Dwayne Crenshaw figures he has one year to prove to San Diego 4th District voters that he can deliver.
He’s tailored his campaign for the March 26 special election to finish former Councilman Tony Young’s term to that timeline. If he wins, he knows he must run for re-election in 2014.
Crenshaw plans to accomplish his major campaign promises within a year. He says he will:
• Create more than 100 youth jobs by installing solar panels and artificial grass at homes in the district using federal, city and private money;
• Double the number of minority and women contractors on city projects, and quintuple the use of minority and women contractors on district projects;
• Establish a guaranteed-admission program to San Diego State University for district high schools, similar to one for South Bay schools, and raise $250,000 for a new nonprofit district education fund;
• Expand gun-buyback programs in the district using money law enforcement collects from asset forfeitures; and
• Install a mile of new sidewalks and spend $1 million on new street lights.
Crenshaw’s specificity distinguishes him from his opponents. Everyone who’s running for the seat, he said, broadly agrees on the district’s longstanding economic development, education and public safety problems. But he said voters are tired of vague proposals.
“If I don’t do it,” Crenshaw said, “I want to be held accountable.”
Crenshaw has worked for major institutions in the district, including the nonprofit Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation and the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils, an umbrella group of community organizations. His tenure with the coalition is a significant source of controversy. Most recently, Crenshaw has worked as executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride.
This is Crenshaw’s third run for the seat. He lost in a runoff to Charles Lewis in 2002 and in the primary to Young in 2004. We spoke last week about his plans.
On Healthy, Affordable Groceries and Locally Owned Restaurants
Crenshaw said he knows the difficulties in bringing healthy grocers to the district. He worked at the Jacobs Center when Food 4 Less came to Market Creek Plaza. Major supermarkets aren’t clamoring to come to southeastern neighborhoods.
He wants to work with the district’s existing markets to provide more nutritious and fresh options. He envisions turning existing warehouse space in the district into cold storage with refrigeration. It could provide local stores with a produce center.
“Why don’t you, Foodland, Wrigley’s, the corner store, become the neighborhood Trader Joe’s or Fresh & Easy?” Crenshaw said. “That’s going to be good for your business, that’s going to change your image, it’s going to change the community’s perception and we’d get the fresh foods and produce that we need.”
Crenshaw said he could find nonprofit funding for the plan.
On District 4’s Demographics
Demographics have shifted so that Hispanics and Asians outnumber the district’s black population, even though blacks have long held political power.
Crenshaw, who is black, pledged to have a diverse staff, including a Spanish speaker and probably also one who spoke Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines.
“I want to be a major player in driving the agenda down at City Hall,” he said. “We’re going to be in the community, no doubt, and we’re going to reflect the community, but we’re also going to be very policy-oriented.”
On the Influence of the Jacobs Center
Crenshaw, who worked as Jacobs’ director of government relations when the center was developing Market Creek Plaza, supports the foundation’s new development plans, which include a Walmart, Walgreens and affordable housing projects.
He said he’d help to speed up the project by pushing updates to the area’s development blueprints, known as community plans, improving infrastructure and advocating for citywide fixed permitting deadlines and fees.
More broadly, he said that any major development project in the district should include a formal agreement with the community on job creation, and job quality, meaning sufficient wages, benefits and workplace safety.
“Not extortion, not a hostage negotiation, but a reasonable conversation between myself and other community members and whoever wants to develop,” he said.
On Public Safety
Overall, District 4 has a lower crime rate than the rest of San Diego, but it has an outsized share of the city’s homicides.
Crenshaw wants to fully fund the Police Department’s proposal to boost resources by $66 million over the next five years, including by hiring 260 new cops and civilian positions. The plan also dedicates more officers to neighborhood-policing efforts.
He also wants to push an awareness campaign to change the community’s own perceptions about crime, including putting residents at ease with police officers.
“There are folks who know who perpetrated the crime, and we need to get folks to come forward and get comfortable with that,” he said.
Crenshaw’s Achilles’ Heel
Crenshaw had an acrimonious split from the Coalition of Neighborhood Councils, where he was executive director.
Confusion surrounding Crenshaw’s late 2009 termination led to temporary restraining orders against him, and he was detained by police on suspicion of trespassing at his former office. A group of residents had previously alleged improper relationships between him and young people involved in the coalition’s programs.
Crenshaw later sued the organization, contending he was fired because he is gay. The coalition and Crenshaw settled in 2010.
Crenshaw talks frequently about his coalition tenure, taking credit for growing its budget and implementing new programs, such as those for counseling troubled youth. All the allegations against him are false, he said.
“I would never run for this seat with the CNC record if I knew any of it was true,” he said.
We’ll examine Crenshaw’s time with the CNC in a separate post.
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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?
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