Login  |  Search

Community Action Blog

Chronicling community efforts for action in San Diego

Comments: 0

New activist groups inspired by Occupy will join already established organizations in this weekend’s workshops, actions and marches


This weekend marks the one year anniversary of Occupy San Diego (OSD). To celebrate, Vets for Peace, the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice and Occupy San Diego have put together a weekend of workshops, actions, marches and other events on both Saturday, October 6th and Sunday, October 7th.  Canvass for a Cause, Women Occupy San Diego, Occupy City Heights, Food Solidarity Coalition, OccupyYrCorner and the Peace Resource Center of San Diego are just a few of the many organizations also involved in the event. Critics of Occupy claim that the movement has slowed down, but those involved in this weekend’s event disagree and claim the movement itself has inspired formation of a number of new activist groups within San Diego and have inspired people to stay politically active. These new activist groups will be joining already established organizations in the Occupy San Diego One Year Anniversary.  

Critics are correct in saying that the Occupy movement has changed, but those affiliated with Occupy would refute the claim that the movement has lost steam. “Occupy as whole has changed because of all the police repressions…” says Holly Hellerstedt, Field Organizer at Canvass for a Cause (CFAC) in San Diego, CA. “There’s not a physical one spot occupation anymore but what has continued are the general assemblies and the actions and community that grew out of it. People that never met each other and found each other, created new communities and starting working on issues that really affected [them] and related to the most.”

Women Occupy San Diego (WOSD) is an example of an organization that formed out of Occupy to create a new community and address particular issues. “We realized that the older women were sitting around the edges when the young kids were yelling and swearing and being really active…” says Norrie Roberts of WOSD. “We were sitting next to each other and talking to each other and we turned out to be the politically active middle aged women of San Diego… We eventually organized into Women Occupy San Diego.” Some other organizations in San Diego that have been formed due to inspiration from the Occupy movement are Occupy City Heights, OccupyYrCorner, the Occupy Puppatistas, Progressive North County and Coalition against Police Brutality.  

Established organizations that endorse Occupy like Canvass for a Cause, a non-profit that focuses on marriage equality, creating a safe environment for LGBT youth, and Patient’s Rights, has found themselves collaborating with organizations that they have not worked with before due to involvement with Occupy. “I may not go to every general assembly but I know that I have connections and actions with that I would have taken a longer time to have met before Occupy,” says Hellerstedt. As a result of CFAC’s involvement in Occupy, the non-profit has worked with the Labor Council on the March against Walmart, took part in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement protests in July and held a rally 
outside the CFAC offices with Women Occupy San Diego to endorse Prop 37.

Director Emerita Carol Jahnkow of the Peace Resource Center of San Diego says the collaboration between activists that met through Occupy has helped moved certain issues forward. “The Occupy movement brought people together with all levels of activist experience...from years of experience to first timers,” says Jahnkow. “New activists bring new ideas and ways of doing things; experienced activists were able to share skills.“

This weekend’s events will begin on Saturday morning in Balboa Park where there will be sharing of food, workshops, teach-ins, a rally, and then a march to the CFAC offices where there will be an OSD birthday celebration. Sunday morning will start off with a meet-up at the Civic Center (where past OSD events took place), a march to the USS Midway where the Vets for Peace will hold a Afghanistan War Memorial to mark the 11th Anniversary of war in Afghanistan, an open mic at Midway Park and then a walk back to Children’s Park where OSD planning first began.  There are no known plans of protesters camping out and occupying spaces.

Comments: 0
Comments: 0

As the foreclosure crisis rages on, Councilmembers David Alvarez and Todd Gloria have proposed two ordinances to protect neighborhoods from blighted properties abandoned by the banks that have foreclosed them.

On July 11th, the Land Use and Housing Committee voted 3 to 1 to forward the Property Value Protection Ordinance (PVPO) to City Council for a vote. If City Council votes to pass the PVPO, banks will be forced to register all foreclosed homes and face a fine if they do not upkeep their properties. This is all good, but city council members David Alvarez and Todd Gloria argue that the Abandoned Property Ordinance (APO) also needs to be put into effect. They argue that these two ordinances complement each other and will be effective in keeping banks in check and stopping abandoned properties from becoming nuisances to neighborhoods.

