Success for every child and youth

On September 3, 2020, all San Diego Mayoral and City Council candidates were asked to respond to the following questions regarding their support for an Office of Child and Youth Success:
  • How would you ensure this is prioritized within the City budget?
  • Please briefly describe your past experiences and commitment to children, youth, and their families.
  • What gaps in service to children, youth, and their families do you currently see in San Diego?
  • How do you define success for children, youth, and their families in San Diego?

Responses are complied below:

San Diegans in Favor of an
Office of Child and Youth Success:

Alessandra L .
Aimee Z.
Amy K.
Ana M.
Asmaa D.
Becky P.
Brenda A.
Carol B.
Courtney B.
Diana B.
Eric M.
Erin H.
James H.
Jean W.
Kenneth K.
Kristen G.
Kurt H.
Laura K.
LaWana R.
Matt D.
Montano M.
Paula C.
Samuel T.
Sandy Y.
Sarah H.
Warsan A.

Mayoral Candidates

Councilmember Barbara Bry

As a City Councilmember, I have been a strong and consistent supporter of programs that assist children, youth, and families, and I will continue to use my position as Chair of the Budget Committee to prioritize those programs in the city budget. Regrettably, we currently are in a municipal budget crisis, where we are being forced to make painful cuts in numerous important programs. I understand the importance of having city staff dedicated to focusing on these issues, and I support investigating this possibility once conditions improve. For now, however,  it is very unlikely that funding can be found to create an entirely new office in city government.

Nonetheless, there is much that can be done within the existing framework of city government to fill gaps in childhood and family services. My mayoral campaign recently issued A Roadmap to Recovery for San Diego, in which I address important issues in this area. Proposals relating to employment development, support of cultural institutions, improving pay and healthcare for essential workers, reducing commute times, adding affordable housing, and enhancing recreational opportunities all support families, particularly those in historically marginalized communities. The full plan is attached.

My plan makes some specific proposals of particular relevance to you:

I recognize that our future growth is more likely to come from our children and grandchildren than from new people moving here, so we must develop our local talent. As Mayor, my office will include a School Engagement Coordinator who will develop partnerships between employers and schools so that, from a young age, children are aware of the opportunities available to them. That staff position, at least on an interim basis, could also serve many of the functions which you propose.

Ensuring that our youth receive the necessary training is vital to the economy we are building. On-line learning during the lockdown has proven to be less effective than classroom instruction and interaction, so I want to see the public schools reopened as soon as safely possible. At the same time, I will encourage school officials and administrators to use this as a chance to consider how their curriculum and methods can be revised to make them more relevant to the needs and opportunities presented in the local economy. This must include a greater understanding of the intersections among different educational disciplines and various economic sectors. With the right learning foundation, the partnerships I have proposed between employers and schools will give students access to paid internships in tech, biotech, non-profits, local government, health care, and other higher-paying industries, thereby launching them on the best possible career tracks.

 The spread-out nature of our communities and our workplaces makes childcare a regional issue. Every family with young children faces the challenge of finding quality, affordable, conveniently located childcare providers. That difficulty dominates decisions about housing, employment, and social interaction. It impacts women especially, as a large proportion work in lower-wage service jobs and struggle to afford childcare. It also forces them to give up jobs if their spouse or partner has a better-paying job and one of them has to assume childcare responsibility. All of this threatens to set back women’s economic gains by decades. I experienced this myself years ago as a working mother of two young children. For these reasons, I voted on the City Council to allocate $5 million in federal stimulus funds to childcare programs. As Mayor, I will initiate collaboration among our city, the County, and other local cities, to promote development of more childcare programs and facilities, located where they can best serve our residents’ needs, and facilitate establishing a larger network of private in-home childcare facilities.

I believe our public education system and institutions can play an enlarged role in our communities. Many schools already engage in hosting community meetings and events. As Mayor, I will collaborate with school district authorities in a comprehensive review of how school facilities which sit unused during parts of the day and week can become centers for delivery of child care, health services, and other vital community-level services. This potentially will have the dual benefit of saving the City the cost of constructing separate new facilities and enabling school districts to avoid closing currently underutilized neighborhood schools. Public libraries have similar potential to be more diversified in their service to the communities in which they are located. They are especially suited for this, as they draw a broad range of residents already. Following the examples of other cities, I want to see libraries distributing information on vital services, hosting job training programs, making internet and wi-fi services more available, and housing child-care facilities.

Because the County has primary responsibility for funding and delivering local social services, it is vital that we collaborate with county officials and agencies in devising and implementing these programs. That also will be a priority for me as mayor.

