…Has More Than Him Smiling
By Ernie McCray
It was like walking in on a “Who’s Got the Sunniest Smile” Contest as the room in this “David Alvarez for Mayor” gathering, was full of them. I joined right in with my ages old grin.
My smile shone brightly because David is an answer to a dream of what a San Diego mayor should be like that I first conceived when I moved to town in late August of ’62. I was barely a few months over 24 years old, ready to change the world for the betterment of all humankind. For most of the years since then, my dream of a mayor like David has seemed just like that: a dream.
I mean when I showed up on the local scene I thought I had escaped the small-minded non-progressive kind of thinking I had been subjected to growing up in Tucson. That notion changed when I turned my TV on and saw two men, Frank Curran who would later become mayor and Allen Hitch who wanted so much to be the mayor.
They were engaged in a typical San Diego political conversation, going on and on about where the airport might be located with an occasional comment about the zoo as though it was famous because of the two of them and they spoke of how they would make sure that the building of the new Civic Center was done timely and under budget in the next year or two. I couldn’t help but think “Lord, what have I gotten into?” as these guys didn’t even allude to the kinds of thoughts that were on my mind at the time.
I moved to California to eventually get to San Francisco and when I finally got that chance around 1967 I decided not to go because I wanted to help San Diego become just as people oriented politically and socially as the Bay Area which it was a far cry from being. For example, on the television show I just mentioned there was no evidence of the two candidates ever having a concept like “betterment of all humankind” cross their minds. Neither of them uttered a word about the people issues of the times: the “Don’t Save Where U Can’t Work” and “Jobs, Houses and Human Dignity” attitudes that were brewing in reference to the Bank of America’s discriminatory practices; the popular power-lunch spot in town, the Grant’s Grill, where women weren’t welcome at certain hours of the day; the homeless who made the doorways and alley ways of downtown their home. It was as though such conditions didn’t exist, as though San Diego was only about economic development and the like. And that’s the way it’s been for years.
So I stayed in town to do my bit: in the schools, on the street, on stage, in print, in 60 second comments on TV. And I can’t help but smile today at what my city has come to be. A city that, and I can feel it deep in my bones, is about to be run by somebody like me, a “minority.”
David Alvarez. This brilliant young Latino has shown us, in a very short while, a leadership style that’s carried out intelligently with dignity and with a love for all our citizenry. He’ll help us fulfill the essence of my longtime dream: the creation of a city where everyone can dare to dream.
I’ve been smiling since the last election which opened us up to a new day in San Diego, a day that finds us developing into a truly human oriented city where more voices are being heard, where diversity is being nurtured like at no time before, where the business community can learn gradually that their “people” role should be one where they help us become the best that we can be. All of us.
And does David ever have what it takes to lead us to this kind of hopeful and inspirational social prosperity.
He’s seen poverty up close and personal, growing up in a barrio where his health was burdened by toxic air so he’ll have deep empathy for those who still live in close proximity to poisons and address their problems with care so that all our children can be raised in a healthy environment. He will help us find ways to resolve the kinds of conflicts that rise around issues of environmental justice.
Having worked closely and admirably with those in our city who live rather comfortably economically, who could better help us walk and adjust that line between the haves and have-nots in these rough times? We need someone who understands the needs of those on both ends of the income spectrum. David grasps the large picture.
I like that he’s taught. And I’ve heard he’s good at it. So from experience I know that you can’t be a good teacher without being a good listener and a learner yourself, someone who easily senses changing needs as learning environments change constantly. And, at this stage in our city’s history, a lot of what our city faces will require new learning on the parts of everyone, citizens and our representatives alike. We’ve got a leader who will be a natural in facilitating the fleshing out of the individual and collective dreams we will employ as we develop a forward thinking community. We know him as David Alvarez, City Councilman, District 8, right now.
But we’ll all be better off if in February we know him as Mayor David Alvarez.
How sweet the sound. Makes me smile.