San Diego City Council District 8 Debate
District 8 encompasses the southernmost parts of the City of San Diego. The communities of District 8 include Barrio Logan, Golden Hill, Otay Mesa and San Ysidro. Candidates David Alvarez and Felipe Hueso are running to represent District 8. They join us this morning on These Days to debate the issues.
This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, you're listening to These Days on KPBS. District eight in the city of San Diego is split into two parts, the upper half includes the neighborhoods of barrio Logan, golden hill, grant hill, and Logan heights. Of and the southern part that meets the Mexico borderline includes Otay mesa and San Ysidro, district eight is currently held by Ben Hueso, who is currently leaving the seat to run in the state assembly. The two candidates who are competing for the seat join me now, I'd like to welcome David Alvarez.
DAVID ALVAREZ: Good morning. Thank you for having us.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Felipe Hueso, good morning.
FELIPE HUESO: Good morning Maureen. How are you?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm just great, thank you both for coming in here, I appreciate it. And I'd like to give you an opportunity to start out by introducing you to the -- to our audience, tells us why you're running for this office, and David, if you would start.
DAVID ALVAREZ: Yes, again, thank you for having us, I really really appreciate this opportunity. I'm David Alvarez, and I'm running for City Council because I believe our city deserves a fresh start, it's ready for a fresh start. I think in particular in district eight, residents are fed up with the mismanagement, and incompetence that has occurred in our city over the last several years. I think they're tired of pot holes that aren't getting fixed, streets that any unpaved, all of the public safety cuts that have occurred over the last several years and have really put our families in danger. And they're also tired and fed up of the failed policies and failed leadership that we had. So I am running because I want to provide a fresh start, I have experience working in our community over the last 14 years, I've been a teacher, a mentor working with disadvantaged kids, I've also proudly worked serving senator Cheney as a district representative on the issues that are important to the people of district eight, fighting for our neighborhoods, and it's for that reason, that I'm running, and I think we deserve a fresh start.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Felipe, if you'd introduce yourself and tell us why you're running.
FELIPE HUESO: I'm running because if my opponent wants a fresh start, he should vote for me. He's been working in the political circles for years with senator Cheney who gave us a budget that was over a hundred days old with a $19 billion deficit in our budget, and that's not a fresh start. You have politics as usual. I'm an attorney, I've been a lawyer for over 20 years, representing, working class people in the district. Of I'm also an educator. I started a university in the south bay that has 400 students. And no funds, no students, no campus, and as an employer, and an educator, and a college founder, you need somebody with practical experience. This is not about a fresh start for Mr. Alvarez, this is about a fresh start with somebody who has practical experience, leadership skills who can build a consensus. I've brought the third and fourth contenders in a race into my committee to help elect me because we want to turn around those voters who voted for the third and fourth contenders, and they're gonna work very hard so that we can win this race.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, then. Thank you both so much for those opening statements. And David, the number one issue that's listed on your campaign website is keeping our families safe. .
DAVID ALVAREZ: Absolutely.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What would you do to improve public safety in district eight.
DAVID ALVAREZ: Well, we have to stop the mismanagement that's occurred in our city that's led to the cuts in public safety. We've got browned out fire stations and we've already seen lives put at risk because of that. So we've got to get those stations funded again so we can maintain public safety and priority. Residents of the city, and definitely of district eight want to see that a priority in the communities, as well as bringing back officers, police officers so that we have enough patrol men and women out in the streets keeping our neighborhoods safe. Particularly as you mentioned earlier, district eight being divided into the north and into the south, people in the south feel that they have been very neglected, that they are not -- they don't have their needs met. A lot of them would just like to see a patrol down their city. But I want to address what Mr. Hueso just said about being a politician. Well, you can't have it both ways. You either have to accept that I have experience or you don't. And I've been saying that I don't have any experience, that you've got all the experience, that I'm a politician, well, it's either I am one or the other. You can't have it both ways. That's the type of leadership we don't want in our city. People who want to have it both ways all the time. You gotta be honest, and you gotta tell people the truth. And you talk about your experience as a lawyer, I don't know a lot of lawyers that have been placed on probation by the bar. So that's the type of experience you gotta be honest with people about that. Of.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Felipe, I want to give you a chance to respond and also tell us your stand on the issue of public safety and crime in district eight.
