By Raymond R. Beltran
Affordable housing. Community forums. People’s representation. Health care funding. Police accountability. And gender balance? That’s a long, equality-driven grocery list for any city council in San Diego County (i.e. million dollar condos, $20-dollar-at-the-door night clubs, casinos, and baseball!). But as Orwellian as officials may try to deny that it is here in “America’s Finest City,” some aren’t as equal as others.
Take, for example, ... National City, where a predominately male City Council will hold barren meetings every first and third Tuesday of the month and decide on issues from what to do with that Red Lion on National City Boulevard that nobody ever visits to how to gloss over syndicate yet habitual relationships, like the ones shared between the Border Patrol and the Police Department.
That list might seem a bit ... utopian. Yet, these are the cards being dealt to the November 2 ballot by National City Council candidate Judy de los Santos, who is currently beefing up on her campaign to replace one of the seats of two incumbents who are up for re-election this year, Councilmen Ron Morrison and Fideles Ungab.
Not riding in on a campaign driven by business-savvy, deal-swinging rhetoric, De los Santos is an Administrative Assistant at UCSD’s Conflict of Interest department and a mother of two.
As a long time National City resident and activist in community politics for a number of years, she has been appointed to the Community Police Relations Commission, a commission that was almost forgotten a year after its landslide victory at the polls as Proposition L and one that De los Santos outspokenly advocated for during a string of Tuesday night city council meetings.
Her platform goes under the title “Democracy For All,” and her agenda is listed as such:
1. Police must be accountable to the residents they serve
2. More affordable housing
3. Redevelopment must benefit the residents of National City
4. Quality and culturally relevant education for students
5. Consideration for local companies first when bidding for construction projects
6. Community health education and insurance availability
7. Youth employment programs
8. Collaboration with environmental health organizations
9. Better quality of life for senior citizens
10. Support for local arts and cultural programs
Since her family’s migration from the Phillippines to the U.S. at a young age, De los Santos has a strong sense of what it means to be a part of a diverse community. Her experiences as a working class woman with a Mexican father and Filipino mother have molded her social ideals, which led to her involvement with such organizations like the Association of Raza Educators, Comite de Mujeres Patricia Marin, and The Raza Rights Coalition.
Beside her community-focused agenda, speaking out against the proposed $12 million public safety bond has put her under the spotlight compared to her eight fellow candidates who support the measure.
The bond, which will require two-thirds of National City voters’ approval in November, will tax the community to pay for police stations in El Toyon Park, Plaza Bonita Shopping Mall, and the already police-saturated Highland Avenue.
De los Santos says she is not opposed to public safety. As a resident that’s kept abreast of local issues, she knows there are too many unanswered questions and police related controversies that seem to be slipping out of sight, the questions behind the police shooting of 19-year-old Southwestern College student Emmanuel Sotelo, the relationships between police and border patrol agents in the JC Penny Incident, where two shoppers were falsely accused of stealing and were ultimately deported, and lastly, the question of subpoena powers for the Community Police Relations Commission which currently seems to be in hiatus.
“Those are things that instill fear in the residents,” says De los Santos. “How are they to function on a day to day when there are incidents in their minds that make them weary about being part of the community, in general?”
In a speech prepared for a town hall meeting early this month, De los Santos stated, “When the trust deposited on public servants, in particular law enforcement is violated, to speak of public safety under this characteristic is a misnomer, such is the reality of National City.”
Alongside the bond, there is also the term limits for the mayor and council members, which will also appear on the ballot in November. Two terms, eight years, is the proposed term limit for the mayor, an aspect of Mayor Nick Inzunza’s “good government initiative” that De los Santos agrees with in order to avoid the “perpetuation” of anyone’s mayoral position.
“Having the same mayor for twelve to seven years doesn’t seem democratic. That space should be opened up to the community,”she says, and for a city which is but a few hundred people shy of having a 50% population of women, she says there is a serious matter of under representation of working mothers like herself in local government.
In 2000, National City’s average annual household income was $29,826, while the majority of “family households” lived five members to a home. As a mother, De los Santos says she knows that it’s the woman of the home that usually acts as the glue that keeps the family together and who deals with the household expenditures and the children’s education.
“The fact that I have two kids in school here, I can relate to the issue that residents are going through,” she says. “I can bring these experiences to the council so that people know they don’t have to go through them alone.”
Judy de los Santos is being endorsed by Morgan Towers Council President Vida Pacheco, Jimmy and Gloria Valerio of Valerio’s Bakery and Restaurant, The Raza Rights Coalition, and Filipino Press Co-Publisher and Marketing Director Susan de los Santos amongst others. There will be a campaign fund raiser this Sunday, Sept 26, at Manila Tokyo (3421 E. Plaza Blvd, National City). The $25 donation will cover karaoke, a buffet, and entertainment.