The historic and culturally rich murals of Chicano Park are reflections of a proud community. All communities in San Diego should have access to public supported art projects. Youth should be encouraged to express their emotions through art, music, and performance. Instead of punishing our youth for graffiti and wheat pasting, we must offer them the opportunity to create in a safe atmosphere. As a community activist, I support City and State funding to expand youth art projects, including programs at the Sherman Heights Community Center, the WorldBeat Center in Balboa Park and the Boys and Girls Clubs. Children from all communities should be exposed and given the opportunity to participate in stage and music performance. Community-artist controlled programs can instill high self-esteem and a positive outlook for personal growth. Small neighborhood art and music festivals bring families and communities together in a large city that, at times, can be overwhelming. Creativity should not be stifled and everyone's attempts at artistic expression should be recognized and respected.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL PROGRAMS
I support the legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of drugs and respect the work of community groups such as Shelter From The Storm and NORML. Drug and alcohol addictions are diseases, and should be treated with rehabilitation, and not incarceration. Our city should be able to provide ample short and long term, out and inpatient programs for those who need and want it. The D.A.R.E. program that is present in our public schools is taught by law enforcement officers who are usually ill-equipped and unaware of the dynamics of the "disease". The stereotyping of "gang members" by D.A.R.E. officers is not a responsible social program for our children; it only promotes racism. Programs covering drug and alcohol addiction should be taught by counselors in recovery.
Since 1994, I have had experience working with the clean needle exchange movement, and support the efforts of organizations such as Act Up. Study after study illustrates how clean needle exchange programs do not promote drug abuse, and actually deter the spread of HIV. The War on Drugs is a failure; how can we justify a declaration of war on our own people in our communities? It is time for local officials to accept responsibility for the social welfare of all people in our community. The recent City Council approval of a one year trial of the needle exchange program in San Diego is to be commended. However, I do question the validity of documenting drug users as a means of implementing the program. The program should be anonymous and free from law enforcement retaliation.
OF LIVING: LIVABLE WAGE (UNION),
LOW COST HOUSING & RENT CONTROL
The utility regulation that San Diego once had was a form of socialism that protected consumers from corporate and capital gains abuses. The impact of deregulation has disproportionately affected working class families and small businesses, and most consumers now realize the importance of government regulation of utility services. I support state owned and regulated utility services, such as those in the city of Los Angeles.
The City Council should be concerned that all people have the opportunity to live comfortably. Many real wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. In my short lifetime, I have observed rent and mortgage payments jump from a monthly cost of 33% to 75% of a personal gross income. How is a family of two, three, or four to survive on $6.25/hour, when rent is between $500 and $700 a month? Recent national reports indicate that in order to rent a modest apartment, wages must start at $13.25/hour; this figure is over twice the State's minimum wage! The gentrification and forced evictions of communities in Sherman Heights, Logan Heights, and Golden Hill are displacing many families and creating an epidemic of homeless and houseless mothers and children. The recent evictions of families in the outlining areas of the proposed Ballpark area is a disgrace and a human rights violation.
All workers should have a right to organize and unionize in their workplace without threats of job termination. Customer, domestic, and service oriented industries have historically disregarded benefits and livable wages for their workers. I supported the Janitor's strike two years ago, and I continue to honor the boycott of the Union-Tribune as called for by its Pressroom Workers.
The livable wage (such as those in Tucson and San Jose) issue, low cost housing, and rent control are intricately linked issues for the working class and communities of color. These three topics are not mutually exclusive. The City Council can effectively work with large companies by requiring livable wages for their workers, with landlords by requiring a cap on rent increases, and assuring that 20% of new construction is designated for low-cost housing.
DEVELOPMENT, POLLUTANTS, AND ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM
I am opposed to the Downtown ballpark project, the demolition of buildings at the Naval Training Center, and the expansion of Brown Field. Over $270 million has already been spent on the proposed Downtown ballpark, leaving us with an "urban desert". The ballpark will accommodate approximately 40,000 people, in an area that is plagued with Gaslamp congestion and downtown traffic. This "urban desert" should be reapportioned for a San Diego Park and Recreation facility, a public technology (computer) lab, and a year-round shelter for families.
The closure of the Naval Training Center was supposed to benefit the homeless in San Diego, designating the thousands of beds on the base for purpose of shelter. City officials working with local federal representatives halted this potentially successful project, by lobbying Washington, D.C., and acquiring the land for development purposes. This blatant example of human greed over human need now leaves some 15,000 to 22,000 women, men and children without a centralized shelter facility, accessible to community and social service agencies. The homeless population continues to grow in San Diego City and County, and San Diego officials need to recognize the importance of providing adequate housing.