APO was proposed by Gloria two years ago in order to address community grievances about an abandoned property in Talmadge. The property was becoming a nuisance to the neighborhood. Gloria determined that this was not an isolated instance of a property becoming a blight and decided to propose the APO. “..the [City] code doesn’t necessarily address how to bring those properties back to into peaceful condition,” says Gloria. “So my ordinance addressed that particular issue by requesting property owners to divulge to the city their intentions to properties.”

Alvarez’s PVPO, albeit similar to the APO, directly addresses the issue of foreclosures blighting neighborhoods. “The Property Value Protection Ordinance has a component where banks will have to register when homes go into default to help us keep better track of the property,” says Alvarez. “[The PVPO and APO] are slightly different but they are complementary to each other...” In addition, the PVPO states banks will be fined if they fail to upkeep a foreclosed property to protect neighborhoods from properties that are nuisances.

An ordinance similar to the PVPO has been enacted in Chula Vista in 2007 and in the opinion of both Gloria and Alvarez, has been a success. “[Chula Vista’s government] automatically knows if there’s an issue with a home...They call the bank up and get a response,” says Alvarez. Developed by the city’s code enforcement manager Doug Leeper, Chula Vista’s ordinance requires banks and lenders to confirm whether or not a foreclosed home is abandoned. If it is, the property must be registered with the city and be regularly maintained.

The one member of the Land Use and Housing Committee to vote against the PVPO on July 11th was committee chair Lorie Zapf. Zapf refused to do interviews regarding the PVPO but her press secretary Alexandra Bell said in an email that “[Lorie Zapf] is very supportive of fixing blight in our neighborhoods, but felt that since the PVPO had not yet been vetted by any community or stakeholder groups, that it was adding another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and she was not comfortable forwarding it to the full City Council.”

“Well it has been vetted by the community,” Alvarez said in response to Bell’s remarks. “The Community Planners Committee has approved [the PVPO]. Several community planning groups have approved it.” Alvarez also plans to ask for approval from the Technical Advisory Committee.

“I understand Zapf’s hesitation,” says Gloria. “I think she’s a supporter of the Abandoned Property Ordinance and may see the two being duplicative but I see the differences.” By the time the PVPO gets to City Council, Gloria says it will have been approved by all relevant advisory boards.

The two ordinances are in different stages of development. Language has been drafted for the APO and Gloria’s staff is working with council president Tony Young to have the ordinance docketed. Comparatively, the PVPO is still in its infancy. Language still needs to be drafted by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith before it can be presented to City Council. Todd Gloria commented that there have been suggestions by the Land Use and Housing Committee to draft the PVPO to be complementary to the APO.  

Council’s reaction to both of these ordinances is expected to be positive. “Over the past few years we’ve really worked in the trenches to build that kind of support [from City Council],” says Gloria. Alavarez says that both council members Kevin Falconer and Sherri Lightner seemed receptive of the APO and expects the PVPO to also receive the majority of Council’s support.

Alvarez noted that ordinances like the PVPO and APO need to be enacted immediately because the foreclosure crisis has gotten out of hand. “[Similar ordinances] have been done in 100 cities across California--according to our city attorney--and 750 cities throughout the country, so we won’t be breaking any ground on this law,” says Alvarez. “It’s about time given the foreclosure crisis that has continued and different things have been attempted and haven’t resulted in any success.”

by Lara McCaffrey,
Community Action Reporter, 

Comments: 0
Emily Serafy Cox - Thu May 10, 2012 @ 10:57AM
Comments: 0

City Council will hold an evening hearing so working persons can attend to address the lack of public participation in San Diego budget making decisions

Councilchambers.jpgAt the recommendation of a group of more than 40 community-based organizations, the Community Budget Alliance (CBA), the San Diego City Council has agreed to hold its final budget hearing on May 14th at 6PM to encourage people with day jobs to attend. CBA hopes this will encourage future efforts to offer more opportunities for people to get involved with the budget making process.