FELIPE HUESO: For me, public safety is the utmost priority. I come from a community where -- under siege guy gangs and drugs, and this is all part of something that we have to attack head on. Mr. Alvarez and his boss have been soft on gangs. They have been soft on injunctions to stop gangs. Mr. Alvarez will tell you that he is for public safety. But it's a very known fact the Alvarez family is part of the gang problem, part of the drug problem, and you know, we come from the same neighborhood. And I feel satisfactory in saying that I've spoke to the people from our community, leaders who endorse me, okay, who know the Alvarez family and what they stand for. And I'm very firm and convicted in saying that this is part of the reason why the police have endorsed me. The San Diego police officers association have come out publicly to endorse my campaign because they know that I'm hard on crime. And Mr. Alvarez can make whatever comment about, you know, my not being for police and public safety. But the fact that I have the police officers behind me to me speaks volumes.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you want to take a chance there, David?
DAVID ALVAREZ: Of course.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And just talk about what Felipe just said.
DAVID ALVAREZ: I don't know what he's alluding to. You know, I come from a family that my parents came to this country in the '70s, they were immigrants, and they worked really really hard to provide for our family. I'm the only one, the first only to go -- graduate from high school and go on to college, and I'm very, very proud of that. Even though we had huge adverse situations in our community. I grew up in barrio Logan, most of the kids never graduated from high school. Most of the kids in the community, a lot of them ended up in gangs, and prison. I know a lot of friends, and I lost a lot of friends along the way who were involved with those types of dealings, and it's unfortunate because if the Hueso family has been around for such a long time doing good for the community, it should have been working for those kids, those young people. I had a couple of family members who knot into terrible as well. Like I said, I'm the only one who graduated high school and went on to college, and made my family very, very proud.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, Mr. Hueso, a policy issue, if you may. Your number one issue on your website is jobs. How would you bring more jobs into district eight?
FELIPE HUESO: The same way I've been doing it as an attorney, as an educator. I've created jobs for people by getting them an education, they become teachers they become nurses, they're people on the faculty of this college that I founded 18 years ago. That whole scenario was not there. Of it's in the south bay, we have 400 students in an accredited institution, okay? As an attorney, I employ people. Mr. Alvarez has never employed anybody, schnook and for this city to run its business, you need somebody with some kind of business background who knows how to sign the front and back of a check. It's very important for people to do this very safely. If you want to experiment, well, are bring in Alvarez who has no experience, accept working for a politician. If you want somebody who has a proven record of leadership, who's been out there in the -- working hard for the citizens of this city, then you have to elect me.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, David, what would you do to improve the economy of San Diego and district eight.
DAVID ALVAREZ: I'm so glad you mentioned that, because you know, employing someone because you have a law firm is just as good, you're employing people, that's great. But even our situation, our region and our state, and really in our nation, we need to look forward how we're going to create jobs and I'm the only one who has a plan to do that, particularly focusing on district 8, 1 is to work along more commercial corridors in the northern part of the district, palm avenue in the southern part of the district, as well as other commercial corners where we need to reinvest, revitalize those areas and get jobs, small businesses in there, small businesses will hire people and they will thrive and give back to the community. However, cities cut back the funding for offices of small business that support these businesses. So when you cut back on services like that, you won't allow for growth in the economy, and growth and job creation in small businesses. So my pledge is to make sure that we fund that. Of and third, the Otay mesa area, a lot of people aren't familiar with that area, but it borders -- it's right next to the border of Mexico. There's a lot of available land that's affordable. We have an opportunity to bring jobs, good manufacturing jobs within the region, utilizing our relationship and our ties to the Mexican side, utilizing the potential of a south bay university campus in Chula Vista to attract the jobs that will do the research and development and manufacturing technologies for the area.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, we have a structural deficit in the city of San Diego, running about $70 million per cycle. And I'm wondering what you would do as a City Council member to try to whittle down that deficit and to try to get the city's financial house in order. Let me ask you first, Felipe.
