By Martha Sullivan / San Diego Housing Emergency Alliance
Longtime mayoral fixer, Kris Michell, returns to San Diego City Hall this week as Deputy Chief Operating Officer. She seems to be Mayor Faulconer’s “Jared,” with a wide-ranging portfolio:
“Michell was announced Sept. 28 as a top city adviser on homelessness, special events, corporate sponsorships, the commission on arts and culture and the city’s redevelopment arm, Civic San Diego.”
Michell returns to City Hall after several years doing much of the same as the head of the Downtown Partnership — the Business Improvement District for downtown. This city-sanctioned partly-funded entity has been a primary tool for persecuting unsheltered San Diegans left with nowhere to live, after the city’s replacement of 10,000 low-income housing units with market-rate/luxury development (mostly downtown) since 2010. This devastation started during her six years as chief of staff for Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Straddling her leadership under Mayor Sanders and of the Downtown Partnership is the misuse of the obscure encroachment ordinance to purge Occupy San Diego from the Civic Concourse, and going on to apply it to purge other unsheltered San Diegans from downtown in the past few years.
Bringing it all full-circle, Michell worked for Mayor Susan Golding in 1994-98, when Golding spent $33 million in taxpayer funds to host the 1996 Republican National Convention and negotiated the Chargers ticket guarantee — which has cost San Diego taxpayers at least $59 Million.
The RNC Convention spending precipitated the San Diego pension scandal, and the Chargers ticket guarantee robbed the city of desperately needed funds.
Ironically, Michell gets to re-enter the city pension fund and will vest in about 18 months — while new city employees only get a 401k, thanks to the 2012 pension reform for which her old boss, Jerry Sanders, and her new boss, Kevin Faulconer, each pushed hard. And which her first San Diego Mayor boss precipitated due to a deal she cut to underfund the San Diego city pension fund in order to pay for hosting the 1996 Republican National Committee.
We don’t need any more Republican Mayor “fixers” with a trail of sweet deals for the GOP and the Big Money interests which have long dominated San Diego government (city and county), and NO demonstrated solutions to poverty or homelessness.
Clearly, with residential rents 60 percent higher since the replacement of those 10,000 low-income units with market-rate/luxury development, and the explosion of homeless San Diegans by 68 percent during the same time, what we don’t need is more of the same old thinking.
What we DO need is thinking outside the box, beyond business as usual here in San Diego. Here’s the Mayor’s latest excuse for why he can’t give all 3,200+ unsheltered San Diegans a safe place to stay until permanent housing is available:
“The city can’t open a homeless facility without an organization to operate it, and the three homeless service providers operating the bridge shelters are maxing out their bandwidth in order to assist the city during this time.'”
This is disaster relief! The city operated an emergency shelter at Qualcomm Stadium in 2007 for wildfire victims. Homeless service providers didn’t do that.
What we could do:
- Redirect all the city personnel and resources devoted daily to ticket, arrest, and jail unsheltered San Diegans; and confiscate, destroy, lose their property.
- Give San Diegans who want to help a place to volunteer and donate, as during the wildfires.
- Contract with local social service agencies to facilitate self-governance in SafeCamp and SafePark communities — as is done in Seattle for six permitted camp communities. We also have three premier Universities to draw upon: SDSU, UCSD, and USD.
- We have refugee service organizations here — the International Rescue Committee for example. Not to mention the U.S. military — which has facilitated and supported many humanitarian relief missions.
Our elected officials keep promoting San Diego as a hub of the “Innovation Economy.” Walk the talk and show innovation in truly addressing our low-income housing and homelessness disaster; not deploying the “business as usual” fixers.