Increasing citizen participation in budget decisions is a focus of CBA because they feel San Diego’s process lacks constituent input. “If working people are going to go to a city council hearing, they’re not going to be able to go at 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” says Emily Serafy Cox of CBA member organization Empower San Diego. “Evening meetings are a standard procedure for government agencies to get public input--everyone knows that.” Government entities like the Redistricting Commission have held the majority of their hearings in the evening for the sole purpose of increasing input from citizens unaffiliated with a non-profit organization. Meetings held in the afternoon are usually only available to people like professionals who attend city council meetings as a part of their jobs.

Although evening meetings seem to encourage more public input, the results of evening meetings like the San Diego Speaks series held two years ago have created conflicting opinions. San Diego Speaks was a series of evening meetings initiated by Council President Tony Young to offer community members a chance give input on the budget. Serafy Cox reported hearing negative comments about how useful these sessions actually were: the turnout was lower than expected and the same speakers would always attend. “Interestingly from my perspective--in my experience we had fewer speakers at night for just a regular council meeting,” says District Three Councilmember, Todd Gloria. “If you were to look at the non-agenda public comment held on Tuesday and Thursday there are some individuals who will alway be there so it’s a little difficult to tell.”  “But the City is not a community organizer,” says Serafy Cox. She argues that the City simply doesn’t have the outreach setup to turnout large numbers of their constituents.

Although one evening hearing is not sufficient to truly have a community based budget decision making process, it is a step in the right direction. “The City Council holds evening meetings at 6:00 pm, once every two months to allow for greater community access to their regular meetings,” says Trinh Le of CBA member organization Center on Policy Initiatives. “We would like to see efforts like that expanded–-including regular evening hearings while the budget is being developed.”

Gloria argues that although an evening hearing is a good way for people with 9 to 5 jobs to voice their opinions, it is not the only way. “I would say in 2012 there’s multiple ways for people to connect with their elected officials,” says Gloria. “I find that I get a great deal of feedback via email via Facebook and Twitter and I would hope that in whatever format they feel comfortable, people are providing feedback.” Gloria also stated that he held a town hall meeting in his district on Saturday, May 5th regarding the budget.

The May 14th meeting is expected to have a presentation by City staff with a general overview of the Fiscal Year 2013 proposed budget. Serafy Cox expects much of the testimony from the audience to encompass the ideas that CBA has put forward: to increase community participation, increase transparency, and equity in terms of investing in the community. However, turnout is expected to be lower than previous years. “Because of the nature of this year’s budget proposal, specifically it’s a budget proposal with service enhancements as opposed to cuts we’ve seen in recent years, I suspect there will be fewer people than there might have been [if there was] a suggestion to close down a library,” says Gloria.

The budget for next year will go through finalization steps after May 14th. At the end of May, Mayor Jerry Sanders will revise the budget based on updated data on revenues and expenditures. A final 2013 Fiscal Year Plan will be passed in June.


by Lara McCaffrey, Community Action Reporter, EMPOWERStudents!

Comments: 0
Emily Serafy Cox - Wed May 09, 2012 @ 12:52PM
Comments: 0

On April 30th, Empower San Diego joined San Diego residents, non-profit organizations and neighborhood groups for an informative Budget Teach-In hosted by the Community Budget Alliance (CBA). The Proposed Budget for the 2013 Fiscal Year is an over 200 page document containing unfamiliar fiscal terms and vague allocation descriptions making it difficult to understand. At the Teach-In, CBA members offered explanations to budget terms like CIP, discussed the inequity in neighborhood investment and described the budget timeline.
Those in attendance were passionate about being apart of the budget making process. We asked three attendees what brought them to the Teach-In and what issues they felt should be allocated more budget money. Here is what they had to say:

Byron.jpg“Well I’m a resident of the fourth district and there’s a lot of negative press about the fourth district. But as a resident, I see a lot of positive going on and I was hoping I could find out how much of the budget could be used to enhance the positive--to start accentuating the positive. In my neighborhood, there are people that get up and go to work for forty hours a week then come home to take care of their families. They even have second jobs. I have friends that are entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who have garage businesses and run ebay stores out of their homes and they’re doing great. They take care of their households and mow their lawns and they’re not creating problems at all. I came [to the Budget Teach-In], one to find out how much that’s being talked about, how much funding they allotted to the fourth district and to have my voice be heard”

-Bryon Higginbotham



"I attended the Budget Teach-In to gain a better understanding of
how money is allocated to various capital improvement projects within each district of San Diego. I am concerned that affluent neighborhoods are allocated a greater percentage of funds for capital improvement. I think public libraries are a vital educational resource in San Diego. Branches should not be closed on Sundays and Mondays. We should make it a priority to keep neighborhood libraries open every day for the growth of our community.  We should also invest in renovating branches to make them a desirable learning environment while expanding electronic resources to move in the direction of the future."

-Patrick Duffy


Cathy_Ramsey.jpg"I attended the meeting because the budget and how it is decided and funds distributed are of interest to me. I would like to see more community input and I would especially like to see more equality in fund allocation."

-Cathy Ramsey






To make your voice heard, join Empower, CBA and concerned San Diegans at the Evening Budget Hearing on May 14th, 6PM at the City Chambers! This is the final hearing of the year and last chance for public input before the budget goes through finalization processes. Hope to see you there!


by Ilo Neukam and Lara McCaffrey, EMPOWERStudents!

Comments: 0
Comments: 0


        Empower's Emily Cox leads workshops for Latino parents in Escondido about redistricting

Changes in Escondido's demographocs prompted changes in election system and relationship between school board and citizens to better serve Escondido's rising Latino population

With the guidance of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego and Imperial Counties, parents in Escondido's new and developing Latino community have successfully collaborated with the Escondido school board to draw 'areas', or districts, for trustees with Latino majorities in both the high school and elementary school districts.

Known as the “Escondido Project”, the ACLU’s engagement efforts with Latino parents began in June 2011.  It was prompted by demographic changes found in the 2010 Census, which indicated an increase in the Latino population, especially immigrant Latinos. In 2000, the Escondido was 38.7% Latino. By the 2010 Census, Escondido was nearly half Latino at 48.9%. “The main goal of the [Escondido] project is to empower the Latino community through education and through localizing local efforts and developing local leadership,” says Ale Ricardez, an ACLU field organizer. The ACLU hopes to create a sustainable grassroots effort over the span of three years. Involving Latino parents in the school board decision making was an integral focus of the project. The most efficient way to spark leadership in the community was to focus on an issue that a majority of people would find important: Education. “Who doesn’t care about education, right?” says Ricardez.

Thankfully, the ACLU was not the only group that realized the Census results were calling for changes in Escondido. Escondido’s school boards commissioned a report to draw ‘trustee areas’ and to transition from an at-large election system to a trustee-area system. The current at-large election system potentially dilutes a Latino voter’s candidate of choice and violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. Both of Escondido’s school boards realized they must divide the city into five districts with one dominated by a minority population to abide by this Act. Redistricting was monitored by ACLU attorney Lori Schellenberger to insure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

The Escondido school board also came to the realization that their Latino parent outreach strategies needed to change. The ACLU stepped in to mobilize Latino parents around the redistricting issue.  “[Our] first recommendation to the board was to increase their efforts to at least publicize their meetings in a more genuine manner,” says Ricardez. “In other words, we were concerned that the board was doing the best it could, but that was not sufficient to let parents know [redistricting] was going on.” The outreach available to Escondido parents by the school boards was too technical to successfully interest the average citizen.