FELIPE HUESO: Well, I am on record publicly as supporting Proposition D. I think it's essential that the people in the city understand the structural deficit is not going to go away unless we have some practical solutions. My opponent has waffled on this. Initially he did not endorse it, I've been a proponent of Proposition D from the beginning because I see how we have had a loss of life and the public services, which is public safety, fire protection, are essential to the existence of our communities, I live in a neighborhood that's over a hundred years old. My house is made out of wood. My office is also a building that's a hundred years old. And I live across the street from a fire station. My office is across the street also. And to think that we have a fire station that's closed one day of every month is to me a threat to my family's safety. And I think that if we're gonna go back to the old days when you had a decal on your window, and if you paid for fire, you got the fire extinguished, and if you didn't, your house burned to the ground. Well, we don't need to see those days. People need to understand that although they are talking about a tax increase, it's an essential service that our communities need to protect their lives, homes, and the security of their families.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And your thoughts on Proposition D and getting the city's financial house in order, David.
DAVID ALVAREZ: Yes, I absolutely in the beginning was not -- had not made a decision on Proposition D because of the way it was brought up of it was so last minute, and haphazard. And I had to take my time to analyze it. I think any time you consider a deal for the voters, you have to sit down and analyze it. And I think Proposition D is gonna help us for five years, and it's a temporary solution, and I think people need to be aware of that. And the statement, this is not going to go away, it's not going to go away when we keep proposing solutions like the five-year sales tax. We need to looking at really eliminating that structural deficit in the long-term.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How?
DAVID ALVAREZ: Well, we need to look at the different options that the city budget analyst has proposed, earlier this year, I believe it was pack in March. This is a list of different revenue options for the city. What we have to do is look at a way that we can increase the revenues of the city in a way it's not gonna impact business, it's not gonna impact the economy, but it's gonna maintain the public, vital services that the people want to see.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering Felipe, how precisely do you see being a business person as translating into a city council member? Why is that business experience helpful on the San Diego City Council?
FELIPE HUESO: Well, all you have to do is profile my family, all of my family members, I have eight siblings, okay? And all of us are college educated, not just me. All of us have some kind of business interest, not just me. We all have a stake in the outcome of what happens to our finances with this city. The future of our city is with business, with the creation of jobs. My family has produced job, not just me, okay? So I think as leaders from this community, we've chosen a path to show people that the way to create economic success is by proving that you have the ability to put together a business plan and my family has been very successful, we're very well known in the community. And it's not just about me. It's about the greater community, you don't need a politician's assistant running for a position that requires a knowledge of how economic impact is so important, and practical skills in putting together employment for the community, empowerment for the community, and it's critical that people understand that the difference between my AR opponent and myself are a lack of suspicious of he's a political hack.
DAVID ALVAREZ: We've seen other people run for office and say that their business experience is gonna be a way to get out of the hole that we're in. In this state, we elected a businessman, Arnold Schwartzenegger, and we see the state of the state now, it's western it was before. We elected a businessman then, George bush, and he left office in worse shape than it was before. The oval office. So that's, you know, the experience needs to be something that is definitely considered. I have gotten results done for the people of district eight. I've actually worked for the people of district eight. Gotten my hands dirty. I've worked with children and teenagers, getting them on the path to college. Jose lives down the street from me, he was a student of mine in third grade, he's now going to SDSU, he's training to be a firefighter. I've impacted people's lives in district eight, and people want to see that in their elected representatives, people this district and these communities.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Felipe Hueso, you've talked a great deal about your family in this discussion, and one of the things about your family is that it owns a great deal of property in a redevelopment area in Logan heights, and as your brother did before you, you say if you are elected you're gonna recuse yourself from those discussions for that redevelopment plan in that area of Logan heights. Of and how does that serve the constituents that you will be representing if indeed you have to reduce yourself from those important discussions?
FELIPE HUESO: I will not say that I will blankly recuse myself. I will consult with the city attorney's office and confer about what it is appropriator not appropriate to make decisions having to do with whatever proprietor interest my family has. But what the constituents need to know is that those property interests that I have are critical, they're important to the city, to the constituents, and that's one of the reasons why the constituents need to take into account that we have a vested stake in the outcome of this city. My family members are vibrant members of the community, and you know, all I have to do is go around the different neighborhoods, people know who my parents were, people know who my brothers are, and these are the things that are gonna turn this election around because we're a known presence in the community, both as employers and as citizens of district eight.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'd love to get your response, David Alvarez, and also your ideas for the new redevelopment plan that's been approved for parts of greater Logan heights.
