Vote for Racial Justice: Ed Harris

Ed HarrisEd Harris: Mayoral Candidate


How have you demonstrated your commitment to racial justice?

As a lifeguard sergeant, I have committed my entire adult career to public safety. In that capacity, I became aware of racial disparities in regards to water-related accidental deaths among youth. Swimming lessons are often out-of-reach for low-income families. As a lifeguard, I started a fundraiser called “Fill the Fin” that raised money for community centers to provide swim lessons to underserved youth who do not have access to swim lessons. Accidental backyard and pool drownings take place at a disproportionate rate when it comes to racial and economic demographics. Accidental drownings are a leading cause of death among African-American youth. There are wide racial disparities in self-reported swimming abilities and extremely low participation rates in competitive swimming for African-American youth. I believe that drowning prevention and education in areas that do not traditionally push for swimming programs is a good place to start, so I implemented the “Fill the Fin” fundraiser. This is a direct example of something I have committed myself to in my own career, and that issue has raised a number of other issues on a broader spectrum, involving the systemic and structural disparities between racial groups. In the following responses, you will see my commitment to tackling racial injustice across the City of San Diego.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges San Diego faces to achieving racial equity?

There is a general lack of acknowledgement of the historical facts and realities that have led to stark disparities in San Diego and the systemic racism that puts people of color in more difficult circumstances. For example, there were (and still are) many mixed-use commercial businesses that operate next door to residential homes and schools, causing children from South Bay to have some of the highest asthma rates in the County. Neighborhoods have been neglected and disenfranchised in terms of infrastructure and public services. It is not uncommon to see community members cleaning the park in Barrio Logan because City staff are rarely seen doing so. We need to prioritize those neighborhoods for investment; part of doing that is ensuring there is a Mayor in office that recognizes these needs and is willing to address them. The disenfranchisement and neglect is exacerbated by San Diego’s high cost of living, with minimal affordable housing and transit, the City needs to focus on strategies that create opportunities for communities of color to gain wealth in the form of home loans and affordable childcare options. Plus, we need to prioritize public transit so that access to good jobs is not determined by a person’s ability to drive there or the multiple hours it would take to get to work given our current transit system. As Mayor, I would work to enforce the living wage ordinance and minimum wage ordinance, and create programs that move people from low-wage industries into career paths in the sectors that can be good jobs like our bio-tech and innovation industry. As low-wage jobs are comprised disproportionately with people of color; enforcing the policies that already exist, plus tackling issues like wage theft and other wage policies that make it even difficult to make ends meet, would be part of my commitment to racial justice as Mayor.

Check all of the boxes that describe your perspective about race.

✅  “Race is a social construction.”

“I am colorblind.”

✅  “Institutional racism means that people who are not explicitly racist can support and benefit from racial oppression.”

“White people of all income-levels benefit from privileges bestowed upon them historically and in the current day.”

“We live in a post-racial society. Anyone can thrive if they work hard enough.”

✅  “We live in a country where race impacts one’s educational and employment opportunities.”

✅  “Racism continues to be a problem in today’s world.”

✅  “White people have a responsibility to work for racial justice.”

✅  “I am well-informed about the United States’ history as it relates to race and racial inequality.”

The limitations of the public transit system in San Diego mean that low-income workers face obstacles getting to work and pursuing certain employment opportunities. How should San Diego expand and support its public transit system? What role will you play, if any?

As Mayor, I would be in attendance at policy shaping meetings throughout the development of a plan to ensure those policies pursue equity. That includes employment opportunities that are accessible to people who, for example, do not have their own vehicles. I am in favor of the Youth Opportunity Pass plan as a model to assure youth from communities of color have low/no-cost transportation options that enable them to get to school and after-school programs safely. To get these types of programs passed, I would leverage the City of San Diego’s weighted vote at SANDAG to ensure we are driving transportation policy in the region given our size and economic impact in comparison to other cities. I am a creative in finding revenue sources in order to make these things happen, finding corporations and other investors to support City funds to pursue these types of projects. I am an advocate for transit-oriented development that would seek to build affordable housing options that are located near public transit to further economic mobility, specifically in communities South of the 8. At one point, the lifeguards were terribly underequipped to perform our duties. We needed trucks in order to patrol and reach victims. I arranged a deal with Toyota to have them sponsor a fleet of trucks for the City, saving us over $1million dollars.

Clean, drinkable water should be available to all households, regardless of income level. What should San Diego do to make drinking water more affordable for low-income families? What role will you play, if any?

Access to clean drinking water is a human right. As such, I would work with the water authority, the City’s human relations commission and other relevant entities to work on alternative rates and new shut-off policies so that communities of color are never without clean, safe drinkable water. I will also dive into the issues involved with water treatment, and work to uphold the existing municipal code that ensures we have safe water, which is an issue that has been low on politician’s priority list for far too long.

How can San Diego raise employment rates among communities of color in San Diego? What role will you play, if any?