After outreach efforts to Latino parents involved in microcredit programs and English as a second language courses, the ACLU convened a meeting on January 7th to educate parents about the process and discuss how the process would affect representation on the school boards at Mission Middle School.To the ACLU’s surprise, 45 Latino parents were in attendance in addition to school board members and the superintendent. “I’ve been [community organizing] for a long time and this is the first time I’ve seen direct, almost tangible results,” says Ricardez. Subsequent effort was made to bring these 45 parents to future school board meetings and events. The ACLU’s engagement worked: 7 Latino parents showed up at the January 12th school board meeting to express their thoughts. Normally, few, if any, parents would attend meetings. Education workshops were organized to further engage these parents and teach them about the roles government officials play and how redistricting works. Escondido Superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Walters, even came to one educational workshop to explain her job. Empower's own Emily Serafy Cox helped the ACLU educate the parents about redistricting by leading redistricting workshops.

After six Escondido school board meetings, final trustee maps were released on March 8, 2012 with a majority Latino area in both adopted maps. The new trustee-area election system and these new districts will be implemented in the 2012 election cycle. The current trustees will remain in the positions until their terms expire.

Although the ACLU has helped these parents understand a lot about Escondido politics and leadership, the parents have taught the organizers just as much. “A lot [of] times we overestimate the role professionals can play and underestimate the knowledge people have of their own issues and own community,” Ricardez says. “We think that just because we have Masters in urban planning or policy we know what’s best. But I think--I honestly believe in doing it the other way around and having the community be a part of the process.”

by Lara McCaffrey, Community Action Reporter, EMPOWERStudents!


Want to learn more about the redistricting in Escondido? View the trustee maps

Leave comments on the election system transistion

Comments: 0
Emily Serafy Cox - Sun Apr 08, 2012 @ 06:11PM
Comments: 0

Voting participation is very important for political democracy, but the voting process can be so complex, this may deter citizens from going to the voting booths. So in honor of this year’s presidential election and for future San Diego elections, Empower San Diego provides an easy How to: Register to Vote.

Disclosure: This article will address the most common questions concerning voting registration. If you are unable to find what you are looking for, we have provided a list of credible resources that can provide more in-depth information.

1. Registration Deadline: In California, the deadline to register to vote for an election is 15 days before each local and statewide Election Day. For the 2012 presidential primary election on June 5th, your registration must be postmarked no later than May 21, 2012.  

2.  Can I vote by submitting a vote-by-mail ballot? Any registered voter may vote by a "vote-by-mail" ballot by:

  • Applying in writing to San Diego Registrar's office at least 7 days before an election (May 29th for the June 5th Presidential primaries); or
  • Completing the vote-by-mail ballot application that is included in your sample ballot, which San Diego county elections official will mail to you prior to each election; or
  • Downloading and completing a vote-by-mail official application.


Vote-by-mail ballots must be received by the elections official no later than the close of polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

3. Don't remember if you're registered to vote?
To check your voter registration in San Diego County, click here

4. Who is eligible to vote in California? (You must meet all criteria) A United States citizen, a resident of California, 18 years of age or older on Election Day, Not in prison or in county jail, and not found by a court to be mentally incompetent.

For more information on the rights of people who have been incarcerated, please see the Secretary of State's Voting Guide for Currently or Formerly Incarcerated Californians

5. Ways to register to vote:  To register to vote in San Diego County you must obtain and complete a voter registration form. Voter registration forms can be obtained by:

-Using the auto Voter Registration Form to quickly create your Voter Registration Form (Mail at least 15 days before the election)

-Postcard Registration. Postcards are available for pickup at the following locations:ROV Main Office, City Clerks' Offices, Department of Motor Vehicles, U.S. Postal Services, Public Libraries

-Have a postcard mailed directly to you. Call the ROV Main Office at (858) 565-5800 to request a registration postcard. Once received, fill out and return back to the ROV.

6. Where is my polling place? Your polling place location will be printed on the sample ballot you receive from San Diego Registrar Office prior to an election.


7. What hours are polling place locations open? All polling place locations are open on Election Day from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

8.  Do I have to re-register every year? You will need to re-register to vote when:

  • You move to a new permanent residence
  • You change your name
  • You change your political party choice

However, if you have not voted in the last several elections, you may be sent a request to confirm that you have not moved.