Assemblymember Todd Gloria

How would you ensure this is prioritized within the City budget?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City is likely facing a $100-$150 million budget deficit. We will have to make tough choices to balance the budget. You have my commitment to earnestly consider the creation of an Office of Child and Youth Success during the budget process. I will also commit to my administration having a dedicated youth liaison in my office that is focused on youth issues every day. I share the concern that today we aren’t lifting our young people up but rather pushing them out. That’s evident in our schools, housing affordability, city recreation facilities, and much more. I’m running for Mayor to make sure this is a city of opportunity for every San Diegan in every neighborhood from adolescence through adulthood.

 

Please briefly describe your past experiences and commitment to children, youth, and their families.

I’ve been standing up for working families my entire career – specifically, the ability for working families to make ends meet in this city and state. As a City Councilmember, I authored the Minimum Wage and Earned Sick Leave Ordinance, which not only provided a wage increase, but five paid sick days. As Interim Mayor, I secured the funding for new libraries in Skyline, San Ysidro, and San Carlos. In the Assembly, I’ve secured state funding to aid homeless youth so that they can receive the housing and services they need. I’ve passed legislation to make sure transgender foster youth can receive the healthcare they need and co-authored a statewide measure to give 17-year-olds the right to vote. Also, throughout my entire time as an elected official, I have always offered young people opportunities to intern in my offices to learn more about government.

 

What gaps in service to children, youth, and their families do you currently see in San Diego?

First, I think there’s a lack of the youth voice at City Hall. The City has a Youth Commission, but it’s not functional – it needs to be, and I will change that as Mayor. Second, I think the City has not done enough to invest in city infrastructure that serves youth and their families. That’s inclusive of our sidewalks and transportation infrastructure, but also our parks and recreation facilities. We have to change that. I will take steps to establish safe routes for biking and walking especially in historically underserved communities with aging infrastructure and dangerous street conditions. My administration will also work with SANDAG and MTS to provide for Youth Opportunity Passes – giving struggling families and students a safe and affordable option to get to school and work. Third, there’s a lack of engagement between the City and the school district. Although the City doesn’t have direct oversight of school districts, I will never be a Mayor that passes the buck on something as foundational to our communities as good schools. In addition, my administration will partner with school districts and expand initiatives like the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s CONNECT2Careers program to ensure our young people are able to receive pre-employment training – such as resumé building and interview preparation – as well as job and paid internship opportunities. I want to ensure our young people have every opportunity to succeed in this city.

 

How do you define success for children, youth, and their families in San Diego?

I think every person has to define success for themselves. My objective as Mayor will be to make it possible for every San Diegan to achieve success in this city however they define it. I do believe all of us should have the opportunity to grow up, go to a good school, raise a family, buy a house, and build wealth in San Diego. Sadly, I don’t think that’s all possible today for working families, but working together, I know we can make it possible.

City Council Candidates

Joe LaCava, District 1

I agree, our community must come together intentionally in support of children, youth, and their families if we are to have a resilient, equitable, and racially just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a bold vision that every city and county should aspire to – irrespective of economic conditions, but timely as we plan for the recovery from the pandemic.

I am the father of two grown daughters, the husband of a public school kindergarten teacher, and, I served on parent committees while my daughters were in school. I have a niece who could not enter the workforce because she found the cost of childcare more than absorbed the salary she could earn working full-time. In addition, I have worked with social justice organizations who keep me apprised of the challenges faced by residents across our city. Since entry into the campaign for San Diego City Council District 1, one of my top city-wide priorities is “Social Equity,” my promise to partner with the other council offices to ensure the city equitably addresses the needs in our traditionally underserved communities.

I respect the coalition’s proposal for an Office of Child and Youth Services. As the outline correctly identifies, the city provides services to children, parents, and families through a multitude of city departments and functions. The City also partners with numerous social justice organizations some of which are funded by city funds and city-directed allocations of state and federal funds. The County of San Diego plays a leading role in regional health and human services including allocating state and federal funds; thankfully, the county has been stepping up to their responsibilities in this field. Last, and critical to this conversation, are the several school districts operating within city limits.

The current economic conditions are having a severe impact on city revenue and are expected to cause further mid-year budget cuts in September. The projections for the FY2022 budget may be as bleak. Accordingly, it is unlikely that funding for new initiatives will be available. Nevertheless, I will resist cuts in existing services to children, parents, and families 

I will have an open door to keep this conversation going as we monitor the recovery of city revenue and restoring primary services. 