As mayor, I would focus on prioritizing and incentivizing local hire requirements and diversity requirements for city contracts so we are hiring small-business and minority-owned businesses at a proportional rate. What is key here, is not necessarily raising employment rates across in general, but working to raise employment rates among people of color that are in good paying jobs. Again, I would look into new apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship style programs for trades and for our innovation sector. To do this, I would seek partnerships with developers and the school districts, other municipal agencies and labor unions to create targeted programs prioritized for those most in need, including people of color, previously incarcerated individuals, etc.

What should San Diego do to ensure communities of color are safe while reducing the disproportionate police presence and contact in their neighborhoods? What role will you play, if any?

The first priority is to hire we have a Chief that is committed to racial justice and building trust within the community. We need our police officers to be well trained on racial justice issues, and as Mayor, I would ensure proper funding was found to train every officer. As Mayor, I would advocate for community policing and restorative justice practices. Body cameras and full transparency from the police department are of utmost importance to me. We also must work harder to hire police officers that reflect the diverse makeup of our city’s neighborhoods.

How should San Diego ensure that children of color receive a high quality education that affords them the same post-secondary opportunities as white children? What role will you play, if any?

Support investment in schools in communities of color that need it most, such as the Memorial project prompted by David Alvarez. I would explore private public partnerships with our region’s high-tech industry to create internship programs for children of color, especially those south of the 8 that are in the most need. I would prioritize budget allocation on the basis of equitable investment, meaning libraries serving those most in need would have expanded hours of service and the size and materials for branches in communities of color received a higher percent of staffing, since the population served often relies on the computer, internet, and other branch resources more than other branches. Lastly, I would look to create free or affordable pre-k and summer programs in order to prevent the initial education gaps from growing, which later correlate with income gaps. We would look for state and federal subsidies for these programs. Most importantly, these programs enable parents to seek more types of employment opportunities and not spend a substantial percent of their income on childcare.

What should San Diego do to support students of color, as well as immigrant and refugee students, in finding employment and high-wage jobs? What role will you play, if any?

The fact that are transportation system is not adequate for people to find or maintain employment at good paying jobs is a key issue facing immigrant and refugee communties. On top of the difficulty they face in meeting other basic needs. Many refugees are highly educated but are not proficient enough in the English language to find employment. As Mayor I would explore City funding and public/private partnerships to provide new and enhanced language education programs. I have traveled to many countries that are far less financially secure than the United States, yet they are able to employ their educated young workforce, because it is a priority for those countries to look towards the future—rather than focusing on maintaining wealth within the hands of those already in power.

What does San Diego need to do to better support its bilingual/multilingual communities? What role will you play, if any?

In addition to the suggestions in the previous question, I would make sure translation services are readily available for public meetings, and that community organizations are able to contact the City for translation services that are either low-cost or subsidized completely to ensure full participation from our community.

What should San Diego do to ensure that low-income communities of color have affordable housing? How can San Diego support development without pricing out low-income families? What role will you play, if any?

“Faulconer was already behind the curve in addressing homeless veterans and now they are going to be left on the streets for another three months. He needs to stop treating crises as excuses for press conferences and focus on actually getting things done. Regarding the homeless, the only tangible “accomplishment” Faulconer can point to is placing sharp rocks under overpasses.”

The legitimacy of the police is undermined within communities of color because of racial profiling in police stops, police shootings of people of color, and racially disproportionate police contact. What should San Diego do to rebuild trust in San Diego’s police? What role will you play, if any?

I would first ensure our Police Chief held transparency as the utmost value and readily turned over police tapes, transcripts, etc. In my role as a lifeguard, I have worked with the police on nearly a daily basis. I hold them in the highest regard and would work closely with the police to ensure that a just and safe San diego was a shared vision. I support the community policing model and support reform of the citizens review board to require transparency from law enforcement. I would work closely with a coalition of organizations such as Justice4SD33, Pillars, restorative justice orgs like NCRC, ACLU, Mid City CAN, and San Diego Organizing Project and City commissions like the gang prevention and intervention commission and human relations commission to bring community policing to fruition.

What is your stance on the Black Lives Matter Movement?

 I would first ensure our Police Chief held transparency as the utmost value and readily turned over police tapes, transcripts, etc. In my role as a lifeguard, I have worked with the police on nearly a daily basis. I hold them in the highest regard and would work closely with the police to ensure that a just and safe San diego was a shared vision. I support the community policing model and support reform of the citizens review board to require transparency from law enforcement. I would work closely with a coalition of organizations such as Justice4SD33, Pillars, restorative justice orgs like NCRC, ACLU, Mid City CAN, and San Diego Organizing Project and City commissions like the gang prevention and intervention commission and human relations commission to bring community policing to fruition.

What is your stance on San Diego’s use of Proposition 21 (Section 182.5) and the San Diego 33?

The District Attorney abused her authority and was unjust in their pursuit of the 33 individuals. I do not believe that people should be prosecuted simply for being from a community of color or for song lyrics. As possible, I would support the Justice 4 SD 33 coalition in their state advocacy to repeal the Proposition and would participate in the grassroots activism that is part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

What role should San Diego play in the current refugee crisis?

A) San Diego should be a haven for refugees from Syria and elsewhere fleeing violence and economic hardship.
B) San Diego should not actively welcome refugees from Syria and elsewhere.
✅  Other)
Properly vetted refugees should definitely be allowed to seek asylum in San Diego
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