1. For new voters or any voters in need of assistance: Official Voter Information Guide and refer to the language hotlines for additional assistance.

2. For more frequently asked questions about the voting process, visit the Secretary of State webpage.

3. County of San Diego Voting Guide

4. Election Results

5. How to: Get Young People to Vote


by Megan Huynh, Community Action Journalism Intern, EMPOWERStudents!


Comments: 0
Emily Serafy Cox - Fri Mar 16, 2012 @ 07:19PM
Comments: 0

The San Diego Organizing Project  joins the Community Budget Alliance to change the budget conversation in San Diego

In the upcoming months before the fiscal year’s end, an alliance of like-minded individuals have come together to change the budget conversation in San Diego. The Community Budget Alliance (CBA) has been convening since the beginning of the year to discuss strategies to educate government officials and citizens on what to allocate more money to in order to improve the quality of life in the city. A powerful and influential part of the alliance are members from the San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP). No strangers to the budget issue, SDOP finds that joining forces with CBA aids their mission of helping San Diegans in low income communities stand up and demand more investment from taxpayer money and will help elect politicians who are mindful of where budget money should be spent.

SDOP has been participating in projects to allocate more budget money to communities in need even before formation of the CBA.. “Everything we’ve done has always been about asking the city to make choices about where they spend the public’s money,” says Hannah Gravette, Lead Organizer with SDOP. This time SDOP, along with CBA, will discuss how they can permanently protect cores services vital to livelihood of taxpayers in poor neighborhoods.

SDOP has witnessed the same pattern unfold year after year: more budget money is allocated to wealthier neighborhoods instead of those in need. Why is this? “Historically, or in the past, we’ve seen that these communities have played too little of a role and really there has been an extensive public process,” says Laura Schreiner, a community organizer with SDOP. “Community meetings and council meetings that are during the day when a lot of working folks can’t participate to review budget priorities for the city... And we’ve seen that the average working person with an interest in the budget and the outcomes actually doesn’t have too many opportunities to engage in that conversation to make sure those outcomes reflect what the community needs”. The lack of participation by the poorer neighborhoods is consistent with the lack of resources the city is willing to provide them. The greatest participation in city council meetings are from those wealthy neighborhoods. As a result, those are the communities that are receiving the most attention. As a result, their communities have received the most attention.

How do we get more San Diegans to participate in the budget decision making process? In past attempts to encourage civic engagement, SDOP’s strategy has been to motivate people to fight for values upheld in religion. For example, many Christian faiths consider family and children important. These values translate to the political sphere easily. The quality of family and youth’s lives can be improved if members from one or more of their 29 member congregations encourage the City to build better parks and support after school programs.

More strategies for getting San Diegans involved in budget decisions will be discussed as CBA meetings progress. Schreiner, who sits on the Steering Committee, says that most recent meetings have consisted of articulating shared values, identifying
city council meetings to be present at and looking at the budget timeline.

SDOP finds that being apart of CBA has opened their mind to new ideas and increased the likelihood of their mission’s progress. “I think it’s useful to have more folks brought into the conversation and that’s been eye opening for me,” Shreiner says. “For us, it’s more allies. We might have different priorities or what different issues we think we should tackle, but all in all, we’re working for the same city. So it’s power in numbers.”

Tackling the entire budget conversation is a hefty task--even for an alliance of San Diego’s best activists. However, Schreiner and Gravette are positive that CBA will make strides before the end of the fiscal year in June. Gravette points out that the current political climate in San Diego will have a part in helping their cause: the mayoral election will be taking place in June and some City Council seats will be up for election as well. Voters affected by CBA will be more inclined to elect politicians that will make wise decisions regarding budget issues.