DAVID ALVAREZ: I think it's critical that people understand that Mr. Hueso and his family owns a lot of land, and there will be conflicts of interest. They own so much land, they can't participate in the democratic process of trying to make decisions for the constituents who live in that part of town, and so that's really really really critical. We cannot continue to have absent council members who cannot make decisions for the people of district eight. I'm proud to in my home where my wife and I who's -- my wife is a middle school teach, we're very proud of the home that we own, it's the only property that we own, and we work for hard for that. But when you ask about redevelopment, it could be the greater Logan heights area, it's something that's come up in the community, and there are a lot of concerns because there has been no one at the helm, no one who's actually been engaging the community, bringing them to participate as part of the discussions, so that's why this whole process has been put on hold, because the community has said, we want to be part of the process. We want to have an elected counsel member who's gonna be held accountable, and someone at the head of SCDC who's gonna be held accountable, and rit now, that organization is going through a transition, and so it's definitely not the pest time to try to propose something that would really impact, and change the future of that community when we have no one who's responsible.
FELIPE HUESO: I beg to differ with this youngster because I've -- I've heard people that are part of his organization speak that district eight is only for the Mexican American people. It's for everybody. San Diego belongs to everybody who wants to invest, who wants to be part of this community. This is not just about one ethnic group. This is about a bigger vision, a vision about people living together as one. Regardless of their ethnicity, of their political stripe. As long as they want to invest in our community of that's the most important thing. This is not about Logan heights is only for Mexican Americans. No, it's not. The African American community has been a vibrant part of this community since well every a hundred years ago. We have churches that are over a hundred years old in our community. They need to continue being part of this community. And it's about a larger picture, a vibrant picture, a city that can prosper under the leadership of somebody who's part of the community and not just part of a little wedge community who wants to just isolate things and monopolize them.
DAVID ALVAREZ: There was an accusatory comment made in that, and I'd like to respond, please, about somebody in my organization, I don't know what he's talking about. I have one person who's paid in my organization, that's my campaign manager, I've got a grass-roots campaign of people who live throughout this distribution, all the way from the border in San Ysidro to golden hill. So that state is just inappropriate, I think to say that that represents me. As opposed to his organization, and his campaign, which is basically based on his brother who's a current council member and all of his political aides. So it's unfair to make a statement that I'm only for one segment of the population, I've got a huge array of supporters from all kinds of backgrounds, and I'm proud of where I come from. Logan heights is diverse community, and it's a beautiful community.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to --
FELIPE HUESO: I'd like to respond to that by saying --
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We are just about -- we have one minute each for you to do your closing statements, so Felipe, if you'd like to include that in your closing statement, please start now.
FELIPE HUESO: Well, this youngster ran the campaign for Remy Bermudez, and I'm referring to her, she ran against my brother in the last election cycle. And lost. This youngster was the proponent and the campaign manager for her. That's who I'm alluding to, and that's not a false statement. I saw that at a meeting that was held in the community, and all his supporters were there. Want and so he can't detract from the fact that I was present at that meeting, where the president of the southeast San Diego development corporation was attacked, was called a racist, people were shouting at him in Spanish, and you know, I think you need somebody with proven leadership credentials who can bring a consensus, and the fact that I've got people in my campaign that ran against me, that are now for me, shows that I can do that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. And I give you a minute to wrap things up, David Alvarez.
DAVID ALVAREZ: Yes, thank you, there's a lot of assumptions made there that I orchestrated this, Bermudez did run against Mr. Hueso, she ran a second time, and I did not support her in that campaign. I'm proud of the record that I've had, I've gotten my hands dirty, for the community of district eight. And that's who we have to get into office, someone who's gonna work very hard to bring about the change that is needed in the communities of district eight. So we do have progress. So that we do have job creation, public safety. All of the good things that people want to see. So it is for that reason that I'm running for city council, and I do hope your listeners can support me. I appreciate you having a say. Thank you. .
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: David Alvarez, Felipe Hueso, thank you for speaking with us today. The two candidates for the seat of district eight. Election day is next Tuesday, November 2nd, you can join us tomorrow, as we host a debate against the San Diego district four supervisor.
Editor's note: KPBS is unable to verify Felipe Hueso's claim that Remy Bermudez made a biased statement about District 8. Her political platform is available at her website. It was also stated during this interview that David Alvarez was her campaign manager. While he worked for her campaign, he never served as her campaign manager.