Beach Public Library. Hodge, who is usually a casual dresser, showed up at the library in a crisp blue suit, white shirt and tie, and shook many hands.
If elected, Hodge would be the first Black member of the council since Anissa Moore was elected in 2015. (Moore is now a deputy Nassau County executive.) He has been posting about his community and civic activities on social media for weeks, hinting at a run.
A former board chairman of the MLK Center, Hodge is a frequent speaker at council meetings and a fiery orator. He led marches in the city after George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis in 2020, and the police killing of Brenna Taylor in Kentucky that year.
At times Hodge has been a controversial figure in Long Beach. He was board chairman of the MLK Center for 16 years, during which he led efforts to provide meals for the poor and homeless and educational and recreational services for children.
But his tenure was also marked by disputes with the city, which owns the building in the largely Black North Park section of town. In 2020 the city shut down the center, citing building and fire violations. Hodge complained that the city’s action prevented him from providing food for the poor, and he set up cooking facilities outside the building.
He resigned as the center’s board chairman in 2021, and last year the city filed eviction proceedings against the center, saying the organization had “consistently failed to meet” with city negotiators to iron out details for a lease. Those negotiations are continuing, city and center officials have said.
Hodge forged “a good professional relationship” with Rabbi Jack Zanerhaft of Temple Emanu-El of Long Beach, Zanerhaft said earlier this week. Hodge once said that Zanerhaft had taught him how to make challah bread.
Crystal Lake, a leader of the Black community in North Park, said she believed Hodge would garner considerable support from whites and Blacks.
And James Mulvaney, of Long Beach, a former Newsday investigative reporter who is now an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, wrote in an email, “James Hodge has deeper roots in the community than any of the current city council members. He is a strong voice for the underserved population in North Park. He has also been an advocate for the next generation, making sure Long Beach youngsters are positively engaged and helping them prepare to become future leaders. Other politicians run to the spotlight, James Hodge is a guy who spots problems and tries to fix them, not for the glory but because it is the right thing to do.”