By Barbara Zaragoza
Ask an Imperial Beach resident, such as Jessica Hogan—small business owner of the Wave Café on Seacoast Drive—what she thinks about Serge Dedina and she’ll give you the optimism that comes with new promises and visions: “I love our new mayor. I have high hopes for our new mayor.”
Serge Dedina took office on December 10th after he won the election by 43 votes. He gave his first State of the City Address on Monday, February 9th to a packed audience at the Boys & Girls Club. Members of the Fire Department, the Women’s Club and even Chula Vista Mayor, Mary Salas, attended.
San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox gave the opening remarks and accurately described what’s so different about Dedina. “I think we can all agree that Serge is not your typical mayor. He’s a conservationist as the executive director and co-founder of Wildcoast. He was a fierce protector of natural resources who fought to build a new sewage treatment plant along the border and joined with me and a lot of others in efforts to protect our beach water team programs throughout the county. He’s also something that I think is unique among mayors in San Diego County. He’s an author. He actually can read and write.”
Born and raised in Imperial Beach, Serge first came to the Boys & Girls Club as a skinny long-haired 7-year-old. He has been an avid surfer for most of his life, but for his speech, he shed the stereotypical flip-flops and wore a well-pressed dark suit and tie. Stepping up to his role as politician, he promised to implement his platform that has struck a cord with many: community engagement.
During his speech Serge said, “We have to be big, small and equitable, so that we do the big things that move IB forward, and the little things that make a big difference for our neighborhoods. We have to make sure that we equitably invest in neighborhoods throughout our city. That means we need to invest from Seacoast Drive to 15th Street, from Ream Field to the Bay Front to make sure we don’t forget a single street, a single family, a single neighborhood and that we build up the city altogether as one.”
Dedina said he would move ahead with civic engagement by proposing:
- Term limits for the office of IB mayor, so that more residents could step up to the leadership role, rather than one mayor serving long terms.
- A more collaborative, participatory and transparent recruitment and selection of residents for advisory boards.
- The creation of several new advisory boards, including a planning commission, a cultural arts commission, and a youth commission.
- The paving of alleys and roads in the most underserved neighborhoods.
- Identification of places for new neighborhood parks on the East side of town.
- A one-year moratorium on permit fees for simple home improvements, such as replacing windows, roofs, and repainting.
His platform of inclusive local government leaves no resident behind. The question now becomes: will IB community members step up and embrace their involvement in government?
More importantly for this week’s posts on racism, can community engagement solve many of the problems of racism and socio-economic discrimination?
Will people scraping by in lower income communities want to join volunteer commissions and civically engage? If no, what might be their reasons for staying away from politics?