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Engaging the Latino Base: What the Candidates for District 9 Say

By Megan Burks

We’re beginning a weekly series to help you get to know the two candidates vying for the District 9 City Council seat, Mateo Camarillo and Councilwoman Marti Emerald. Each week we’ll pose a question to the candidates and publish their responses in full and in both English and Spanish. The questions have come from some of you and from some of the stories we’ve been following over the past year.

This week, I wanted to know how the candidates would include Latinos in their decision-making process.

Ethnicity has taken center stage this election cycle because City Heights has become the center of a new Latino-empowerment district. It was severed from the uptown neighborhoods by the Redistricting Commission last year, bonding it instead to parts of southeastern San Diego and the College Area. The shift makes the new district more than 50 percent Latino. Activists thought the district would be more likely to elect a Latino to office as a result.

Emerald, a white woman, has said from the beginning she wants to represent the district. As councilwoman for District 7, she already represents the northeast corner of City Heights and the College Area.

Latinas Georgette Gómez and Araceli Martinez announced their bids shortly after Emerald. But both dropped out of the race in November. It looked like Emerald would go unchallenged, dashing all hopes for electing a Latino to council.

So Mateo Camarillo stepped up to challenge Emerald this month to honor the intent of activists like himself, who helped pencil the district. As chairman of the Latino Redistricting Committee, his insights and interests helped inform the commission’s final map.

But as Camarillo knows, demographics alone won’t win him the race. The district’s Latino majority is a young majority. Just 26 percent of the district’s eligible voters are Latinos. Immigration status, education levels and voter registration further diminish the influence of this district’s Latino base.

With this in mind, I asked the candidates: If elected, how would you include the district’s large Latino population–especially its youth who are not yet voting age–in the decision-making process? Which issue do you perceive to be most important to the Latino community and how will you address it?

Camarillo and his grandson | Credit: Camarillo
Emerald | Credit: Sam Hodgson
Mateo Camarillo
Businessman and activist

I’m a candidate for the newly created City Council District 9. I’m an immigrant like many D9 residents. I came to San Diego because I believe in the American Dream, Democracy and the land of opportunity. I did not speak English but for me that was a challenge, not a barrier. It is important to make the most of opportunities and not blame others for circumstances you may encounter.

Latinos and their family members are young in D9, which has the largest immigrant population in the City.  Latinos have the highest school dropout rate.

As a graduate of Hoover High (in D9) where I was awarded 2 scholarships, I was advised to drop out since I had 3 jobs in addition to attending school. Being a dropout is a life sentence of poverty.

Our Democratic society offers opportunities. Your only limitation is your effort.  My advice to our youth, go to school as far as you can based on your God given abilities. For Latinos, do not focus on prejudice and discrimination. Rise above that and take advantage of opportunities that will be open to you. I was a soldier in Germany and offered the opportunity to be the Trans-Atlantic Scoutmaster of the Boys Scouts of America. That is how I became a social worker working with families and communities to change their life circumstances. With those successes, I went into business to be able to have the financial ability to help more people.

En Español: Soy candidato a regidor de la Ciudad de San Diego, Districto 9. Soy inmigrante como muchos residentes del Districto 9. Creo en el sueno Americano y en la democracia.

Gradue de la escuela Hoover High donde se me otorgaron 2 becas para asistir a la Universidad (San Diego State). Tenia tres trabajos y estudiaba al mismo tiempo.

Aunque fue dificil, yo creia en el pais que ofrece oportunidadese ir a la Universidad fue otro reto que venci.

Nuestra sociedad democratica ofrece oportunidades y tu unica limitacion es tu esfuerzo.

Como educador me preocupa que nuestros jovenes abandonen la escuela. Aconsejo a los jovenes se queden en la escuela lo mas que puedan tomando encuenta las abilidades que Dios les dio, sin enfocarse en los prejuicios o en la discriminacion. Que sobresalgan y aprovechen las oportunidades que se lespresenten contruyendo asi  peldanos para llegar al exito en su futuro.