“There are people in office right now that are making decisions that will affect the budget in June and will be asking voters to vote for them,” says Gravette. “So I think that if voters can be clear about what their priorities are, and if [representatives] want to be reelected or elected to a new office, they’ll have to demonstrate those decisions in the budget. So I think there is an opportunity, and people we’ve been talking to are really ready to take advantage of that opportunity.”

by Lara McCaffrey, Community Action Reporter, EMPOWERStudents!
Want to get involved? Contact Trinh Le of Center for Policy Initiative to learn more about CBA’s upcoming April meeting: tle@onlinecpi.org

Comments: 0
Comments: 0

The forum between community leaders was meant as a first step toward working collectively on issues.

January 26, 2012, San Diego, CAThe San Diego Voice and Viewpoint took their mission of providing both Africans and African-Americans with news about their communities in San Diego a step further by hosting a forum to engage these communities in dialogue at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. The theme of the evening was heard from speaker after speaker: although the two communities are different, they share many common challenges. And together, they can work towards solving them.

Dr. John Warren, moderator and publisher of Voice & Viewpoint, started the forum with a video of images from modern African countries. According to Warren, showing photos of urban cities instead of only the African wildlife commonly portrayed in TV and movies reminded the audience that “...we are dealing with modern concepts and people.” Warren segwayed into introductions of people sitting on the panel.

The panel featured both African and African-American leaders in the San Diego community including Walter Lam, president and CEO of Alliance for African Assistance and Gerald Brown of the United African-American Ministerial Action Council. Warren was quick to point out that only one woman was present (Lei-Chala Wilson, president of NAACP’s San Diego branch). Efforts were made to get women to speak at the event, but cultural issues in the African community prevented female participation. Warren refused to discuss the issue, but many expressed their interest in a forum with women speakers. A audience member suggested a “forum for women by women,” should be arranged. After hearing multiple requests for a similar forum with women participants, Warren promised Voice & Viewpoint would continue efforts to find female speakers for future dialogues.

The forum itself was organized to be “a discussion, not a monologue” (as described by Warren). Although there was a panel speaking about issues they deemed important in the community, some time was left afterwards for audience participation. People were invited to speak at the mic or write comments and questions on cards for someone to read later. There were many people lined up to speak and the note cards were not read. However, Warren concluded the major concern written about was education.

Other issues discussed were crime, racial profiling, health, teaching ethnic studies, voting, policy change, domestic violence, integration, unemployment, language barriers and finding housing. Some of these issues did not affect both groupslanguage barriers and integration strictly affected African communitiesbut the panel stressed the importance of working together to solve all of these issues. As one audience member put it: “The first person that stood on his hind legs was on the highlands of Kenya. So really, we are all African.”

No solutions were offered or planned out. However, Warren announced at the beginning of the event that this forum was not meant to be a planning meeting. Instead, this meeting would be a starting off point for work between the two communities. Some audience members expressed frustration concerning a lack of solutions. Warren reminded the audience that “We can’t eat the entire elephant tonightwe just brought it in the kitchen. We can only take a tiny slice.” The tension in the room diffused as the audience exploded into peels of laughter.

Future forums like this one are in the works, including a mayoral debate in March which will also be moderated by Warren. All candidates for San Diego mayor will be invited. For more information on future events, and to also read news written from the perspective of San Diego African-Americans and Africans, visit the San Diego Voice and Viewpoint’s website.

by Lara McCaffrey, Community Action Reporter, EMPOWERStudents!


Comments: 0
Emily Serafy Cox - Wed Dec 21, 2011 @ 04:50PM
Comments: 0

A project suggested to City Council by Girls Think Tank over a year ago still has not seen the light of day

December 21, 2011—San Diego, CA. With the end of the fiscal year approaching fast in June, there is only so much time to change the budget conversation in San Diego. Like Empower San Diego, fellow non-profit Girls Think Tank (GTT) has taken steps to convince the City Council to use valuable tax-payer funds for projects that benefit the less fortunate. GTT has been working for nearly 2 years to get the City to install 24 hour access public restrooms as a part of their Basic Dignity Campaign for San Diego’s homeless.

