The next city attorney will have a huge impact on San Diego.

This election brings several key issues to the forefront – including sex trafficking, the need for more neighborhood-based attorneys and the critical investigative powers for review of police practices – but neither of the candidates in the city attorney race has made it clear where they stand.

We know that the FBI has identified San Diego as one of 13 cities with “high intensity child prostitution areas.” Sex trafficking is a staggering $810 million illicit enterprise in San Diego. We also know that a disproportionate number of these children forced into modern day sexual slavery are black and Latino, and that the cases often are masked as domestic violence calls.

Having a city attorney who is aware of these issues and commits to greater enforcement and training for police officers and deputy city attorneys will help ensure that San Diego becomes a safer place for young girls to thrive. The work requires a willingness to dedicate staff resources to collaborating with the district attorney, Health and Human Services, the Probation Department, the foster care system and a host of other public and private entities. Our next city attorney must take address issue head-on.

Also, the city’s deputy attorneys play a crucial role in keeping our communities safe. These neighborhood-based attorneys help hold accountable property owners who ignore laws and help protect the safety of regular San Diegans. They are also an important conduit to our community groups and neighborhood associations to understand how to protect our quality of life. Our next city attorney must fight for a bigger budget to pay for deputy attorneys so they can better help protect all San Diego neighborhoods. More resources should be directed to frequently neglected communities like Barrio Logan, Linda Vista, Emerald Hills and Encanto.

City attorney candidates need to go on the record about whether they support giving more powers and controls to the city’s Citizens Review Board, changes that would make the group charged with monitoring the San Diego Police Department more independent and effective. San Diego has better interactions and relationships between residents and the police than some other cities in this country, but we know that an important way to ensure that the relationship continues to improve is to maintain an independent body of San Diegans to review and evaluate the work these public servants do.

Our next city attorney must also maintain a balanced and nonpartisan relationship with the mayor and City Council. A strong relationship will ensure that projects requiring city attorney sign-off include legal counsel at very early stages so that time is not wasted waiting to discover legal hurdles at the last minute. Balancing the goals of the mayor and Council with a fair approach to legal authority will protect the city’s resources from losses in litigation that delay important improvements and hold communities back.

Our next city attorney must go beyond platitudes and slogans. Both candidates must make their views public so they can be held accountable. San Diegans need to know where they stand on these key issues before we all are asked to make such an important choice.

Taisha Brown is president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club. Brown’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.


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