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Hoover High Students Grill Mayoral Candidates On City Heights Issues

San Diego mayoral debate at Hoover High school, Jan. 2020.
Andi Dukleth
San Diego mayoral debate at Hoover High school, Jan. 2020.

Candidates running for San Diego mayor addressed issues facing the City Heights neighborhood during a debate last week hosted by students at Herbert Hoover High.

State Assemblyman Todd Gloria, San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry, community activist Tasha Williamson and technology worker Rich Riel fielded questions from students who are in Yolanda Gooch’s restorative justice class, which is part of the school’s Social Justice Academy.

Hoover High Students Grill Mayoral Candidates On City Heights Issues
Listen to this story by Ebone Monet.

KPBS journalists visited the school in the days leading up to the debate and observed the students as they formulated their questions. Most focused on problems impacting the City Heights community, including homelessness, drug addiction and violence.

VIDEO: Hoover High School Students Grill Mayoral Candidates on City Heights Issues

Sophomore Jesus Perez said drug use was his top issue.

“There’s a lot of drugs being used and some of us don’t like it at all,” he said.

Senior Chanmonita Loek, who will be voting this year for the first time, said San Diego’s next mayor must confront the violence she has seen in her neighborhood.


“I would witness shootings around my neighborhood … I have experienced it,” she said.

The exercise is part of a partnership between the Social Justice Academy and Youth Will a Social Justice nonprofit. Sean Elo, who is Youth Will’s executive director, described the debate project as an ambitious lesson in civic engagement.

“It’s also about people from City Heights young people at Hoover High School weighing in on a really important conversation that San Diego is having about who their next mayor will be and what that that mayor will be focusing on,” he said.

Loek said the experience will likely have a lasting impact on her. “I want to be comfortable in my own skin,” she said. “I want to say what I want to say and this organization helped me get through it and get rid of my insecurities.”

The debate got high marks from city residents who attended. “I came here wow there’s a lot of people and the students are so excited,” said City Heights Resident Edwin Lohr.

And from Gooch, the restorative justice teacher: “They can see the fruits of their labor so I am so ridiculously proud of them right now.”

San Diego’s homeless provider has big plans to create more than 400 units of affordable housing in a new downtown highrise. Plus, Californians are being asked to vote on another Prop 13. This year’s ballot measure is a 15 billion dollar school bond measure. And students at Hoover High School learned how to prepare for a forum where they can grill candidates for mayor on the issues they see in their community.