The group thought they had succeeded when $700,000 was earmarked to install two so-called “Portland Loos” in downtown San Diego.  Unfortunately, the project has been delayed for a year with little apparent reason. The homeless of San Diego that so desperately need access to clean water and restrooms have not seen the results due to complications in San Diego redevelopment. However, the issue was already being 'slow walked' before redevelopment was in jeopardy. Proponents question what the City was doing with the approved money in the 16 months after the project was approved since redevelopment has only been in question since August of 2011.

GTT first proposed the loos in early 2010 to City Councilmember Marti Emerald of District 7. Compared to the $200,000 spent to maintain two 24 hour public restrooms in Civic Center and the Gaslamp Quarter, the Portland Loo only costs $24,000 a year to maintain. In addition, these stand-alone restrooms are also very eco-friendly with their solar panels and low flow toilet, are graffiti proof and louvers that make it easy for police to monitor them without invading privacy. With encouragement from Councilmember Emerald, the City Council approved the plan to install one loo on 14th and L Street next to Tailgate Park and one on 11th and Market Street near a dog park.The cost of maintaining the Market Street loo would have been covered by the owners of the dog park and the other by the Downtown San Diego Partnership under a one year pilot program.

However, the loos may not get their first flush till the state Supreme Court makes a decision about the future of redevelopment. In August of 2011, a lawsuit challenging the state’s overhaul of local redevelopment put the Portland Loo project into further jeopardy. Legislation that required cities to dissolve their redevelopment agencies or make annual payments to the state in order to go through with redevelopment has been challenged. Thus, redevelopment activity will have to wait until the outcome of the suit is decided on January 15th of 2012.

On Saturday, November 19th of this year, GTT held a press and community conference in the very park that a Portland Loo was promised and demanded that the City Council address the ongoing lack of clean water and restrooms for the homeless of downtown San Diego as “a public health issue and human rights issue” and find other sources for funding the project. Noor Kazmi, president of Girls Think Tank believed holding the event on World Toilet Day brought attention to the need for clean water and restroom facilities for all. The conference concluded with a march around the transit center. Kazmi promised that the next GTT event like this one would be “more coordinated and more over the top.”

The future of Portland Loos remains uncertain as setbacks in redevelopment are a barrier to their installation. However, it is certain that the city had been delaying the project even before redevelopment became an issue. For now, we can take comfort in organizations like the Girls Think Tank looking out for homeless persons’ livelihood when the city will not.

by Lara McCaffrey, Community Action Reporter, EMPOWERStudents!

Comments: 0
Emily Serafy Cox - Thu Dec 15, 2011 @ 07:43PM
Comments: 0

Open letter to the Latino community from Gus Chavez

Members of the San Diego Union Tribune Editor's Latino Advisory Council,


"It is with deep regret that I take this time to inform you that I, effective immediately, chose not to be a member of the Council due to the recent changes in ownership of the newspaper. While welcomed public announcements regarding journalistic and editorial integrity have been made by the new owner, Chairman & Publisher Douglas F. Manchester, I remain concerned and skeptical that forward progress in reporting news as well as editorial fairness influenced to date by the Latino Advisory Council may be short lived.


 My withdrawal from the Council is also driven by the fact that a son of mine is gay and whose life style is in direct conflict with the personal philosophy of the new owner Douglas F. Manchester as demonstrated by his open financial support for the passage of Proposition 8. Needless to say my personal philosophy and my love for my son is in direct contrast to Manchester's position regarding personal freedoms desired and enjoyed by Americans.

 I commend the work of the Latino Advisory Council on many fronts, however, much more needs to be accomplished if the Union Tribune wants to be nationally known as a first class superior newspaper that is inclusive of the journalistic needs of all communities in the region.

 I give special thanks to Mr. Jeff Light, Editor, for being open to our suggestions and taking action on our recommendations for change that bring the Union Tribune closer to the Latino community.

 My son will soon be home for a joyous family Christmas gathering and I just felt compelled to disassociate myself from the Union Tribune for the reasons stated in this communication.  

I plan to share my withdrawal from the Council with members of the Latino community".


Gus Chavez


Comments: 0