According to the Environmental Health Coalition, the communities of Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, and Golden Hill are disproportionately affected by respiratory toxic air pollution. The cancer risk per million in these areas is up to thirty times greater than Mission Valley and La Mesa. Landfills, storage and treatment sites, nuclear reactors, and contaminated waste sites infecting these communities exemplify environmental racism. These communities are predominately working class and communities of color, and the lead-based paint used in the older homes in these areas may have damaging impacts on children, impairing their physical and mental development. The rates of asthma and cancer among children growing up in Barrio Logan are well above the California state average. I support a community-funded program to remove lead-based paint in all homes in San Diego, and the removal of nuclear aircraft carriers from our bay.
Estimates of San Diego County's homeless population range from 15,000 to 22,000. The Naval Training Center (NTC) was originally designated by the federal government to house San Diego's homeless. Developers and local politicians working with big businesses lobbied federal officials to place the NTC property under city jurisdiction. Homeless activists are now searching for a new location to assist the women, children, and men who have no place to sleep. The City Council's symbolic gesture of providing additional beds for homeless families is a temporary solution for a larger issue affecting all areas of San Diego. The new Ballpark will affect the access of social services and housing for individuals who depend on downtown programs for survival.
"Domestic Violence" is the number one cause of injury to women in the United States. Whether it is at the hands of a boyfriend, husband, or lover, battering incidents against women in the United States amount to more than the combined total number of muggings, auto accidents, and rapes that women experience every year. When a woman is fleeing for her safety and for the safety of her children, day or night, the last thing she wants to hear is that there's no room at the shelter. Additional City funding should be provided to non-profit and grassroots organizations serving women from all walks of life. Serving the dynamics of all of our neighborhoods, short and long term programs that assist battered women and their children must be created and expanded to all parts of the city.
Racial profiling is a national epidemic. Independent agencies are needed to monitor the policies and practices of law enforcement officers. Community policing and local hiring is essential. Many officers hired and designated in San Diego's communities are from outside areas, and are unfamiliar and uninformed to the needs, cultures, traditions and languages in our diverse neighborhoods. The recent shooting deaths of Jose Luis Ramirez, Sonserra Holloway, William Miller, Mario Merino and Demetrius Dubose by San Diego Police officers are examples of institutionalized racism and legal murder. In all cases, the officers involved in the shootings were neither reprimanded nor held accountable for their actions.
I believe that the administrations of the District Attorney's office, City Manager and Police Department can not effectively do their jobs. Many of these departments get their paychecks from the same payroll office, and will not risk alienating themselves from their coworkers. Some type of checks and balances must be put in place so that neighborhoods and communities feeling the wrath of police abuse have an opportunity to seek fair and equal access to justice. The families of police shootings, Border Patrol killings, and harassment deserve relief from the Victim's Assistance Program, accessible and timely information from involved agencies, and adequate and equal legal representation.
Currently, the Citizen's Review Board is appointed by the City of San Diego. The police advisory boards representing the African-American, Latino, and Gay and Lesbian communities are also "appointed", and members may choose to remain anonymous to the community they serve. This favoritism and code of silence alienates individuals who are directly affected by police abuse and profiling. Committee members should be elected to their positions with open meetings accessible to all members of the community. Terry Hanks, Chair of the Committee Against Police Brutality, successfully spearheaded a campaign collecting signatures for an Elected Police Review Board Initiative for the General Election in November 2002. However, the city attorney has found the initiative to be invalid. Mr. Hanks and his supporters are participating in a joint task force with members of the National City Council to find a solution for all concerned parties. I support their efforts and encourage all concerned individuals to participate in this campaign. I advocate that an independently elected police review board (such as the one in San Jose, CA) is necessary in a culturally and ethnically diverse city as San Diego.
AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES
Discrimination based on race, class, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and country of origin is unacceptable in both the private and public spheres. Local, state, and federal procedures and policies must protect, guarantee shelter, food, and clothing to all people living and working in the United States. San Diego sits on the busiest international pedestrian traffic border in the world! It is up to all of us to respect and work with our sisters and brothers that live in Mexico.
It is also our responsibility to ensure that all children have the opportunity to get the best education possible, provided that we prioritize education over incarceration. All women and men have the right to marry whom they chose, and women have the right to decide what is best for their bodies and their lives. Every individual has the right to worship as they so please as long as their beliefs are not forced upon others. And, every woman, child, and man deserves full health and dental coverage. We are one of the richest countries in the world and the only industrialized nation that does not have Universal Health Care!
Since the attacks on September 11, 2001 the cry for "revenge" has been permeating from the mouths of government officials. Participation in the killing of others in the name of patriotism is perpetuating murderous criminal behavior. I commend the lone dissenting voice of Representative Barbara Lee who condemned the criminal acts of September 11th, but understood that bombing another nation will only kill more innocent people. Our government officials must ask why this happened; it is only then, through analysis and dialogue, can we make sure it will never happen again.
AND VOTE PEACE AND FREEDOM PARTY!