By Anna Daniels
“Our budget is about three billion dollars. Billion. To have a few hundred thousand for our students does not seem unreasonable, right?…It’s not the budgetary amount, it’s the will to make sure that we invest in our children.” Mayor Bob Filner, meeting with Councilwoman Marti Emerald and City Heights residents.
Adults have historically established the parameters and content of public policies as they relate to children. The results in recent years have been ghastly as local and state governments have been starved of revenues by virtue of the economy. Conservatives are using the spending cuts necessitated by a weak economy to advance their ideology of small government, hoping to impose a permanent state of austerity on governmental entities.
One in five kids in this country lives in poverty. The ticket out of poverty has been access to quality education and the availability of jobs that provide economic security. Neither of these conditions are currently being met. The kids living in poverty now may very well spend their whole lives in poverty.
There has been an astounding sea change in City Heights as youth themselves have taken an informed and powerful lead in shaping public policy that affects their lives and their families. Mid-City CAN has been pivotal in mentoring and providing a platform for that leadership.
They are City Heights’ think tank and we should be listening to what they have to say about the need for recreational outlets (skate parks), extended library hours and ending inner city violence. They are currently advocating for free mid-city bus passes for youth attending Hoover, Crawford, Lincoln and San Diego High School.
When the San Diego Unified School District decided to scale down school bus services and impose a different more onerous fee schedule, the mid-city communities were disproportionately affected. Parents have had difficulty absorbing the annual costs of over $400 per child for continued use of the school buses or for transit costs on public buses.
Mid-City CAN and City Heights residents made this a high-profile issue. They have appeared before the San Diego school board and utilized the mayoral and District 9 campaigns to elicit a commitment for the subsidized bus passes. They have kept the issue at the forefront since the elections. In the video below City heights youth explain in their own words the importance of these bus passes.
Mayor Filner’s budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes the City’s $200,000 in matching funds for the school board’s allocation for the bus passes. The city council must approve the mayor’s budget and the advocacy for this line items continues.
These kids are too young to vote. It is up to us, adult voters, to assure that their advocacy work becomes policy.
Please send an email to Mayor Filner (BobFilner@sandiego.gov) and your council person (firstname.lastname@example.org) in support of the bus passes. Take the extra step to email every council person–they will all vote on this issue. In the subject line of the email write: Yes on Free Mid-City Student Bus Passes. In the body of the email simply provide your name and address. It is that easy!
There will also be an evening City Council budget hearing on Wednesday May 22 from 6-9 pm in the 12th floor council chambers at City Hall, 202 “C” Street. The city council will hear public testimony on this and other budget issues.
City Heights is a “young” community compared to city-wide demographics. The median age here is in the mid-twenties, seven years younger than the median age for the whole city. Families are also larger and significantly poorer. The average household income in City Heights is $33,857 compared to $59,901 city-wide.
City Heights shares similar demographics with many other communities south of Rte 8 and demographically speaking, we are the future of this city and of this country. Mayor Filner’s question “Do we have the will to invest in our children?” is a particularly urgent one. We have an opportunity and responsibility to say “yes.”
Post Script: Mid-City youth realize that an essential part of their advocacy efforts is media coverage of the issues. Our SDFP inbox was inundated this past weekend by emails urging us to provide that coverage. I want to assure Daniel O, Danielle L, A Rose, Naomi R, Rocio C, Yvette H, Christina G, Cory B, Ivonne M and Amanda A that we are indeed listening. And good work!