Your proposal is so important that you should not be deterred by the current economic conditions. Specifically, now is the time to “Build and Make the Case.” As your website suggests, this includes assessing and documenting needs, identifying gaps in services, and developing a resource map of current investments in children. Such an assessment should include the roles of the County of San Diego and the school districts and how all of us can coordinate to efficiently use funding to achieve positive outcomes. As a non-profit you may have the freedom to pursue grants and donations to fund such an assessment even under current conditions. Having an assessment completed, and in hand, when the economy recovers would allow us to move quickly to address the shortfalls identified by the assessment and incorporate your proposal into city administration.

Will Moore, District 1

How would you ensure this is prioritized within the City budget?

This is an extremely tough time for San Diego’s budget.  We still do not know what the long term effects of COVID will be or what kind of state and federal assistance we can expect.  But the argument you have presented for the need for An Executive Office of Child and Youth Success is extremely convincing and as a council representative I will be very interested in exploring how we can make this happen.  

 

Please briefly describe your past experiences and commitment to children, youth, and their families.

I was raised by my mother and grandmother in an economically devastated neighborhood in Macon, Georgia. More than half of my freshman classmates in high school dropped out before graduation. But I got a scholarship to a good public university, Georgia Tech, enabling me to be the first in my family to graduate from college.  That scholarship changed my life and I’ve never forgotten it.  Realizing how fortunate I’d been, I’ve turned my life to helping others who could use the same hand up I received. After college, I joined the Peace Corps and was deployed to Tambacounda, Senegal. When I returned I attended Columbia Law. I was fortunate to be in a place few people from my neighborhood ever get to attend. My first law job was at Legal Services. There, I helped domestic violence victims obtain restraining orders and represented clients who couldn’t afford lawyers. I saw first-hand how simple issues that we too rarely discuss — like lack of childcare and lack of transportation — help fuel a vicious cycle that keeps bright people who want to do better trapped in bad situations.  Childcare is absolutely necessary to take care of both our current community and the next generation.  That’s why as a young lawyer I put my career on hold, working several years part time so that my spouse could pursue partnership at a big firm and my son could still get the attention he needed.  That commitment continues to drive me and I will work as a councilperson to make sure nobody is counted out of our community just because they’re trying to take care of their kids or grandkids.

 

What gaps in service to children, youth, and their families do you currently see in San Diego?

There are many gaps of service that San Diego children, youth and their families face.  Lack of quality childcare, housing insecurity and unequal participation in city government are three prime examples that existed long before COVID.  The pandemic has made these inequities worse and has created many more.  The fact that most San Diego schools are not open is difficult for all San Diego families, but those with the least resources struggle the most.  It is an enormous privilege to be able to provide one’s children appropriate technology, internet connection, a quiet workspace and  several hours of a parent’s time to assist with distant learning.  So many families in San Diego need immediate assistance with this.  Related, only some San Diegans are able to work from the safety of their homes. Others are exposed to the dangerous virus while doing what is often low paying jobs, many more have lost their employment all together. 

Fixing those and other gaps are the foundation of my campaign.  We need to align other government priorities to ensure that not only are we providing kids with supports, but that we are doing everything else needed – building housing so our kids can live here, addressing climate change for our children’s future, creating jobs/ workforce pipeline that pays enough money — Right now this is not a priority.

 

How do you define success for children, youth, and their families in San Diego?

Success will be defined when we can measure that the gaps I outlined above are closing.  An obvious metric that needs to be developed for this year is determining if all kids in San Diego have the support they need for distance learning.  Do kids who can stay at home have the technology and internet connection needed?  Do parents who are unable to stay at home have have a safe place to send their kids?  Is the city taking steps to increase access to quality childcare across the city?  Are fewer of our neighbors experiencing housing and food insecurity?   Do the communities and populations that need these services have a real voice in the determining which polici

Toni Duran, District 3

How would you ensure this is prioritized within the City budget? 

This is a great idea to address concerns I have heard from parents, grandparents, and guardians throughout San Diego. You have an incredible list of diverse community partners that I know well and respect like Home Start, David’s Harp Foundation, and the Chicano Federation. I’m encouraged to see that Baltimore created their own “Office of Children & Family Success” last summer. I would proactively reach out to the office of Mayor Jack Young to discuss how they have been able to fund their office, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when so many cities are facing budget shortfalls. I would also reach out to meet with their Executive Director, Tisha Edwards. When our youth and families thrive, our city thrives.

 

Please briefly describe your past experiences and commitment to children, youth, and their families. 

