On Tuesday, Jan. 4, voters in District 4 (largely Southeast San Diego) will go to the polls to elect a new representative on the City Council. They can choose either the Rev. George Stevens, who represented them for 11 years before he was termed out of office in 2002, or Tony Young, who served as the late City Councilmember Charles Lewis' chief of staff and has been running the District 4 office since Lewis' death in August.
In CityBeat's opinion, Stevens shouldn't even be running for office. His candidacy, though determined legal by a judge thanks to a loophole in city law, is inconsistent with the will of the voters, who passed a term-limits law that said, essentially, that a termed-out City Council member should have to sit out a full term before running again. (Unfortunately, Stevens is allowed to run again because his term would be for slightly less than two years, which city law doesn't recognize as a “term” at all. So, if he wins on Jan. 4 and serves the remainder of Lewis' term, he can run again in 2006, meaning he conceivably could serve for 17 years in a span of 19 years which is not what the voters had in mind.)
But we'll set that issue aside for the moment while we list the other reasons District 4 voters should choose Tony Young.
Young's background makes him an ideal representative. He grew up in the district, attending Morse High School—he knows the area intimately. Young received a degree in socio-economics from Howard University, which we believe gives him the knowledge necessary to understand and cope with the district's unique socio-economic challenges. The several years he worked with the Urban League counseling gang members give him firsthand understanding of why young folks choose that lifestyle, and his stint as a middle-school teacher demonstrates that he understands how important education is as a preventative tool.
In matters of city policy and current events: Young supports the proposed “living wage” ordinance, in concept at least—he reserves final judgment until he sees the specifics. The living-wage ordinance would set a minimum level of pay and benefits—roughly double the federal minimum wage—for employees of companies that do business with the city. He also supports city laws that allow sick people to use marijuana as medicine and drug users to obtain clean needles, as long as the program doesn't adversely impact neighborhoods or public safety. CityBeat supports the living-wage, medical-pot and needle-exchange laws.
Young says he'll consider a proposal to build a new football stadium, but he's generally not in favor of spending public money on sports arenas for millionaire franchise owners, and we're glad to hear that.
As for the city's pension funding brouhaha, Young acknowledges that his understanding of the complex issue isn't complete; he hasn't been privy to all the closed-session discussions on the matter. He says the city must fully fund the pension system, but he doesn't want the burden placed squarely on the backs of city employees. If it's determined that employee unions obtained overly generous retirement benefits, we encourage Young to consider benefit rollbacks to make fully funding the system more affordable.
Not surprisingly, public safety and economic development rank Nos. 1 and 2 when Young lists his priorities. He says he's committed not only to increasing anti-gang police presence in District 4, but also to finding grant money to pay for intervention programs for neighborhood kids. He'd like to take a seat on the Workforce Partnership's policy board in hopes of redirecting the program's funding into the most needy neighborhoods. He also wants to better the city's 6-to-6 program, which he thinks needs to be more proactive.
Every candidate running for any district in the city talks about improving economic development. Young's no exception. Sure, he'll actively seek investors for new development in blighted areas, but he also says he wants to improve the “financial literacy” of the district's residents-something as simple as teaching people the benefits of opening a checking account rather than using costly check-cashing services, for example.
Asked which members of the City Council he admires, Young cited Toni Atkins for her work on improving her district's infrastructure, Jim Madaffer for his work on parks and libraries and Michael Zucchet on downtown development issues.
George Stevens has done well for District 4, but we worry about the degree to which his religion guides his policy decisions. For example, God apparently tells Stevens to be openly hostile to the gay community, and that's not OK with us. Tony Young is our man.