SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Let's talk about LEAD--as in LEAD, San Diego Inc. What's it stand for? Leadership, Education, Awareness, Development. With that in mind, listen in to the seminar held Thursday in a drafty courtroom of the California Western Law School:
San Diego Chargers tight end Kellen Winslow is there, representing the crime victims' fund. Superior Court Judge James Malkus is there, sporting a mustache and holding court with characteristic aplomb. Alex Landon is there, representing The Defense (not the Charger kind, the legal kind). Melinda Lasater is there--chief of the Juvenile Court division of the district attorney's office. Rounding out the panel are U.S. Atty. Peter Nunez and Chris Ball, a San Diego police officer working a beat in Logan Heights.
Winslow pleads for stricter laws involving drug and sex offenders. Ball says that in five tough years he has learned what he's not permitted to do, that criminals arrested in the morning often show up on the street later that night.
Nunez says the courts are hopelessly overcrowded, that "justice delayed is justice denied." Malkus says child abuse, like the case of a Los Angeles day care center, occurs in similar centers here.
Landon warns that some reprimands are extremely harsh, that even so, some offenders no longer fret over threat of a lengthy sentence. Lasater says the Hillcrest Receiving Home has 10 beds to take care of all of the county's child abuse victims.
The dialogue crackles; disagreements abound. Soon the questions start popping, from one panelist to another and from the audience as well. The panel seems to say: The System is thoroughly screwed up. The audience wants to know why, and--can anything be done?
Maybe nothing, they are told.
But the questions asked and thoughts expressed made for a freewheeling day--one of nine such seminars held each year, sponsored by LEAD. The presenters are leaders of community groups. Those in the audience--those of LEAD--are in most cases, leaders themselves. Others fall into the category: Hopefuls. LEAD seminars are their way of getting educated, of "networking," of building a base as movers and shakers.
LEAD began in 1981 as the brainchild of community leaders who saw a need for developing and educating the best and the brightest of the city's young talent. Young in some cases might be a misnomer. In this year's harvest of 60 students--the yearly limit--LEAD has one 75-year-old. (Its youngest is 22.)
Its members include Norm Stamper, deputy chief of the San Diego Police Department; Kenneth Stahl, manager of personnel for Solar Turbines Inc.; Doug Sawyer, senior vice president of Great American First Savings Bank; Charlotte Hayes, director of counseling for San Diego State University; and Jo Abbey Briggs, director of Golden Door Cosmetics.
If that sounds "too Establishment," as some say it does, other members are Irma Castro, executive director of the Chicano Federation of San Diego County; Barbara Fielding, director of child development for Head Start; and Carol Rogoff Hallstrom, director of the Neighborhood Dispute Resolution Program of the San Diego Law Center.
LEAD alumni include Charlie Hahn, now the president of the San Diego Mental Health Assn.; Philip Blair, president of the Horton Plaza Theatre Foundation; and Jerome Groomes, a board member of the Neighborhood House Assn., a multipurpose social services agency in Southeast San Diego. The board of directors and advisory board include such names as San Diego Police Chief Bill Kolender, developer Ernest Hahn and Kim Fletcher, chairman of Home Federal Savings and Loan.
Members of LEAD have in common a $750-a-year tuition cost, which pays a third of the operating budget. The other two-thirds come from intense fund-raising efforts. LEAD is linked with 200 similar groups nationwide. At 25, Philadelphia's is the oldest.
Phil Klauber, co-founder and past president of LEAD, insists, however, that San Diego's isn't "an old boys' club," unlike legions of similar groups back East.
In some eyes, LEAD carries an establishment look.
The current group numbers, among others, 29 men, 31 women; 16 are business people, five are attorneys and three are educators. Fourteen live in North County, four in South County, three in East County. Some suggest privately that LEAD is too heavily slanted toward pro-development forces (hence the large North County contingent). Others say it's hardly representative of minorities. (This year's group has four Latinos, four blacks and one Asian.)
Maggie Potter, the bright young executive director, who came with a background of seven years in United Way, said the purpose of the group is not necessarily egalitarian.