The San Diego City Council wrapped up this month's budget hearings with a May 22 evening meeting. The agenda included mayor Bob Filner's revisions to the proposed 2014 budget. Public comment lasted nearly two hours and touched on issues ranging from a $50,000 allocation for the seal cam at Children's Cove to allocating $200,000 to give bus passes to low-income students at four high schools.
More than 300 people signed up to speak. About one-third addressed the council. The remainder didn't talk, but stated on speakers' forms that they supported the budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The council votes on the budget in June.
The majority of people in the crowded council chambers applauded Filner before he spoke about revisions. Additions include funding for the web cam installed by the Western Alliance for Nature Conservancy in January to protect seals from harassment.
The mayor said the conservancy can't afford to fund the seal cam, a device he called a "tourist magnet.” (During the public comment session, Jane Reldan of La Jolla said that more than 183,000 visitors from 58 countries "brought San Diego into their homes via the seal cam.")
“We are the only place in an urban setting where people see seals being born,” said Filner. In addition to the online following, the seal cam streams on Channel 24 and the monitor above the City Hall security checkpoint.
More than 60 people in the Mid-City CAN (Community Advisory Network) attended the hearing, said community organizer Emily Serafy Cox. Youths urged the council to approve a partnership with the San Diego Unified School District to provide free bus passes to students at Hoover, Crawford, Lincoln, and San Diego high schools.
"I've been skateboarding and walking around San Diego most of my life," said student Eric Hernandez. He added that he wanted to be able to "move freely."
Marta, a Crawford student, said there is only one car in her family, requiring her to walk 25 minutes to the grocery store. "I want a free pass to be safe," she said.
Chuck Podhorsky said that during his six years as Hoover's principal, six students were hit by cars on their way to school.
Other speakers included Khamar Osman. The Somali mother of five spoke through a translator about the beating one of her sons received as a Crawford student. "He did not have a safe environment; now my young son is in high school," she said.
Other issues discussed included the San Ysidro Library. "It's one of the smallest in the city, and it needs a new roof," said Miguel Aguirre.
Also at the hearing was Myrtle Cole, elected the day before to represent the Fourth District. Several constituents called for her appointment to the council infrastructure committee.