Challenger George Stevens, 59, is associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church and a public relations consultant. He was an aide to former Rep. Jim Bates. He is a graduate of San Diego State University and lives in the Emerald Hills area of Encanto.
During the past year, I have walked door to door and talked to many residents of District 4. Knowing they have few forums to express their concerns on council policy and practices, I try to listen very carefully. Over and over again, the same issues top their lists of district problems: crime, drugs, youth violence and their children's education.
It is my heartfelt belief that San Diego is suffering under a tremendous burden presented by these problems so aptly identified by residents.
Although the suffering in the 4th and 8th districts is more pronounced because of their pockets of poverty, these problems undermine the entire economic and social structure of our city.
We all, as citizens, pay the bill for children having children, juvenile incarceration, crack babies, drug rehabilitation and increased needs for police protection. The dismal dropout rate for all students in the San Diego Unified School District is 27%. For African-Americans and Hispanics, the rates are 31% and 41%, respectively.
Without an adequate education stressing morality and ethics, our young people's life chances are limited to illicit activities. These realities face all our children, impeding their chances of becoming self-sufficient.
Some say education is not the bailiwick of City Council members. They say educational issues should be reserved for professionals. I couldn't disagree more.
Residents, teachers, parents, administrators, the children themselves and especially your elected officials have a responsibility for the education of our children. This is why I spoke so strongly against the proposed "no F" policy for San Diego City Schools.
This misdirected policy was quickly rescinded precisely because so many individuals and groups, both in and out of education, vigorously opposed it. This is why I constantly speak with parents and educators on the importance of keeping our kids in school. This is why I support a "choice" system in our schools so parents can choose to send their children to a school that will actually teach them.
We should begin to operate the city of San Diego as a successful business is run. Because of limited public funds, the council must set priorities citywide. If citizens insist their need for adequate police protection is a top priority, then we should adjust our budget accordingly.
As councilman, I will not "go along to get along." I will work with my colleagues to do what is necessary to turn our neighborhoods around. I will personally stand together with residents, confront gang members and close down drug houses. As president of my neighborhood council in Emerald Hills, I have already done this, and crime dropped 66%.
Today our communities are facing a crisis. We need a leader with courage, integrity and vision who will tirelessly work to overcome this citywide problem.
I have applied for the job.