Illustration by Adriana Heldiz
Illustration by Adriana Heldiz

Aaron Harvey had never voted in his life. He’s also fairly certain his dad hadn’t voted most of his life either.  

That is until the San Diego district attorney used an obscure penal code in 2014 to jail Harvey. Harvey and 33 other men in his community found themselves facing conspiracy charges over several gang-related shootings.  

Harvey fought the charges and the became a well-known activist in his community along the way. He recently just graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in political science. 

Harvey eventually realized what gave the DA the ability to charge him was language tucked into a ballot measure that voters statewide overwhelmingly passed in 2000, Proposition 21. And he realized that his dad and many in his community who continue to deal with the negative impact of this ballot measure didn’t even cast their vote in a decision that changed all their lives.  

Now, it’s part of Harvey’s mission to ensure his community is educated and engaged in local and state politics.  

There was also a moment in former City Councilman David Alvarez’s life that made him realize how important it was to be engaged in local government. When Alvarez was a teenager, he participated in a science summer school program through UC San Diego.  

It was then, when Alvarez was interacting with kids who weren’t from the Logan neighborhoods where he grew up, that he realized just how neglected his community had been. Specifically, it was when they ended up in Barrio Logan on a field trip, talking about all the pollution there, and another kid asked why anyone would want to live there. 

From then on, Alvarez became activated in his community, organizing things like community cleanups, neighborhood block parties and more. Eventually, that path led him to become a part of local government – as a member of the City Council.   

In the first episode of VOSD’s San Diego 101 Podcast, hosts Adriana Heldiz and Maya Srikrishnan talk to Harvey and Alvarez about those moments that galvanized them into getting engaged in local government, the obstacles their communities face in getting involved and the first steps you can take to take involved in local government – something that, whether you know it or not, shapes your everyday life. 

The San Diego 101 Podcast is the next product in our San Diego 101 series, which aims to explain the ins and outs of local government, so you can get involved. Stay tuned for the next episode being released in two weeks, where we’ll be explaining how law enforcement in San Diego County works.  

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Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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