Jan. 17 2014 12:00 AM

No, David Alvarez doesn't want to steal your 'community development funds'

Lincoln Club mailers are known for their size, but not their accuracy.

After a quiet holiday season, last week the conservative, pro-business PAC sent out two mailers, accusing City Councilmember and mayoral candidate David Alvarez of pledging to allocate "community development funds" to only three neighborhoods-City Heights, Southeastern San Diego and San Ysidro. What exactly these "community development funds" are, the mailers don't say. ---

The Lincoln Club's endorsed Kevin Faulconer for mayor, and one mailer draws a distinction between the two candidates: "Kevin Faulconer, A Mayor for All," it reads. It goes on to quote Faulconer: "I am committed to ensure that every neighborhood receives its fair share of community funding and that no community in San Diego gets left behind."

The Lincoln Club's been accused of racial stereotyping for another mailer it sent out that had a photo illustration of Alvarez grasping a wad of cash. Arguably it's in play here, with lines like, "David Alvarez doesn't care about our community" that set up an us-versus-them dichotomy. The three largely black and Latino neighborhoods named on the mailers are different from our community.

The mailers say that Alvarez made his pledge on Oct. 7. The first mailer doesn't say anything beyond that, while a second mailer lists the source as a Voice & Viewpoint mayoral forum and points to a YouTube video. The forum, held at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in Lincoln Park, actually happened on Sept. 26. A video of the forum was posted on Oct. 7.

Faulconer was the only candidate who didn't attend the forum, and got this rebuke from moderator (and Voice & Viewpoint publisher) John Warren:
I want to let you know that we, in inviting the candidates… we tried very hard to get Mr. Kevin Faulconer to join us. He could not put it in his schedule to be here, and, I think it's very important that you remember who came and who didn't come. [Applause.] A very special note of appreciation and respect to our candidates who are here, because you cannot come to me and tell me that another community is more important than our community when we vote just like everybody else does. 

So, that last Sunday before the election, when they start running to your churches smiling-smile and keep going. Pastors, no time at the pulpit for people who didn't have time to be here with us. We want to put an end to that. You can run to a black church at the last minute, smile and say hallelujah and that gets it. That day is over.
This ended up being an empty threat. A coalition of African American pastors-who'd endorsed Nathan Fletcher in the special-election primary-endorsed Faulconer last Thursday. In an editorial, Warren claimed that Alvarez was "aloof and at times condescending" during a recent meeting with a group of  pastors. (As John Lamb wrote in his Spin Cycle column last week, Bishop George McKinney, who was at the meeting, said he didn't share Warren's take.)

Back to the mailers. What are these "community development funds" that Alvarez wants to hand over to City Heights, Southeastern San Diego and San Ysidro? At the Sept. 26 forum, the first question to the candidates came from Walter Lam, the president for the Alliance for African Assistance. He asked about Community Development Block Grants and whether the candidates felt that the current way that money's allocated is fair. 

Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG, are federal dollars that are targeted at low-income communities to alleviate poverty, prevent blight and address urgent health and safety needs. CDBG money is allocated to cities and counties based on the number of households with incomes considered low ($27,000 for a family of four) and moderate ($43,200 for a family of four). Currently, a citizens commission decides how San Diego's CDBG money is spent. This has upset some community groups, who've argued that worthy projects aren't being funded and the money's not going to truly needy areas. (Here's a breakdown of San Diego's most recent CDBG allocations via location.)

Alvarez, whose District 8 includes Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Sherman Heights and Grant Hill, was the first candidate to respond to Lam's question. 

"I absolutely do not think that our communities are getting what we deserve," he said. "We represent the highest level of low-income communities in the city of San Diego, yet we do not see that same level of money coming back into our communities." 

And then this: "I've proposed, and in my plan for economic development for our city, I'm going to ensure that three communities in particular receive the funding that comes from CDBG: Southeast community, City Heights community and San Ysidro." 

The Lincoln Club mailer omits the words "that comes from CDBG." 

Alvarez went on to talk about a specific CDBG program called Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Areas (NRSA). NRSAs are low-income, disadvantaged communities for which the Department of Housing and Urban Development allows more flexibility on how CDBG money can be spent. A city has to apply to HUD to have an area designated a NRSA. When redevelopment ended, San Diego started exploring having certain areas designated NRSAs to boost revitalization efforts (City Heights and Southeast San Diego were formerly designated redevelopment areas). 

Once an area's becomes a NRSA, there's extensive community outreach to prioritize need and set out short- and long-term objectives that must be met. Bottom line: the long list of neighborhoods that the Lincoln Club says Alvarez will "cut funding to" would never qualify as NRSAs: Rancho Bernardo, Scripps Ranch, Mission Hills, Hillcrest, North Park, Point Loma, Serra Mesa, Carmel Valley, Bankers Hill, etc. 

Neither are most of these neighborhoods home to programs that receive CDBG money, though residents throughout the city can certainly access services from CDBG grantees like the Family Justice Center, the city's clean-syringe-exchange program, Meals-on-Wheels, and the San Diego food bank. 

So, don't worry, North of 8ers: If David Alvarez is elected, money for parks, roads and sidewalks isn't going to be cut and diverted only to those other parts of San Diego. But prioritizing projects in poorer, older communities is a key issue in San Diego right now. So much so that Kevin Faulconer's made it a campaign promise. From his campaign website: "For far too long, the City of San Diego has neglected many of its communities.... As mayor, Kevin Faulconer will be committed to creating a better quality of life and economic opportunities in all of San Diego's communities-starting with our most neglected neighborhoods."

But don't expect that fact to stop the Lincoln Club from sending out more misleading mailers.


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