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Amid A Chaotic Race, Sean Elo-Rivera Says He Can Bring Stability And Opportunity To District 9

City Council District 9 Candidate Sean Elo-Rivera talks to KPBS outside of Ho...

Photo by Andi Dukleth

Above: City Council District 9 Candidate Sean Elo-Rivera talks to KPBS outside of Hoover High School in Talmadge on October 7th, 2020.

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Leading District 9 candidate Kelvin Barrios suspended his campaign last month amid allegations of financial impropriety. Now, the support of organized labor and many community members has shifted to his ... Read more →

Aired: October 16, 2020 | Transcript

The race for City Council in District 9 was thrown into turmoil last month, after leading candidate Kelvin Barrios suspended his campaign amidst allegations of financial impropriety.

Now, the support of organized labor and many community members has shifted to his opponent, Sean Elo-Rivera, a San Diego Community College board member and non-profit executive director.

Elo-Rivera has centered his campaign on expanding opportunities for residents of District 9.

“I am someone who can’t walk down the street or meet someone and not want them to achieve what I see in them, or what they see in themselves more importantly,” he told KPBS outside of the recently-redone Hoover High School on El Cajon Boulevard.

Elo-Rivera himself has been given a huge opportunity in the race, after his opponent, who had far more money and institutional support than he did, and handily led the March primary, was sidelined by scandal.

RELATED: Kelvin Barrios Ending Campaign For District 9 Seat

District 9 encompasses the disparate neighborhoods of Talmadge, Kensington, City Heights, the University Area, and south to Mt. Hope and Southcrest.

Elo-Rivera says he wants to help residents stay in their homes and stave off evictions amid waves of job losses and a lack of federal support for the city. As a law school graduate working in City Heights almost a decade ago, Elo-Rivera kept seeing people struggling with housing and homelesness because of policy decisions made way above them.

“I got to see how many people were showing up, in the same situations as their neighbors the day before, were showing up because policies were not to their benefit,” he said, reflecting on why he chose a path towards politics instead of the law. “And that’s why I ultimately wanted to pursue impact.”

The housing crunch and affordability crisis has only gotten worse, he said. That’s why he sees the need for the city to start providing legal assistance to residents and business owners trying to navigate often over-complicated systems.

“We should never be in a place where folks are losing their home, where they're not allowed to pursue opportunities through business, or otherwise being jeopardized because they simply don’t have access to the information they need,” he said.

Elo-Rivera explained that the streamlined solutions for homelessness being piloted at the downtown convention center are something the city should build on, and that the city should continue to purchase hotels and motels for immediate low-income housing.

The district is currently represented by City Council president Georgette Gomez, who’s now running to represent the area in congress.

But with the prospect of its third city councilmember in just five years, continuity and trust remain huge issues in the community.

Elo-Rivera says he’ll work hard to ensure responsiveness and accountability from the city.

“Whether it’s people who sit on the left-end of the political spectrum or the right, people who live in the richest neighborhoods of District 9 or the poorest, that frustration with feeling that they’re not being heard, being represented,” he said. “And that the city isn’t always working on their behalf, is a real one.”

His focus remains on the young people in the district he’s been working with through the non-profit he leads, Youth Will. He says young people have been left out of the city’s plan for any sort of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would really like the city to invest in jobs programs for young people, whether that means a conservation corps, an environmental corps that’s keeping our neighborhoods clean, good chances for young people to build their resume, gain experience, and at the same time, give back to their community,” he said.

Elo-Rivera’s opponent, Kelvin Barrios, is still on the ballot, and if he wins, says he intends to take office. This week, mailers supporting Barrios went out to District 9 residents from the labor union LIUNA Local 89, where Barrios is employed. A consultant for LIUNA told Voice of San Diego that the mailers were paid for and some were printed before Barrios suspended his campaign.

With an opponent that is not quite sitting out the end of the race, Elo-Rivera has been hitting the pavement over the last few weeks, trying to prove that he’s earned the council seat, and the trust, of a community that’s looking for stability.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

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Photo of Max Rivlin-Nadler

Max Rivlin-Nadler
Speak City Heights Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover City Heights, a neighborhood at the intersection of immigration, gentrification, and neighborhood-led health care initiatives. I'm interested in how this unique neighborhood deals with economic inequality during an unprecedented global health crisis.

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