Originally published December 6, 2010 at 7:43 a.m., updated December 6, 2010 at 2:23 p.m.
SAN DIEGO It was all about family at today’s swearing-in ceremony for San Diego’s new and reelected council members.
Councilmen Kevin Faulconer and Tony Young took the oath of office for their second terms. Newly elected Republican Lorie Zapf and Democrat David Alvarez raised their right hands for the first time.
The newcomers used experiences from their own lives to illustrate what they want to see happen at City Hall.
Alvarez replaces outgoing council president Ben Hueso who was elected to the State Assembly (and sworn in today as well in Sacramento).
Alvarez officially took over representing District 8 as his wife Xochitl and their baby daughter Izel looked on. He said he is honored to represent Barrio Logan, the neighborhood where he grew up.
It was also the neighborhood from which he was almost forced out. Alvarez’s family was evicted from their apartment when Petco Park was being built. Alvarez said without the support of friends and neighbors, his family would have been homeless. It’s a message he hopes to spread at City Hall.
“We have the luxury of having elected leaders, who I’m very pleased I’ll join, who work very hard and tirelessly to make things better in our city,” he said. “But no matter how hard we all try, if we don’t try together it’s not going to get any easier.”
Alvarez said the city if facing daunting problems, but that families in his district face more difficult issues every day. They include people struggling to make ends meet on minimum-wage jobs and people afraid they’ll lose their homes.
Zapf spoke of similar concerns in District 6. The Republican is replacing termed-out Democratic Councilwoman Donna Frye.
Zapf said small-business owners in San Diego are struggling to pay fees and taxes. And she said people are upset about the city’s pension mess. Zapf also spoke about her turbulent childhood.
Her parents were divorced and Zapf said she was caring for her younger brother and sister when she was just 11. The children were eventually split up and put into foster care. Zapf said her experience was hard, but has made her who she is and prepared her for her work on the Council.
“Nothing in my life has ever come easy. And that’s OK. Because it has made me who I am today and it has prepared me for the very daunting challenges ahead,” she said.
Zapf was sworn into office by her former foster mother, Alice Stelle, who she said inspired her to get involved in public service. Zapf’s husband, Eric, and their two daughters looked on.
Zapf acknowledged she has some big shoes to fill. Outgoing Councilwoman Frye has held office for nine years.
Frye spoke about her struggles to get information from the city and to make government more transparent. She said she had to learn that voting “No” on an issue was OK and she lamented what she called the decline of civil discourse.
“I would urge people to think a little more about the long-term consequences of their words. People deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect” Frye said. “Be a little kinder to one another, be a little more thoughtful and a little less mean spirited, ask before you assume the latest rumor is true.”
Frye also advised the incoming Council members to ignore anything the media write about them, good or bad. She was given a standing ovation as she gathered her things and walked off stage, leaving her chair empty for her successor.
The incumbents' remarks tended toward humor rather than drama.
Councilman Kevin Faulconer thanked his young son for wearing a collared shirt to the inauguration, Councilman Tony Young joked the media should think of his wife and daughters when writing something mean about him. Both men were sworn in for second terms.
The council did not wait long to get to work. At an afternoon meeting the council voted unanimously to elect Councilman Young as Council President. Young was praised by his colleagues and several public speakers. He said he hoped he could live up to their expectations. Young then took on a more serious tone, saying his top priority is fixing San Diego's structural budget deficit.
"Don't be surprised if you see that on the agenda every single week until it's done. I will consider my tenure as president of this council a failure if we do not address the structural deficit," Young said.
Young also told the council to expect a change in the way meetings are run in the future. He said there will be a laser-like focus on the issues the council is considering.