I have nieces and nephews and have watched them grow up, have seen the privileges they enjoy, and also the challenges they face. Whether it be learning or behavioral issues, growing pains and finding their place and voices, family separation, or a host of other life issues that kids face today – I have watched in awe. I have been able to spend time with my nieces and bring them with me to community cleanups and volunteer events. They have been able to see firsthand the challenges other kids and families face who don’t have access to the same educational system they do – who have food insecurities – and who face life struggles that they take for granted. I have been able to help teach them about social justice, kindness, empathy, and humility. We don’t always know the struggles that other children or families face. We have to stay open to learning and doing in order to help those around us.

 

What gaps in service to children, youth, and their families do you currently see in San Diego? 

During this pandemic we have seen how access to education is not equitable for all. Not every family has access to a computer, other learning devices, or even internet access. The local Black Lives Matter organization put a call out for help for Black families who couldn’t afford bookbags, notebooks, pens and pencils, hand sanitizer, masks, and more. I joined community members who answered that call, but we must do better. Also, not every child learns in the same way and without that one-on-one attention, too many kids fall through the cracks. We must pull together to address inequities and systemic racism that still run rampant.

 

How do you define success for children, youth, and their families in San Diego?

Happiness. Equity. A roof over your head. Food on the table. Feeling seen, understood, supported, and safe. Knowing that you are loved, you matter, and you are enough. That is success.

Marni Von Wilpert, District 5

How would you ensure this is prioritized within the City budget?

Having grown up in San Diego, I am a proud product of our City’s public schools and youth programs. I’m running for San Diego City Council because I want every child in every family in San Diego to have the same opportunity to thrive that I did.  I support the idea of having a coordinated and streamlined office dedicated to child and youth success, but unfortunately, we are facing a major budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So it’s unclear whether we will be able to fund a new office at this point.

However, there are things we can do with the existing structure to make sure our children and youth succeed in San Diego. We can make sure that we have better coordination in the city between entities that serve children, youth and families, such as Parks and Recreation, Libraries, homeless services, education and economic development programs, and youth workforce development. The City of San Diego must also make sure we’re in a position to leverage federal, state, and private-sector funding to support children and youth programs. Children and youth face unprecedented challenges attempting to navigate distance learning, reliable access to internet and technology, and food insecurity in these challenging times. The City needs to do a better job including and listening to youth voices to ensure we create a city where all youth can thrive.

 

Please briefly describe your past experiences and commitment to children, youth, and their families.

I have dedicated my career to public service, including to helping children and youth here in San Diego and around the world.  While serving in the Peace Corps, I worked on children’s public health issues in sub-Saharan Africa, increasing access to testing, treatment, and care for children born with HIV. After earning my Girl Scout Gold Award, I led our San Diego Girl Scout Camps to help young women and girls thrive. While I was in Mississippi, I served as the founding Board Chairperson of a non-profit, Teen Health Mississippi, where we strive to ensure youth have access to high-quality sex education and youth-friendly healthcare to attain their highest level of health. I also serve on the Board of San Diego Youth Services, we are dedicated to empowering youth to reach their highest potential and seek to improve the lives of youth by meeting their basic needs, creating positive connections, helping them develop life skills and promoting overall health and well-being.

 

What gaps in service to children, youth, and their families do you currently see in San Diego?

One of the biggest gaps I see is access to childcare for working parents. Childcare is crucial to many working parents, and the cost of childcare in San Diego is very expensive. Moreover, not every child has access to basic technology, such as computers and the internet – which makes educational gaps in this era of distance learning even wider. San Diego youth also need good workforce development programs, especially as we have many Transitional Age Youth who are graduating from high school or college in the midst of an economic recession due to the pandemic. Finally, no child or youth in San Diego should face discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity, religion, or LGBTQ+ status.

 

How do you define success for children, youth, and their families in San Diego?

While every person must define success for themselves, I believe we need to create a city where every youth, child, and family has an opportunity to thrive. The workforce of tomorrow is in our classrooms today. Let’s do more to help San Diego’s youth succeed, stay safe and build a brighter future for all of us.

Raul Campillo, District 7

How would you ensure this is prioritized within the City budget?

First, let me state that I support having such an office here in San Diego. If this were in place right now, we would see a coordinated effort to assist parents struggling to care and provide opportunities to their children during COVID.  As a former teacher, I also know that the expanded opportunities for true accessibility to learning, physical, and social activities promotes the well-being of children and families. So, to that end, I would make sure that the Office of Child and Youth Success would be listed in my budget priorities memorandum for the upcoming budget cycle, arguing that the $350,000 initial investment is exactly that–an investment–which will provide excellent value.  

