Samantha Ollinger, Ann McDonald, and Salimisha Logan
  • Samantha Ollinger, Ann McDonald, and Salimisha Logan
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After a presentation on the City of San Diego's proposed 2014 budget, participants at a May 4 Community Budget Alliance event learned how to write and give testimony of two minutes or less during the city-council budget hearings scheduled for May 6–10 and the evening of May 22. The council votes in June on the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

"Get down to two minutes and bring a one-minute version. Sometimes time runs out [due to numerous speakers]," advised Susan Duerksen, director of communications for the Center on Policy Initiatives, a nonprofit described on its website as "dedicated to advancing economic equity for working people and diverse communities throughout the San Diego region." Duerksen was among the speakers at the budget teach-in at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.

Community Budget Alliance activities included compiling a list of priorities and recommendations for the 2014 budget. Capital improvement projects recommended by CBA in the budget include a Central Avenue mini-park in City Heights and improvements and lighting at Larsen Field in San Ysidro.

CPI research and policy analyst Corinne Wilson said the city is partnering with the San Diego Unified School District to give free bus passes to low-income students at San Diego, Lincoln, Crawford, and Hoover high schools. The budget allocation for passes is $200,000. The budget also designated $1.2 million to hire 16 police officers.

Wilson also addressed criticisms of the budget, such as mayor Bob Filner's plan to postpone issuing an $80 million infrastructure bond. While opponents maintain the bond is needed during the current fiscal year, the mayor proposed issuance in January 2014 to save $5.6 million in debt service. Wilson compared the delay to buying a car: "You save if you wait six months" and don't spend now.

Duerksen then spoke about “convincing the council.” She said that CPI commissioned polls of registered San Diego County voters in April and August of 2012 and found that effective phrases about infrastructure spending included "giving every neighborhood a fair shake" and "creates needed, good-paying jobs."

Participants spent 15 minutes writing statements and then practiced saying them in small groups. Salimisha Logan of the Council of Neighborhood Coalitions called for "another fire house" in District 4. Samantha Ollinger of Bike San Diego spoke about bicycle infrastructure. Ann McDonald of the League of Women Voters of San Diego talked about a water-purification plant.

Several people practiced by speaking to the entire group. Dorothy Kwiatt of the San Diego Organizing Project spoke about broken sidewalks at the intersection of 32nd Street and El Cajon Boulevard and the risk to the elderly and children in strollers. "This neighborhood has been forgotten for over 20 years," she said. Janet Griffin talked about the need to fix streetlights in Ocean Beach.

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