Dwayne Crenshaw Wants His Long District 4 History To Include Council Seat
Dwayne Crenshaw is standing on a bright mosaic of tiles in Market Creek Plaza. He bubbles with more enthusiasm than usual as he describes helping community members buy shares in the shopping and community center.
“The coolest thing about Market Creek Plaza, well there’s a lot of cool things about Market Creek Plaza," he says. "It's that myself and many of the other members of the community actually own a piece of it.”
Crenshaw also worked as director of government relations and community ownership for the Jacobs Center foundation that developed Market Creek more than 10 years ago. The project promotes local businesses and contains one of the few grocery stores in City Council District 4.
Now, Crenshaw is hoping to help his community in another way. He’s running to represent it on the City Council. The 42-year-old talked in his cramped campaign office about how community involvement has always been part of his life.
“In our garage, my dad had a copying machine and we were the neighborhood Kinko's, so to speak," he said. "So I heard a lot of talk about community issues and what we needed to be involved in. So for me, it was just, I'm helping out, I didn't think it was anything grand or special, just did what my family did.”
Crenshaw attended Patrick Henry High School and later became class president at San Diego State University.
"I was somewhat popular in high school, I was best personality in the yearbook, and got out to San Diego State with 35,000 other students and didn't know anyone," Crenshaw said. "And I didn't like that. So I said 'I've got to do something to meet people and get engaged,' so I ran for student government."
Crenshaw has run for City Council two times before. In his second attempt in 2004, a letter to the editor in the San Diego Union-Tribune outed him as a gay man.
"Unfortunately at that time in my life, I wasn't prepared for that type of scrutiny, hadn't spoken with my own family about the issue, so it affected the campaign and affected my enthusiasm a great deal," he said.
This election, a local newspaper editorial again criticized Crenshaw for being gay. But Crenshaw, who works as director of San Diego Pride, says he isn’t worried about it.
"It's nine years later, this is an entirely different country, world and this council district," he said. "That's no longer an issue as far as I'm concerned."
But that may not be completely true. When Barry Pollard, who lost in the District 4 primary, gathered a group of other candidates to either endorse Crenshaw or his opponent Myrtle Cole, he said Crenshaw's "lifestyle came up as an issue."
"That is a hot topic over in our district," Pollard said. "I think it is diminishing in its volatility, but that did come up."
But the group ultimately decided Crenshaw's track record of getting things done mattered more than his sexual orientation. Crenshaw got the endorsement.
“Dwayne had done some things in the community, he had been in the community for a long time, and he attended the town councils and he had been very active within District 4,” Pollard said.
Crenshaw says he has more experience living and working in the district than his opponent. He also cites Myrtle Cole’s heavy support from labor, and says he’d be an independent vote.
"I find myself truly unbeholden to any large group," he said. "I like to call it, I have my own Declaration of Independence, so to speak."
While Crenshaw was criticized because the conservative group the Lincoln Club spent substantial funds on his campaign, Crenshaw says that money does not influence him.
"Legally, I am not allowed to talk to the Lincoln Club. We can't coordinate," he said. "I didn't ask for the money. They're spending it for me against (Cole), and vice versa her folks are hitting me and doing the same type of things. But there's no control that I have. I am a lifelong Democrat."
If elected, Crenshaw has a lot of goals for his district, including building two more grocery stores, creating 100 youth jobs and installing new sidewalks and streetlights.
To pay for all of this, he suggests District 4 should get a bigger chunk of the city’s budget.
"If we want to be equitable, we probably need to give a little more dollars to expand library hours in those communities that have fewer opportunities for families and young people to access them, or where there's less private recreational facilities," he said.
This may be a hard sell with the rest of the City Council.
But, if he’s elected tomorrow, Crenshaw says his enthusiasm would help him get things done. And, he says, his history of projects like Market Creek Plaza help back that up.