 

Please briefly describe your past experiences and commitment to children, youth, and their families.

I am former public school teacher with a Master’s degree in Elementary Education (Curriculum and Instruction), in a Title I school with numerous low-income and immigrant families.  Additionally, I have served as a mock trial coach through my work at the City Attorney’s Office, with students at Crawford High School. I’ve also presented to my former middle school and my former high school at career days on my role as a former teacher and deputy city attorney to encourage those interested in education and law to pursue their ambitions. Finally, as a Deputy City Attorney who works in the Gun Violence Response Unit, I have gone to court to secure orders that protect families and children from abusive parents, parents who do not secure their firearms safely from their children, or who have significant mental health challenges and cannot safely own a weapon.

 

What gaps in service to children, youth, and their families do you currently see in San Diego?

Child care is the biggest gap that I see. I would like to see the City and County team up to provide cheaper options on child care in numerous, easily accessible locations. Additionally, transportation options are limited and many parents feel they are not necessarily safe for their children, so we should work with MTS to organize youth-specific transportation at little or no cost to specific child and youth activities and locations. Finally, access to information is limited due to the costs of both computer technology and internet access. I believe we have to provide subsidies that do not require numerous triggers to activate, discouraging families from even trying to obtain those critical tools for their children.

 

 

How do you define success for children, youth, and their families in San Diego?

Fundamentally, every child and every family should feel confident that their hard work will provide a path to the success they want to pursue. This is an abstract concept that faces concrete barriers, unfortunately. The primary design of our government should be to create accessibility and fairness in pursuit of opportunity: ending  all forms of discrimination, providing easily accessible services regardless of your zip code, promoting and disseminating critical information, and laying the groundwork for economic prosperity for all people. Pursuing these values with fidelity should ensure that children and families feel they are working within a fair system that works for them, not against them. I personally feel that encouraging every person to plan for their future at each step of their development, even with very young children, brings forth their natural curiosity to learn and develop organically.  Seeing what a child, adolescent, or young adult wishes to pursue, the programs and information provided by an Office of Child and Youth Success will be a useful tool to harness that curiosity, translate it into knowledge and action, and ultimately, be part of the self-realization that each individual is aiming toward.

 

Sean Elo-Rivera, District 9

How would you ensure this is prioritized within the City budget?

I fully support the creation of this office and would prioritize its funding in my budget priority memo and continuously advocate for its inclusion throughout the process.     

 

Please briefly describe your past experiences and commitment to children, youth, and their families.

The majority of my adult life has provided me with experience in working with and for children, youth, and families. From my teens through my mid-twenties I worked as a high school coach where I committed myself to helping young people reach their potential as student-athletes. In that role, I gained an appreciation for how important the involvement and well-being of a family is for young people. After coaching, I traveled to Latin America. and served the community as an English teacher for low-income children and special needs educational assistant. The next year was spent in Korea, teaching at a school in a rural community where I ran an after-school program that was established by the government to lessen the divide in educational opportunities afforded to low-income children. 

My commitment to service for children, youth, and families continued while in law school. While there I offered free legal services at a local elementary school, middle school, and high school to students who needed assistance with housing, immigration, and employment issues. I also volunteered with Casa Cornelia where I worked on the rollout of DACA.

Upon graduation from law school I chose to forgo the practice of law and, rather, pursue a career dedicated to creating community-led change, including improving school lunches, fighting for student transit passes and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. Currently, I serve as the Executive Director of a nonprofit that supports young people in their effort to create a future where every young person has what they need to be happy, healthy, and prepared to reach their potential. 

 

What gaps in service to children, youth, and their families do you currently see in San Diego?

The gaps begin with the complete lack of strategic planning for the success of San Diego’s children, youth, and families. Because there is no plan, the services offered are insufficient and disjointed. For example, quality affordable childcare and preschool are inaccessible to many San Diegans. Additionally, there is a lack of afterschool programs for low and middle income families and an additional barrier to participation in the programs that do exist as a result of lack of transportation. For transitional aged youth, the City fails to provide the relatively inexpensive and incredibly fruitful assistance needed for those from lower income families to participate in critical career programs. 

Currently, during the COVID-19 crisis, the City can and should do more to provide quality internet access and safe and quiet spaces for students to do their online schooling. 

 

How do you define success for children, youth, and their families in San Diego?

Success would be a future where every child and every youth from every family has everything they need to be happy,  healthy, and prepared to reach their potential.