Translating Activism into Real, Lasting Progress
The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have brought center stage the racial injustices in America. Localities throughout the country have been forced to pause and examine police practices and the underlying structures that continue to adversely impact the Black community and communities of color.
If we want to translate activism into real, lasting progress, we must be able to have conversations about the persistent institutional racism still oppressing Black Americans and other communities of color. We need decision-makers who understand this struggle and won’t shy away from the difficult work ahead. I have spent my entire career fighting to advance equity, inclusion, and justice. I am not new to this fight.
My plan for racial justice will not only reform the way in which police officers provide law enforcement, but seek to deal with the structural inequities that inhibit the opportunities of Black people and other people of color. Issues like housing, education, and economic opportunity are inextricably linked with a long history of exclusion and oppression. San Diego must do better if we hope to find true justice.
True justice and security for all in San Diego will only be possible once every San Diegan has a roof over their head at a price they can afford. Despite being a basic human need and the foundation of a safe and secure community, housing has become a controversial political issue and should have a much larger role in conversations about equity and justice.
I understand the neighborhood geography of San Diego was shaped in part by racially restrictive housing covenants and redlining, a historical practice designed to segregate communities and exclude Black home buyers from mortgage lending. The segregation and socioeconomic disparities these racist policies helped create still persist today.
The only way to correct these injustices is by removing exclusionary barriers to housing, producing more subsidized and naturally affordable homes, protecting tenants’ rights and safety, and taking steps to prevent displacement.
As I have mentioned in my housing plan, we should look to the same policy tools that have provided success in the low-income space to incentivize middle-income homes. A middle-income housing fund, streamlined permitting, and quicker updates to old community plans could all make a significant impact. Regulating short-term vacation rentals and exploring vacancy tax options would also incentivize greater access for local renters and deter harmful housing speculation.
I strongly support the San Diego Housing Federation and its partners’ efforts to place a $900 million affordable housing bond on the November ballot. We absolutely need to create more subsidized housing, and especially permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless.
We know that Black Americans represent an outsize share of our unsheltered population in San Diego. Ending the chronic homelessness crisis in San Diego must be a top priority and a key step to achieving true equity and justice. I have been calling for that goal since the beginning of my career and have advanced funding and legislative efforts to put us on the path to achieving it. I will continue doing so as Mayor.
Independent Police Review Commission
San Diego voters will have the opportunity this November to make significant and needed reforms to the city’s Community Review Board on Police Practices. The proposed measure will make the board more independent with full investigatory powers. I believe this is an appropriate check-and-balance and will enable the public to have greater trust in its work, which is why I am supporting it. Should the voters approve it in November, I will fund it appropriately and implement the new commission faithfully as Mayor.
Invest in Historically Underserved Communities
Achieving racial justice in San Diego requires that we acknowledge and correct decades of underinvestment in predominantly Black communities and communities of color. Safer communities are the result of ensuring neighborhoods have economic investment, employment opportunities, good public schools, functional parks and recreation centers, and quality public infrastructure.
As Mayor, I will make sure we invest in Black communities and communities of color using initiatives like the new Complete Communities initiative. Historically, new developments are assessed development impact fees to help support community amenities, but those funds can only be used in the community in which the development was built. This has created vast inequities as we know communities like Downtown have seen more development activity than others. The Complete Communities initiative shifts away from tying development funds to specific neighborhoods and allowing for pooling of resources. By taking a holistic, City-wide approach, we can get more projects done faster and target investment based on need rather than on the availability of local development impact fees.
Opportunities for employment in the city have also been a barrier to growth in communities of color. With an ongoing Disparity Study due to be released in January and a new Office of Race and Equity online, the City should be well positioned to take on this issue.
As Mayor, I will work with the Equal Opportunity Contracting department to ensure true local hiring is occurring throughout our neighborhoods in the city. I will work with stakeholders to ensure that our contracting procedures are in line with best practices for equitable opportunity. Equity and benefits for historically excluded communities must be considered in every significant financial decision the City makes — from the Energy Franchise Agreement and Community Choice Aggregation to the Parks Master Plan and Pure Water. That is the perspective I will bring to City Hall.
Invest in our Youth
Although the City doesn’t have direct oversight of school districts, I will never be a Mayor that passes the buck on something as foundational to our communities as good schools. I recognize many issues impacting access to education and student success are directly managed by the City or other local agencies.
For example, just getting to school safely is a challenge for many of our communities. Therefore, as Mayor, I will take steps to establish safe routes for biking and walking to school especially in historically underserved communities with aging infrastructure and dangerous street conditions. My administration will also work with SANDAG and MTS to provide for Youth Opportunity Passes – giving struggling families and students a safe and affordable option to get to school and work.
In addition, the City must help prepare our young people to enter the workforce and eventually become employed. That’s why my administration will partner with school districts and expand initiatives like the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s CONNECT2Careers program to ensure our young people are able to receive pre-employment training – such as resumé building and interview preparation – as well as job and paid internship opportunities.
- Use-of-Force: On June 5, I took President Obama’s pledge to address police use-of-force policies as Mayor. Within my first 100 days, I will review the San Diego Police Department’s use-of-force policies and hold meetings with the community to discuss them. I will look to ensure these policies prioritize de-escalation and are compliant with state laws like AB 392, legislation I supported in the Assembly.
- De-militarization: I authored state legislation to help demilitarize law enforcement because I believe police should be a public safety service, not an occupying force. The bill passed the Legislature but was vetoed by the Governor. As Mayor, I will ask the City Council to adopt an ordinance requiring the San Diego Police Department receive approval from the City Council before it can purchase, acquire, or seek funds for military-grade equipment. I will also ask the department be required to submit a use policy for any military-grade equipment they seek to receive.
- Excessive surveillance: I fought against unnecessary and intrusive surveillance when I was a member of the City Council and I’ll do it again as your Mayor. The rapidly expanding and secretive use of unregulated digital surveillance is wrong, and it should end. If this technology is going to be used in neighborhoods, the public has a right to know and weigh-in. My administration will make sure that happens.
- Stopping overcriminalization: I have long opposed the use of law enforcement in activities like evictions, mental health response, and homelessness outreach. It makes no sense to put armed law enforcement officers in roles better suited to specially trained clinicians and social workers. As Mayor, I will work with the County and community stakeholders to reimagine how we respond to emergencies and persons needing assistance. This means more social workers and mental health professionals on-call to respond to situation and properly funding city services like code enforcement. We should consider a new three-digit non-emergency phone number so the public can easily report situations like homeless individuals needing help or noise complaints, without having to call 911.
- Reviewing hiring practices: We must address the racial bias that exists in all City departments including the police department. To do that, I believe it starts with who we are recruiting. As Mayor, I will update hiring practices to ensure we are hiring the best candidates for positions and not applicants with a history of misconduct, racial bias, excessive force, and discrimination. I will also request the department work with community organizations to develop new recruitment efforts with the goal of creating a diverse department with officers recruited from our neighborhoods.
- Gang injunctions: Subjective and overly broad policies around gang injunctions can have negative consequences for some of San Diego’s communities of color, especially in neighborhoods south of the I-8. We need to take a hard look at the use of the CalGangs database and gang injunction policies and potentially enact a moratorium on dangerous and outdated practices until we have a more just system in place that more effectively keeps our neighborhoods safe.