Twitter quips aside, what does Councilman Tony Young really think about Occupy San Diego?
November 2, 2011 1:11 p.m.
Tony Young, San Diego City Council President, and the representative for Council District 4.
CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, up in Oakland, a general strike is under way in support of that city's occupy movement. In Los Angeles, are the couple has passed a resolution in support of the occupy movement. But in San Diego, occupiers are still struggling to get the attention of city leader, including my guest, Tony Young. Councilman young, thank you so much for coming in today. Welcome to the show.
YOUNG: Thank you, Maureen. Thank you for allowing me to be here today.
CAVANAUGH: You know, I've read some of the tweets that you've had about occupy San Diego, and I'm wondering, are you having a hard time taking this movement seriously?
YOUNG: No, I'm not. It's been a great opportunity to interact with the occupy San Diego folks. You might not know, I go down to the plaza and I talk to them just about every other day. I was there yesterday, I was there on Sunday. I was there at least three times the week before. And so it's a -- an opportunity for me to engage with people that, you know, have a strong point of view. And I've actually enjoyed it.
CAVANAUGH: And yet you come back up from meeting with the man you tweet walk through occupy San Diego, those people need a public enemy concert.
YOUNG: Well, it's true. If you know about public enemy, they are about really fighting the establishment. And I think that really probably captured that day when I walked through there, that these folks are really fired up about addressing some of the issues when it comes to corporations, when it comes to government issues that they don't agree with. So yeah, I think public enemy would be a great concert for those -- for the occupiers simply because of their point of view.
CAVANAUGH: But you've gotten a lot of criticism for basically shutting down some City Council meetings, 2, I believe, before public comment was through, because the representatives of occupy San Diego being on the Mike or collectively speaking. What was your rationale for that?
YOUNG: First of all, I've only stop aid meeting 20 minutes short during a morning session during public comment. That was the only time that I stopped it because there was not order in the actual chambers. And I could not conduct business without that. But really what that was about was making sure that the respect of the rules of council, we respect the Brown Act when it comes to nonagenda public comment. And right after that, we went down and talked to the folks on the plaza. Actually worked with our city clerk to teach these individuals who wanted to speak on how they can address the council in an appropriate way. And then that afternoon, 2:00, we started up again and it went terrific. And then last -- yesterday on Thursday, during public comment, I thought they did a wonderful job using the public nonagenda public comment rules to their advantage.
CAVANAUGH: Will you be considering thinking -- will you be considering a resolution in support of occupy San Diego? Will you allow a discussion on that? Will there be a committee appointed to look into that? Anything along those lines?
YOUNG: Well, there's been some requests by many of the occupy San Diego folks to -- for the council to support a resolution that would support their cause. And there's a lot of things in those resolutions that I've seen. There's been a couple of them that I've actually looked at. I've said that we will discuss the resolution only if and when I have four members of the council who will sign. Which is the way that our process works to say we want this on the agenda. At this point in time, I have not seen one. I haven't heard a lot of support to do that. But I would also say that the things that are in if -- the resolution I saw yesterday are things that we already support. We want to make sure that we uphold and support the first amendment of the constitution, allow free speech. We want to make sure we support free assembly, which is some of the things that individuals from occupy San Diego want to do. So a lot of those things that they talk about are the things that we do support and have supported.
CAVANAUGH: Are you in full support of the way the San Diego police have acted toward the occupy protestors?
YOUNG: I think the San Diego police department has acted in -- with professionalism. I think they've done a remarkable job working with occupy San Diego. And of course you're going to hear individuals who have issues with the police department. I have watched and witnessed them interact, and I thought they've done -- I think -- and I do believe that they have done a very good job.
CAVANAUGH: Because we've seen some really scary pictures from other parts of California.
YOUNG: Well, we have, and as I said, I don't know -- I wasn't there in Oakland or other parts of the state when the police have interacted with the occupy members there. But here in San Diego, I believe they've done our police department has done a wonderful job.
CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with San Diego City Council president Tony Young, and councilman young represents district four, which has some of the most economically distressed neighborhoods in San Diego. And part of, if we wanted to put it this away the 99% who economists say have really taken a hit in the last decade or so. I wonder what you've heard from your constituents about occupy San Diego.
YOUNG: Well, not much. I haven't seen any of mine at the occupy San Diego protests, which is interesting. If you walk down my neighborhood, the neighborhood I grew up in, the neighborhood I live in Valencia park, it's really ground 0 for the issues that some of occupy San Diego members have identified, including the foreclosure crisis. It's right in my neighborhood. You walk down skyline, and you can just point to houses that have been foreclosed on. And so these issues are really issues that are important to my constituency, and to be frank, I think they should be important to every San Diegan. The question is how do we from the city's perspective -- interface and interact with the individuals from occupy San Diego? And that's something that I think has evolved. They did a great job yesterday. Of and the question is also where should they be focusing on when it comes to these issues like foreclosure?
CAVANAUGH: How do you think this is going to resolve itself? I'm wondering, are there any backroom discussions about, you know, the occupiers, if they should be given a place, a sanctioned place to be able to stay or anything like that? Any negotiations going on?
