Candidates Square Off Over San Diego City Council District 9
Monday, May 21, 2012
Aired 5/21/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Mateo Camarillo, a businessman and longtime social activist in the Latino community
Marti Emerald, former radio and television investigative reporter and current San Diego City Councilwoman representing District 7.
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The two candidates for San Diego City Council's brand new district, District 9, said increasing funding for police presence and infrastructure will be among their top priorities if elected.
The new ninth district extends from Kensington and Talmadge to the north through City Heights down to Mountain View and Southcrest.
Emerald is currently serving as the representative for District 7, but after redistricting she decided to run in District 9.
"I was redistricted out of the seventh district," Emerald told KPBS. "I'm running because there is a lot of work to do and I'm excited about all the potential here in the ninth district."
The majority of residents in District 9 are Latino, but only 26 percent of them are registered to vote, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Whites make up 23 percent of the district's population, but 45 percent are registered to vote.
Camarillo told KPBS in February he decided to run in part because he was frustrated no other Latino candidate had emerged.
He said today he also wants to give others opportunities he didn't have.
"I applied all my energies and skills to advance, I believe I've had the golden opportunity to achieve things others haven't done," he said. "But I think that some of them encounter barriers, and I'm - I went into business to try to eliminate some of those barriers of people that can't fully participate, be it language, culture, economics, a lack of information on how to participate."
Camrillo said Latinos need to see evidence that their vote counts before they will register to vote.
"Politicians talk a good story, but look at their records," he said. "The city is $2 billion in the hole. And they're $2 billion on top of that in deferred maintenance. And yet we keep reelecting the same people to make the same mistakes. We need a business perspective, somebody who can balance a checkbook that can get us out of this hole."
Emerald said the city has a balanced budget, and that it's the pension system that's "in the hole."
She also agreed that increasing engagement among voters is important.
"We need to get at those reasons and start working on that issue to get people registered to vote, and make sure that they express their voices," she said. "Within the district as a whole, there are more than 60 languages spoken in the schools in City Heights. And we need to get to those different communities and engage them as well.
"Again it's about empowering these communities to be part of the change that they're looking for. They came here for a reason, to create better lives. Now it's, I think, government's job to empower them to find ways to create those better lives for themselves and their children."
She added that she wants to hire more police officers and firefighters and create greater resources in the community for people to stay safe.
Camarillo added that money under the city's redevelopment agency--which was abolished last December--"wasn't going where it should have gone, because it's based on the community's greatest need."
He said projects were going to other communities that weren't blighted.