Photo by Sam Hodgson
A view of Market Creek Plaza and the Coronado Bridge from 56th Street near Mchugh Street in southeastern San Diego.
We’ve profiled four of the candidates running in the special election for San Diego’s Fourth District council seat. We wanted to give the other candidates running a forum to present their views as well.
Monica Montgomery, Sandy Spackman and Tony Villafranca accepted our invitation to answer emailed questions that came from our time in the district learning about issues important to residents. Their answers are below, and have been lightly edited for spelling and style.
Much of the district is a food desert, meaning there’s little access to healthy, affordable food. How would you help bring better food options to the district and help sustain locally owned restaurants?
Montgomery: I would work with existing grocers and restaurants through the Diamond Business Improvement District as the vehicle to implement a better use of nutritious and fresh foods in our district. Strengthening the BID overall, per our platform, helps sustain locally owned restaurants as well. I would also promote collaboration with our health clinics and centers to frame the issue as a matter of health as well as good business. In addition, I advocate responsible redevelopment for future businesses that want to build and invest in the district; meaning drafting terms and conditions with these businesses that help to achieve the goal to provide 4th District residents with healthier food options.
Spackman: Many of our more affluent residents are going outside the district for their dining needs, and we need to have a campaign to encourage residents to shop and dine locally. I welcome courting other restaurants to come to the district, but we need to support the restaurants that we currently have. The Southeastern Diamond Business District is working on a “Shop Diamond” campaign to do just that.
We also need to increase family incomes so families can afford to eat out more. I am committed to improving education and providing job-training programs so that our residents qualify for higher-paying jobs, and to improve the local economy so that our residents are fully employed.
Villafranca: I would help bring better food options to the 4th District by promoting healthier living restaurants to various business improvement districts in hopes to bring the awareness of alternative choices can make a difference just by choosing to grab a dried fruit snack rather than a doughnut. This can be also a community challenge done by giving local businesses an opportunity to add a larger selection of choices in an already saturated area of comfort food shopping in the 4th District. Additionally, I would allow discounted permits to be granted for more farmers markets to more easily set up in the 4th District’s open space areas.
Montgomery: The demographics of the district are changing along the same patterns as the state and our country’s demographics. Our current president, for example, has changed politics to focus on leadership, qualifications and unity; which is the same type of leadership needed for the district and that I will provide. I have continually stressed new politics building new coalitions for a demographically diverse district, and this is reflected in the diversity of my volunteer staff. I have been able to relate to the residents regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender or even age. I want to bring that style of leadership to the council office.
Spackman: We are the most ethnically diverse district in San Diego. To be successful, I will outreach to and include all of these communities. My personal goal is to encourage everyone in our community to register to vote, become involved in the political process and be actively engaged in the community. I will also include highly qualified people from different ethnic groups on my staff. Together we can solve the challenges facing our district.
Villafranca: The 4th District is the most diverse combination of communities of all of San Diego. I encourage the multicultural projects that both validate the richness of traditions of the Philippine Americans, Latinos, African Americans, Muslim, Buddhists, just to name a few that are already in place. In my aspiration in becoming the 4th District council member, I am committed in doing the outreach in bridging the gap/bringing together the 4th District’s changing demographics and building coalitions of the melting pot of the 4th District’s residents and multi-faith organizations.
Do you support the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation’s large development plans? If yes, how would you help them come to fruition? If no, why not?
Montgomery: I support collaborative public-private partnerships, the integral theme of my platform. Once again, the platform calls for responsible redevelopment upon terms and conditions that account for economic viability, fiscal sustainability, community investment, market share, environmental impact and numerous other factors, given the specific proposed project.
Spackman: I have served on Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation committees for over two years and strongly support their development plans. As a result of their efforts, a new medical clinic, Walmart, Walgreens and other businesses will soon come to the 4th District. The committee members consisted of residents in the district as well as other stakeholders. It would be a mistake to second-guess the hard work and deliberation of the committee. We need to proceed with this plan so that the residents can immediately reap the benefits of these businesses being in our district.
I will support these businesses by helping them obtain permits, overcome any regulatory hurdles and by discouraging any effort by special interest groups to stop them from coming.
Villafranca: Yes, I support all of the large development plans of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhoods Innovation; as my chief consultant, Patrick J. Ambrosio, is very active on several of their ongoing projects that I promise to support and promote.
In District 4, there are two competing issues about public safety. On the one hand, the district has a lower crime rate than the rest of the city. On the other, the district has an outsize number of the city’s murders. How would you simultaneously combat the perception that the district is crime-ridden while dealing with the serious homicide issues?
Montgomery: We have adopted the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships plan as our approach to public safety that doesn’t require a significant increase funding. Implementing this plan, if executed properly, will not only reduce crime such as homicides but improve our community relations with our law enforcement agencies.
Spackman: I don’t see these as separate issues. The murder rate is largely due to gang activity, and the activities of gangs are illegal even if they don’t show up on a crime report.
The best way to change this is to eliminate gangs. When people drive through our communities they need to see clean neighborhoods that are free of graffiti. I have personally been involved in improving our neighborhoods by organizing neighborhood cleanup and graffiti removal activities.
If elected, I will work aggressively to tackle our gang problem by bringing together every possible resource, including churches, schools, non-profit organizations, businesses, police, city government and residents. I will provide youth with wholesome year-round programs to prevent them from getting involved in gangs, provide work and service opportunities and provide good role models. The police alone cannot solve this problem. We need to come together as a community to fight this problem.
Villafranca: It is my hope to work closely with San Diego Police Chief William M. Lansdowne in addressing better ways to applaud and celebrate the 4th District’s lower crime rate due to an increased police visibility and trust in the patrols that protect our neighborhoods. In combating the perception of the serious homicide/bad-side-of-town perception, there needs to be grassroots efforts that debunk the negativity in the minds of people and children today. As more visitors notice the resources that 4th District has to offer, the more investors and tourists will want to take time to enjoy family outings like walking around Chollas Lake or riding bikes next to the Chollas Creek.
Montgomery: Monica Montgomery is a 25-year resident of the 4th District, and a practicing attorney in San Diego County. For years, she has been active in various community organizations, including the San Diego Youth Action Board and the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils. Her website: www.monicamontgomery4thdistrict.com.
Spackman: Sandy Spackman is currently president of the Lao American Coalition and a board member of Parents for Quality Education. She has also served on committees for the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and Southeastern Diamond Business District. Her website: sandyspackman.org.
Villafranca: Tony Villafranca sees himself as a highly motivated, analytical, self-managing real estate professional with over 18 years’ experience in the field. An articulate, multi-tasking individual, committed to making San Diego “America’s Finest City.” His website: votefortonydistrict4.com.
Two other candidates are running for District 4: Blanca Lopez Brown, a Lemon Grove school board member and Ray Smith, a pastor at United Missionary Baptist Church. They did not respond to our emailed questions.
Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next?
Please contact him directly at email@example.com or 619.550.5663.
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