Over 200 vacant positions. Zero Latinos on the “Citizen’s Review Board On Police Practices”
By Barbara Zaragoza
On Thursday, January 21st the Center on Policy Initiatives (CPI) held a Boards and Commissions Launch Event at MAAC’s Chula Vista Community Room in hopes of encouraging more citizens to actively participate in their local government.
Clare Crawford, President and Executive Director of CPI, opened the event saying, “A few years back we began to do some research into leadership in the county. A couple of things that we found were, number one: the demographics of the county had obviously changed dramatically over the last several decades. But the demographics of our elected leadership and our appointed leadership had not changed to match the folks that were living here. That’s a problem. The other thing we found was that there wasn’t a real intentional pipeline that was bringing community advocates from all parts of the county into leadership roles.”
Crawford explained that the county has over a thousand appointed board and commission positions. However, when CPI did the study in 2013, they found over two hundred of those positions vacant.
The CPI event included a panel discussion with two current commissioners and Council member David Alvarez. When asked about the importance of boards and commissions, Alvarez said he wanted to address the most controversial board that few politicians were willing to touch: the Citizen’s Review Board On Police Practices in the City of San Diego.
He said, “If you live in a community like the one I represent, where people of color are pulled over (because we have the data and we know) at a higher rate than people who are not people of color, having a Citizen’s Review Board that is reflective of the community, that understands the diversity and the points of view, and the language differences, and economic differences and cultural differences of where people come from. That’s why we need a commission in this case that is reflective of the community and, today as we speak, as we sit here, that particular commission is absolutely not reflective of the community. In a city where a third of residents are Latino, we do not have one Latino sitting on that board of over twenty-five individuals.”
Panelist Marcus Bush, Chair of the National City Planning Commission, said, “Power grows when it’s shared and that’s what these commissions are. We definitely need power with the elected officials, but we also need to have power come from citizen groups who can, to a certain extent, be independent and don’t have to necessarily raise campaign funds.”
The lack of diversity among city commissioners has sent CPI into action. They have selected fifteen fellows for their new Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI). Trinh Le, Leadership Development Coordinator, explained, “It’s a six-month program from January to June where the fellows will attend trainings once a month on Saturdays.”
Fellows will receive knowledge-based training on six issues: economic justice, environmental justice, land-use & planning, transportation justice, affordable housing and immigrant rights. They will also have the opportunity to build skill sets in the areas of parliamentary procedure, Brown Act ethics and how to read a budget.
The fifteen fellows include ten Latinos, four Asian-Americans and one African-American. Nine of out the fifteen fellows are women, an especially important fact since CPI noted the lack of female representation within currently appointed Board and Commission positions. CPI hopes to work with city employees and elected officials so that upon graduation, one-hundred percent of the fellows will achieve placement.