Fui soldado en Alemania y tuve la oportunidad de trabajar como Trans-Atlantic Scoutmaster de los boys Scouts of America. Entoces  decidi  ser un trabajador social, trabajar para la communidad y ayudar a familias a mejorar sus condiciones de vida. Haviendo logrado mis metas, entre al mundo de negocios para poder continuar luchando por la comunidad  y ayudar a mas personas.

Marti Emerald
District 7 Councilwoman

One of the most pressing issues in the new District 9 is kids’ involvement with alcohol. My staff and I have already teamed up with the Latino Youth Council in City Heights to address this concern.  The young people affected are students from Hoover High School, and they see the damage caused by drugs and alcohol all around them.  Students are becoming addicted, are doing poorly in school or dropping out altogether, and students are injured or killed in drug and alcohol related accidents and crime.

Members of the LYC are not sitting back and waiting for others to take the lead.  They are doing so themselves out of a genuine concern for their classmates, friends and neighbors.   These young community leaders have designed a campaign to educate young people about the dangers of alcohol, and are reaching out to the business community to enlist help.

I joined the LYC at the Gonzalez Northgate Market for a recent news conference calling on neighborhood markets to be extra vigilant to keep alcohol out of the hands of youngsters and asking parents to become more involved.  As a parent of a teenager, my goal is to provide a healthy and safe environment for these young adults to drive and grow up.

My entire staff and I look forward to working with the Latino Youth Council and other young people in our new 9th District on issues that affect their safety and their ability to be healthy and productive.  They are the leaders of tomorrow making a difference today.

En Español: Una de las prioridades principales en el nuevo 9º Distrito será la relación entre los jóvenes y el alcohol. Mi personal y yo hemos trabajado con el Consejo de Jóvenes Latinos (LYC) en City Heights para atacar este problema. Los jóvenes afectados son estudiantes de la segundaria Hoover High School, y ven el daño causado por las drogas y el alcohol en su comunidad. Estudiantes están convirtiéndose en adictos, y están ganando malas notas en la escuela o abandonando sus estudios. Lo peor de todo es que algunos estudiantes han sido heridos y matados por accidentes y el crimen relacionados a las drogas y el alcohol.

Los miembros del LYC no esperan para que otros hagan algo. Ellos toman la iniciativa porque están preocupados por sus compañeros, amigos y vecinos. Estos líderes jóvenes de su comunidad han diseñado una campaña para educar jóvenes en los peligros de alcohol, y están creando relaciones con la comunidad de negocios para solicitar apoyo.

Me uní al LYC en el mercado Gonzalez Northgate en una conferencia de prensa pidiendo que mercados de la vecindad sean especialmente vigilantes en prohibiendo la compra de alcohol por jóvenes, y pidiendo que padres háganse más implicados a diario en las vidas de sus niños. Soy la mamá de un adolescente, y mi ambición es proporcionar un ambiento sano y seguro en que estos jóvenes pueden crecer.

Mi personal y yo tenemos mucho ganas de trabajar con el Consejo de Jóvenes Latinos y otros jóvenes en nuestro nuevo 9º Distrito en asuntes que afectan su seguridad y su capacidad ser sanos y productivos. Ellos son los líderes del futuro haciendo cambio positivo hoy en día.

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8 Responses to Engaging the Latino Base: What the Candidates for District 9 Say

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  2. Drpollo says:

    Candidate Camarillo speaks from the heart and lived experienced, Candidate Emerald speaks as a CEO. There is hope in Camarillo’s words and approach seeking to inspire the community and negativity in Emerald vision as it focuses on alcoholism among youth.  It is important to think about perspectives as one goes to the polls because those perspective will drive the candidate’s approach to how they identify problems and how they will move to problem solve community issues.  Based on the profile outlined here, who would you support for your next representative of district 9?  Camarillo clearly has the experience based on how he understands the issues and because of his lived experiences. I don’t hear that in Emerald’s perspective. I support Candidate Camarillo

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