Politifest brings discussions, candidates to San Diego voters

Politifest looked to prepare San Diego citizens for the midterm elections by presenting candidates and issues all in one place.


Huffington Post reporter Elise Foley, immigration attorney Dulce Garcia, UCSD professor Tom Wong and VOSD reporter Maya Srikrishnan discuss life of undocumented immigrants under today’s Trump administration. By Nadia Mishkin.

Jonny Rico, Nadia Mishkin, and Brian Mohler

Three leaders of three different cities kicked off Politifest with a panel featuring mayors of Sacramento, San Diego, and Tijuana, Mexico on Oct. 6 at the University of San Diego.

Voice of San Diego Editor-in-Chief and CEO Scott Lewis led the first panel of the day with a discussion among Mayor Kevin Faulconer (San Diego), Mayor Darrell Steinberg (Sacramento) and Juan Manuel Gastelum (Tijuana).

Politifest 2018, a one-day event hosted by non-profit local news organization Voice of San Diego, was planned as an opportunity for voters and others to learn more issues and candidates as the November election approaches.

Lewis asked the city leaders about topics like immigration, homelessness and housing, and the local economies. The mayors agreed that collaborative work between the different cities and regions produces the best results.

“We have to increase the economy for our people, create jobs,” said Gastelum. “For every two jobs created in Tijuana, one is created in San Diego.”

Taking care of the homeless was another issue that Lewis presented to the panel.

“Homelessness is the single biggest quality of life challenge we’ve had in California,” Steinberg responded. “How can the wealthiest state allow this to continue and grow?”

San Diego’s mayor expanded on the homeless issue, saying that governments also need to offer more help on the mental health side.

“We’ve talked homeless and housing crisis but what we have is a mental health crisis in this state,” said Faulconer. “We need mental health housing and the wrap-around services that come with it.”

The three leaders set the tone for the rest of the day at Politifest. They showed how a Republican and Democrat mayor, as well as a foreign leader, could all share ideas and work together for the best interest of their citizens.

Panel: Life, undocumented, in the Trump era

The HuffPost joined Voice of San Diego to hold a panel discussion about the life of undocumented immigrants in the Trump era.

San Diego immigration attorney Dulce Garcia, who spoke about her experiences. was well acquainted with the topic not only because of her profession, but also because of the 25 years she spent as she described, “living in the shadows.”

Garcia explained how she came to the U.S. holding her mother’s hand when she was four years old. She talked about growing up in San Diego in poverty and fear. However, she was able to finish her bachelor’s degree and law school before she became a DACA recipient in 2014.  

“I’ve had discussions with Trumpsters and they say how expensive my education was and how I should go back to Mexico and make my country great,” said Garcia.

“To me, that makes absolutely no sense when I’m here, I have my business, I’m a property owner, I pay property taxes, I employ. And it just so happens that the people who are working for me are U.S. citizens. So it wouldn’t make sense economically to tell us to go back to our own countries and make them great when this is all we know.”

Garcia shared the microphone with reporters from the HuffPost and Voice of San Diego, as well as UCSD professor Tom Wong. Reporters Maya Srikrishnan (VOSD) and Elise Foley (HuffPost) spoke about reporting on immigration during a time when the president is prioritizing immigration enforcement and regularly making controversial and generalizing statements about immigrants.

Srikrishnan, Foley and Garcia said they all shared a common mission: to share the data and facts about who immigrants are, tell their stories and humanize them.

Panel: SDSU West vs. SoccerCity

The SoccerCity versus SDSU West debate turned into a verbal wrestling match with both sides accusing the other of using misleading information.

Nick Stone, project manager of SoccerCity, argued that voters should look over the details. He said the SDSU West proposal is primarily to build offices and that the city attorney pointed out that its plan wouldn’t fund a river park or even stadium.

Stone also claimed the SC plan would still give SDSU the same opportunities but wouldn’t force students to take on a $150 million debt.

Jack McGrory fired back from the SDSU West side, claiming SoccerCity wants to build another mall for Mission Valley and that it’s backed by hedge funds who tried to sue, saying SDSU West couldn’t use the term SDSU.

McGrory also pointed out that SoccerCity’s park plan was rejected by the Sierra Club and its 3,000-page proposal contained “escape clauses” that, if the state permitted, won’t require SoccerCity to build a river park. They know there will be required permits, he added.

Laura Fink argued to consider educational opportunities for future generations and that voters should trust SDSU trustees over SoccerCity investors who are looking to profit.

Howard Blackson, the voice for no on both, pointed out that both sides are trying to capitalize on a need to replace the loss of the Chargers. There is no need to rush into any uncertain plans or decide what to do right this second, he said.

“If both plans fail, we’ll still be okay,” he said. “The tyranny of the now is a false narrative.”

Bay Park resident Patti Begley agreed with Blackson, but she said she was already no on both going into the debate.

Andres Perez, a teacher at High Tech High, said he was going to vote for both propositions in hopes that at least one passes. He sees either development as good for the city.

Voters will get to decide Nov. 6 on what to do with, as Stone puts it, “the biggest parking lot west of the Mississippi.”