By Drew Douglas
My family lived five blocks from the ocean in the heart of Imperial Beach when I was born, and there I was raised for most of my formative years. Life in our beach town was always closely tied to the waves and the tides, and it still is. It defined much of my childhood. Skateboarding or riding our bikes to the beach wasn’t just a ritual, it was a luxury we took for granted.
Walking home from the beach on a sunny summer afternoon, wearing a bathing suit, draped in a towel, the warm sun on your skin still freckled with dried salt and sand from the ocean — this is quintessential Imperial Beach. But we have continually battled a constant threat to this tranquility. And it hasn’t just hampered our way of life, it has hindered the economic growth of the community.
They say “all politics are local” but too often we become so engrossed in national political spectacles that we forget about our own backyard. I spent many a summer and winter day on the beaches of I.B. swimming, bodyboarding, fishing with my father from the pier, climbing on the rocks of the jetties to watch the sunset with friends or just soaking up the sun in the sand.
Yet, for my entire life the beach in I.B. has been plagued with sewage issues. Still, we all swam in those waters, often ignoring contamination warnings, because frequency breeds complacency and we learned to live with those health threats because we didn’t feel like we could do much about it. One woman decided she could do something about it and took up a crusade to clean up the waters of Imperial Beach. Twelve years later, it has become a major part of her life’s work.
Today, she is running for City Council in order to continue her work improving Imperial Beach. And not just the waters. She seeks to improve safety through road improvements and crosswalks to preserve the walkability that has always defined I.B. life. She wants to increase access to public transit to keep traffic congestion from becoming the problem that plagues so many other beach communities in our county. She wants to keep rent within reach so folks can still afford to raise their families in the same community they grew up in, preserving a hometown that holds generations of my own family and countless others who know I.B. as a community where seemingly everyone knows each other by name.
This is why I am supporting Paloma Aguirre for City Council of Imperial Beach.
I.B. locals know that Tijuana wastewater is a constant problem for the health of our beaches. As someone representing a border town, it’s important that our politicians understand the struggles of our immediate neighbor, and to be able to communicate and work with them to find solutions that directly affect Imperial Beach.
As a bilingual Latina with a decade of experience in working with Tijuana communities, Aguirre is uniquely equipped to bridge the border in ways that help both Imperial Beach and Tijuana, whose economic interests and resources are intertwined. Paloma’s work in wastewater management and pollution cleanup shows her ability to effectively and literally cross borders to bring solutions that clean up the waters in Imperial Beach. Understanding this inter-dependency is one thing. Being able to navigate the international relations required to fix it is an entirely different challenge — a challenge Aguirre has proven she is uniquely capable of meeting.
Over the last 12 years, she has worked with the Tijuana River Action Network to prevent over 500,000 pounds of trash from impacting Imperial Beach. Working with congressional leaders and community advocates, she helped save the Border Wastewater Infrastructure Program — a program targeted for elimination by the Trump administration.
In 2012, Aguirre exposed a sewage spill in Playas de Tijuana that dumped more than 40 million gallons of raw sewage into our waterways. After Aguirre brought intense media focus to the issue, local agencies shut the leak down. This is local politics in action. This is direct governance. This is how we can make a difference in the immediate world around us. Voting for leaders who are dedicated to practical local solutions can provide direct real-world improvements to the problems that affect us most.
Clean water and beaches are crucial for the economic stability and sustainable growth of Imperial Beach. Preserving our wild spaces also helps to ensure responsible development that preserves the small town feel we all grew up with. Paloma Aguirre is a proven leader in all these areas.
I grew up swimming in polluted waters. Thanks to the work of Paloma Aguirre, my nieces and nephews and my cousin’s children will one day be able to enjoy the waters of Imperial Beach without worry of the health effects of sewage spills and pollution. They’ll be able to walk, skate and bicycle to the beaches safely with clearly marked pedestrian walkways and traffic mitigation. And when the time comes, they’ll be able to raise their own families in an affordable community with robust economic opportunity. That is the vision of Imperial Beach we all want to see. That is the vision I see from Paloma Aguirre, not just from hollow political promises and grandstanding, but by actually rolling up her sleeves, getting to work and taking the initiative to make the city she calls home a better place to live for the entire community.
We can’t control the national narrative and the daily media cycle can be so daunting it’s easy to throw our hands in the air and give up on politics. But we can all clean up our own backyard. We can keep it local. We can take care of our neighbors and our own community. Paloma Aguirre began that work 12 years ago. That’s why she has my enthusiastic support for City Council of Imperial Beach. Your vote can make a real difference in your community this November. Be sure to let your voice be heard.
Drew Douglas is a well-known local musician and promoter, also known as Grampa Drew, host of the monthly event, “Grampa Drew’s Flim Flam Review.”