A statue of Pete Wilson has been returned to downtown San Diego after it was removed in October 2020. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Less than two months after it was removed, a statue of former Gov. Pete Wilson has been returned to its spot outside Horton Plaza.

Activists had demanded the removal of the statue, and cheered the decision to take it down in mid-October. But Stephen B. Williams, the president of Horton Walk, a nonprofit that owns the statue, told VOSD at the time that the statue had been removed for its own protection, not as an acquiescence to the activists’ demands.

Williams reiterated in a statement to VOSD Wednesday that the statue “is a symbol of all that is great about San Diego and its unlimited future.” Williams praised Wilson’s record of attracting reinvestment to downtown during his tenure as San Diego’s mayor.

But activists for racial justice and equality say other points in Wilson’s resume make him unworthy of a public tribute.

Wilson’s signature accomplishment was Proposition 187, a measure that would have vastly curtailed the inclusion of unauthorized immigrants in California life, barred them from schools and other social benefits. It’s widely seen as the beginning of the demise of the California Republican Party and its ability to connect with Latino voters. Last year, as the measure, which was ultimately struck down as unconstitutional, celebrated its 25th anniversary, San Diego Latino lawmakers including Sen. Ben Hueso and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez criticized Wilson’s attacks on immigrants and thanked him for ushering in a new generation of Latinos into politics. Both houses of California’s state Legislature now hold Democratic supermajorities.

In November, voters rejected an effort to undo another piece of Wilson’s legacy. Prop. 16 would have reinstated affirmative action in California. Wilson was the main proponent of Prop. 209, passed in 1996, which banned the consideration of race, gender and ethnicity in college admissions, government hiring and contracting.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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