YOUNG: I'm not sure where it's going to go when it comes to that. It seems that that is really an important issue for occupy San Diego, and many other areas. And that's, I think -- that has been the key focus when it comes to city governments related to this movement. There's an issue of, you know, these encampments that they want to create. One in particular would be one at the civic center. And there are some health and safety issues that need to be worked out also, and when it comes to liability, when it comes to the city, if we allow an encampment to actually exist down on the mesa there.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. I'm wondering, are you -- so where does it stand in getting on the agenda now? You need to have four other county members to --
YOUNG: Well, there's two ways to do it the as a council president, I can actually put it on. I don't think that's the way to deal with this issue. I think I would have to have more consensus from my council colleagues to say we want to have a discussion about that. Once that -- if that happens, through a memo with four signed members, then I am obliged to put it on, and then we will have a discussion. And the question depends on what that memo says, what we actually will discuss. And that could include, should we or should we not have an encampment for occupy San Diego over in the plaza.
CAVANAUGH: I'd like to change topics right now and ask you if you are in support of the aren't city and federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries.
YOUNG: Well, first of all, it's really unfortunate because as you know, the City of San Diego City Council created a ordinance that would allow these dispensaries to exist. There are members of the medical marijuana community who decided to get -- to get a referendum and put it on the ballot. Some of my colleagues decided, the majority of my colleagues decided not to put it on the agenda and just to get rid of the ordinance. And I think it's put us in a situation now that we're at square one or step one. However, there's some other issues now. Now you have the city attorney who is saying these things are not operation within the law. But even more personal -- importantly, you've got the federal government who has said they're not operation legally. And the problem is, Maureen, you know, the City of San Diego is only looking at a very small part of this. We're look at this issue from a land use perspective. The federal government is looking at this issue and these dispensaries as just being flat out illegal, regardless of what our land use designations are.
CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering though, do you support this process? Or do you see it as you say, I think you started off by saying it's unfortunate.
YOUNG: It is unfortunate because the process that I support and supported is the one that the City Council identified a few months back, which is to allow these dispensaries to exist in mostly industrial areas so that they wouldn't impact neighborhoods. And apparently that's not -- that was not good enough for these applicants.
CAVANAUGH: Now, we found a YouTube clip of you back in 2009 in public session, and you were basically sort of saying the same thing. You said you did I understand why people focused on the dangers of medicinal marijuana when you could buy dangerous prescription drugs at a local drug store. So is it -- is it confusing to you why this process has been complicated and taken so long in being able to find legal places for medicinal marijuana to be dispensed?
YOUNG: It's not confusing to me because the City of San Diego is trying to come up with a solution that is not supported and is not in line with the federal government. The law has not been clearly defined enough for us to address the issue. We're trying to address the issue from a land use perspective, and that's the only way we do it. We can't have the FDA involved because it's a federal department. The federal government looks at medicinal marijuana as an illegal drug. The state looks at it as legal under certain guidelines. And so we're stuck in the middle of all of this. And we're trying to come up with a solution. So it's not confusing for me to figure out -- me trying to figure out why this is happening. It's happening this way because, you know, there are so many different types of laws that are not congruent.
CAVANAUGH: And so many people who believe that they need medicinal marijuana to help their health, their treatment and so forth, are kind of caught in the middle.
CAVANAUGH: Have you heard from any of your constituents or anyone calling you up saying what's going on?
YOUNG: Well, my constituents are in the fourth district, it hasn't been a strong -- we don't have a lot of dispensaries in our district. It's not something that is NO. One on our list, when it comes to the issues. We're interested in issues like education, crime, infrastructure improvements, opportunities for affordable housing. Those are things that are really important to the constituents I represent in my district. But basically, they really would like to have some resolution to this. And I think through those conversations, what I gathered is that we're -- the City of San Diego is stuck in a heard place, and they recognize that.
CAVANAUGH: Let me in our remaining minutes talk to -- ask you a question about something they know is very dear to your heart. And that is schools. As I said in the very open here, San Diego unified is pretty much in a state of turmoil now with different plans on how to close a very large budget gap that's opening up, they fear, at the end of the year. You're a former teacher, airplane vocal supporter of public education. That's your take on what's happening?
YOUNG: First of all, I'm a vocal supporter of education, and I know what it can do and do for an individual, like an individual like myself. What I see when it comes to the public school system here in San Diego, it looks like they're in a very difficult financial situation, some very difficult decisions need to be made, much like some of the decisions that the City Council has made in the last five years to address our deficit. And they're not fun to deal with. They're difficult. And I would just encourage them to really make those difficult decisions. What those are I think is difficult for me to say because I'm not in the middle of T. But the bottom line is something really has to change in our educational system regardless of how much money is placed into these schools, it seems like it still is not working for communities like mine. 95% of the people, kids from Lincoln high school, did not pass the math and science portion of their last tests. And that is horrible. Regardless of how much money you put into this situation, that's not going to change unless something drastic changes in how we teach our kids.
CAVANAUGH: One quick raft -- last question if I may, you know the San Diego unified district has raised the specter of insolvency because their financial situation is growing so extreme. We don't know if that's going to happen, but that must really send shockwaves into the community of the business community of San Diego.
YOUNG: That's right.
CAVANAUGH: And also the City Council because if our school system doesn't work, what does that do to our economy?
YOUNG: And that's why I believe the City Council president, are the City Council, the mayor of San Diego, should be much more involved in the education of our kids. Insolvency would be a devastating blow to our economy, it would be a devastating blow to our real estate market. Parents don't want to move to areas where the city schools are in disarray. It would be devastating for years to come. So that is an untenable situation that I don't believe the city can afford to use on.
CAVANAUGH: I have to let you go. My time is up. I've been speaking with San Diego City Council president, Tony Young. Thank you so much.
YOUNG: Thank you.