By Raymond R. Beltrán
Tierra y Libertad is the theme of this year’s 34th Annual Chicano Park Day Festival. With the CPSC’s (Chicano Park Steering Committee) victories in the pass two years, the theme may not be far fetched. Firstly, the park was founded on land rightfully seized by a group of community members in 1970, while the hum of tractors were approaching the empty lot underneath the Coronado Bridge in order to construct a community-opposed police department. Soon after, the residents created a park. Within the past thirty-four years, murals have been erected onto the bridge’s pillars in order to create a hieroglyphic type of monument, which holds the history of the Chicano people. The CPSC has also earned a T Grant recently in order to erect a statue of Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, to create a new marquis with a map that will direct visitors through the park’s various murals and to paint the CPSC logo in the park, which will read “Aztlán” over the Southwestern States.
These have been projects that usually receive opposition from CalTrans, which lead the CPSC to battle over the question of who really takes care of the park, city officials or the surrounding community. The next battle may be one that will require a little more attention, especially because of San Diego’s $1.1 billion deficit.
Community coalition representatives met with Sergeant David Contreras and Community Relations Officer Jerry Gonzalez, at Central Division’s Police Department in Sherman Heights, this Wednesday, February 25 to discuss a recent letter from Deputy City Manager Bruce Herring. The letter read that “the City of San Diego faced a $30 million budget gap in the development of the Fiscal Year 2004 budget,” and that the city would not waive a $5,930 security fee for the 34th Annual Chicano Park Day Celebration. The fee will cover 17 officers and a total of 210 working hours.
Police in charge of security make $55 per hour. Those in charge of traffic control earn $22 per hour. San Diego Director of Special Events Carolyn Wormser noted these estimates were discounted rates, adding that if there’s an event, there will have to be security provided by the city in order to issue an event’s permit.
“The new ballpark [is] paying for their police, and they’re getting a half price discount,” says Tommy Camarillo, Chairwoman for the CPSC. “Why should a big corporation get a discount like that, and we have to pay over $5,000. We’ve already paid $5,525 for insurance to a [private] insurance company.”
Sgt. Contreras was not able to answer questions regarding the security tax, but the CPSC noted that they have their own security team of 30 to 40 people, ten of which have had extensive training and experience in security. Contreras and Gonzalez both agreed to some CPSC guidelines for city police. Officers are to assist, only by request, the CPSC security members, who will be dressed in black with a gold “Security” indication on their shirts. There will be no police on horses, and the gang unit will not be permitted to take part.
Community members attribute violence in the past to the heavy presence, and antagonistic behavior, of the police department’s gang unit. Alcohol sales, which were banned almost twenty years ago, have also been a reason for disputes at festivals in the past, but since alcohol’s ban, the celebration has been geared toward creating a family-oriented environment.
CPSC member, Marco Anguiano, has stated that the community doesn’t want, nor has it ever requested, police assistance for its events. For them, it seems like the police presence is an imposition, and picking up the bill is a slap in the face.
In previous years, former Police Chief David Bejarano waived the security fee for the CPSC, but the letter declining the waiver exhibits the city’s unwillingness to budge on the issue, especially due to its financial woes.
Deputy City Manager Bruce Herring, who declined to waive the fee, diverted all questions to Director of Special Events Carolyn Wormser. She stated that a letter was sent out to all organizations, that the CPSC should have received, claiming that a special events ordinance under the city’s municipal code, which financially supports special events, decreased the amount of dollars it fronts organizations for events from $3,000 to $1,000.
“Many years ago, it was my understanding that it was a smaller event, Central Division [25th Street and Imperial Avenue Police Dept] handled police services, not unlike many other parts of the city,” stated Wormser. “Two years ago, Central Division met with the CPSC, saying they weren’t able to afford to provide services. So, the Special Events Unit had to be called in.”
With Central Division officers present this year to assist only, the estimated number of police should decrease, as might the price for their service. Sgt. Contreras has said he could approach the city council in support of the CPSC’s plea, but as a citizen and not a police officer. He also added that in no way will his police department do anything to shut down the event and that any financial pleas or inquiries should be directed toward the city council.
The Chicano Park Day Celebration is a special event that’s free to the public, unlike events such as Mardi Gras or Street Scene in the Gaslamp District that charge anywhere from $15 to $45 per person. The CPSC raises funds by providing vendors with designated lots for merchandise booths and food carts. The funds are then turned around to pay for stage equipment, posters, programs and basic logistics. No one turns profit. Organizing the event is grass roots in its most bare form, and everyone that lends a hand is a volunteer.
“[San Diego’s promotional] literature always shows Chicano Park, and it’s the least budgeted item that they spend any money on,” said community member Carlos Pelayo at Wednesday’s meeting. “San Diego generates tourism dollars. Things happen because the community does them, and here’s a committee that works full time in that park doing things the city doesn’t do … As part of the city government, [and] if you’re really for the community, then you need to say things as they are, and departments within the city need to see the contributions this park makes.”
District 8 Councilman Ralph Inzunza did not respond to inquiries made about the issue.
CPSC Chairwoman Tommy Camarillo requests that community members contribute to the Chicano Park Day Celebration through their presence and by writing letters of support to Deputy City Manager Bruce Herring, (202 “C” Street, San Diego CA. 92101), or to Special Events Director Carolyn Wormser, (The World Trade Center, 1250 Sixth Avenue, Seventh Floor, San Diego CA 92101).