Candidates for the 79th Assembly District took part in an online debate hosted by Voice of San Diego.

The five candidates vying to replace Shirley Weber in the 79th Assembly District debated two issues Wednesday that have been priorities of Weber’s – education and police – in a forum hosted by VOSD.

VOSD’s Scott Lewis asked the candidates whether they’d welcome support from police unions. Virtually every member of the state Legislature, Weber included, has raked in thousands of dollars from police unions. The members of the Assembly’s special committee to address police misconduct, for example, all have received union support. But there’s been a stronger push locally and statewide over the last year to disavow such support. A group of California prosecutors has called on the State Bar to forbid elected prosecutors from accepting financial support from unions. San Diego County’s Democratic Party passed a resolution last year urging its candidates to reject union endorsements.

Author Miriam Powell, writing in the New York Times, summarized the logic behind the push: “The culture will not change until enough elected officials are unafraid to risk the wrath of police unions, until financial support from law enforcement becomes toxic rather than coveted, until ‘defund the politicians’ becomes as much a rallying cry as ‘defund the police.’”

The 79th District candidates were split on whether they’d welcome support for police unions.

Democrats Aeiramique Glass-Blake and Akilah Weber said they would reject support from police unions.

“I just would not take the support, and I’ve written multiple articles in the U-T and elsewhere of why we need to make sure that police unions stay out of politics. That is why we cannot get things done. And when we do get things done, they get watered down to get passed,” Glass-Blake said.

Weber said she’d work with police groups on reform measures and other issues that involved them, “but I would not take their endorsement, nor would I take their money.”

Marco Contreras, the sole Republican in the race, offered a full-throated defense of police and said they don’t get enough support.

“I don’t think our police officers get enough credit or support for what they do,” Contreras said. “I think we’ve always done a great job honoring our military. I think it’s time we honor our police officers. They’re great at what they do.”

Contreras asserted that San Diego police officers use force less often than officers in other big cities around the country. Weber pushed back.

“Any forceful interaction should not occur and anyone who dies unjustly should not happen. And so I’m not gonna sit here and tout, oh, San Diego is safer than other cities, because that’s what we want, but we also have room for improvement,” Weber said.

Shane Parmely, a Democrat, didn’t directly answer whether she would accept a law enforcement union endorsement or financial support, but said officers should have more in-depth training prior to being certified.

“The reality is there’s a large percentage of people right now who do not feel safe by calling the police for help. And that’s a problem – period – that needs to be addressed. And while we all might have our own positions and reasons for why that is, we need to focus on creating solutions that get us to a better place where we have less people being funneled into the criminal justice system,” she said.

Democrat Leticia Munguia, who herself works for a union, said she has met with a local police union and indicated she would accept their support.

“We need to reimagine how officers are trained to respond to calls and how calls actually get filtered to police departments and how they get dispatched,” she said. “Are we going to have crisis teams? Are we able going to be able to respond in a way that our Black and Brown communities are aware of engaging in a relationship with law enforcement that’s built on trust?”

So whose support and money are the candidates courting?

Weber has raked in tens of thousands of dollars, largely from two groups: state lawmakers, who’ve donated from their campaign accounts, and medical groups (Weber is a physician). In addition to a campaign account for the current special election, Weber opened a separate account for the 2022 Assembly race. That account received $4,900 from Shirley Weber’s secretary of state campaign fund.

Weber’s campaign touted in a release Friday that her $145,000 raised so far is about double what the next closest candidate, Contreras, has brought in.

Contreras has received many donations of $1,000 from individual business owners, many of them developers – including David Malcolm and Sudberry Properties.

Munguia has also been boosted by state and local politicians donating from their campaign accounts, including Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and County Supervisor Nora Vargas. San Diego Unified President Richard Barrera also donated to Munguia, as did many individual school employees and administrators.

Parmely has reported dozens of smaller contributions from local teachers. Glass-Blake reported only a handful of donations.

Faulconer Adds Former SDPD Chief to Ballot Measure Committee

Filings from late January show Kevin Faulconer has added former SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman as a principal officer for his ballot measure committee.

In addition to running for governor, Faulconer has also been operating the committee for more than a year. These obscure committees allow politicians to rake in far more cash than traditional campaign committees for office, and Faulconer’s has received tens of thousands of dollars in individual contributions from powerful developers across the state, way beyond what they could give to Faulconer as a candidate.

Faulconer hasn’t elaborated much on the potential 2022 ballot measure now that he’s focusing on schools, but in the past he’s said he wants to replicate his relative success fighting homelessness in San Diego statewide.

That makes Zimmerman an interesting addition to the effort.

Police were a major component of Faulconer’s approach to homelessness, one he embraced even after the city’s own consultants cautioned against such an approach. Under Faulconer, police ramped up enforcement of a law meant to address errant trash cans – only they used it on homeless San Diegans.

Audit Finds San Diego, Others Are Failing the Disabled and Their Caregivers

State and county-level programs providing in-home support to seniors and people with disabilities are currently failing to serve all who need care and to adequately prepare for an expected boom in need, according to a new state audit released Thursday.

The audit, which spotlights San Diego County’s In-Home Supportive Services program along with three others in the state and notes that San Diego caregivers are among those in the state making less than minimum wage, was requested last year by North County Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath and the San Diego United Domestic Workers’ union.

The audit found that while state law requires counties to ensure services are provided to all recipients of the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program each month, the number of recipients who lack care has grown substantially since 2015. While counties told auditors that extended hospitalizations and moves can be among the reasons that recipients wouldn’t receive services, the auditor flagged the risk associated with the lack of care: “These gaps in care can represent periods of increased risk of injury or other hardships for IHSS’s elderly and disabled beneficiaries.”

The audit found that the monthly average of San Diego area recipients who didn’t receive services grew from 1,811 to 2,194 in 2019 though a county official wrote in audit response that the county has worked to ensure new recipients quickly receive services, processing about 99 percent of applications within 90 days.

Also among the report’s findings was that the industry’s poor pay contributes to recruiting challenges that could grow as demand for in-home services grows in coming years. In San Diego County, auditors wrote, caregivers make $12.50 an hour – far short of the living wage of $24.62.

Boerner Horvath argued that the audit findings should push lawmakers to act.

“Counties are creating this care crisis by not adequately planning for or funding this program, and the state needs to hold them accountable while ensuring a funding structure that incentivizes a living wage for providers,” Boerner Horvath wrote in a statement. “It’s up to all of us — the state, the counties, and lawmakers like me — to fix this. We need to invest in IHSS and the workers who make it happen, so that every Californian who needs long-term care can receive it.”

The audit did commend San Diego County for being the only region that auditors reviewed that had set a plan with performance measures to try to keep up with expected growth in demand though they also concluded no county had adequately planned for future need and ensure those who need services now get them.

Lisa Halverstadt

Golden State News

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

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.