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Left Behind: Myrtle Cole’s Committee Appointments and City Heights

By Anna Daniels / San Diego Free Press

Myrtle ColeSan Diego City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole’s contentious election as Council president last week culminated with her appointments to the various City Council committees. Few of us know that these committees exist or what they do, but by the time issues are brought before the full City Council for legislative action they have been discussed and pretty much finalized in a committee.

Cole’s appointments to the Public Services and Livable Neighborhood (PS&L) committee denies a seat at the table for those of us who live in communities south of 8. Her selection of Council members Chris Cate (chair), Lorie Zapf (vice chair), Barbary Bry, and Chris Ward is enraging, deeply concerning and unacceptable. Here’s what PS&L does:

The Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee’s area of responsibility includes police, fire, neighborhood parks, recreation programs, youth services, senior services, maintenance assessment districts, community development block grants, code enforcement, graffiti abatement, lifeguards, veteran’s services, libraries, homeless services, consumer protection, homeland security, volunteerism, special event permits, emergency medical services, gang prevention and intervention and citizens review board on police practices.

These are the communities represented by Cole’s appointees: Kearny Mesa, Clairemont, Sorrento Valley, Mira Mesa, La Jolla, Carmel Valley, University City, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Point Loma, Hillcrest, North Park, Downtown.

Decision making by the 1%

Chris Ward, the only committee member from south of 8, is not representative of those of us who live in San Diego’s most diverse, poorest and oldest communities. Our council members are Georgette Gomez (District 9), David Alvarez (District 8) and Myrtle Cole herself ( District 4).

It is impossible to look at this as anything other than decision making by the 1%.

Beyond the damage her appointments do to the representation of my neighborhood of City Heights, Cole does a grave disservice to her committee members. They need and benefit from the first hand experiences of members south of 8. I question their ability to make sound and equitable decisions impacting my community without that input.

FY’18 Budget, the foul legacy of Jerry Sanders and equity

It’s budget time! Citizens haven’t heard much about the annual process except for a few articles about the softening of the economy and Mayor Faulconer’s assessment that there will be reductions in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. For those of us living in communities that have historically been last served and first cut, this does not bode well.

In the past PS&L held preliminary departmental budget hearings for Police, Fire, Libraries and Park and Recreation. Although these are all core city services, the great recession and Republican Jerry Sander’s response to it during his tenure as mayor resulted in a two-tiered system. Police and Fire became the de facto core services while Libraries and Park and Rec were pitched–and funded–as nice but not really necessary.

The word on the street is that our Library department, the most disproportionately (under) funded core service, has been directed to cut one and a half million dollars from its upcoming budget.

Remember when Sanders tried to close seven branch libraries in 2008? He can never be confused with King Solomon–Sanders happily tried to cut the baby into seven pieces and tell us that this was equitable.

My council representative Georgette Gomez knows that our City Heights Library fulfills unique needs. Our library may be the only access a resident has to computers. Our library is a safe place after school for children whose parents are at work as well as a quiet place to study. Immigrants and refugees find materials in their native languages that are essential to finding jobs, achieving citizenship and simply figuring out how things work in their new country. Free library services are critical for households with little or no discretionary income.

So when budget reductions are made to the library budget and other General Fund departments, who will advocate for the issue of equity in making that decision?

The upcoming budget deliberations are just one area of concern. Community block grant distribution is another one. And we need an effective response to homelessness in City Heights and Barrio Logan, not just downtown.

One of the most pressing issues is the relationship between police and communities south of 8. The undeniable tensions regarding who is protected and served cannot be ignored without doing irreparable damage to our communities. Who on PS&L will support that scrutiny and attention?

One of the few bright spots in the past election cycle was a Democratic majority on the San Diego City Council. Many of us felt that the newly constituted council would provide a standard for political courage and vision as an effective legislative counter weight to the Mayor’s office.

I am not privy as to why Council President Cole denied an appointment to one or the other of our two most progressive and representative voices on the PS&L committee but it is a tremendous disservice to my community of City Heights. The post election bright spot has already been diminished.

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Anna Daniels left a moribund Western Pennsylvania mill town the year that Richard M. Nixon was not impeached for crimes against the American people, and set off in search of truth, beauty, justice and a beat I could dance to. Here I am.

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