Last month, Serge Dedina, a frequent foe of Imperial Beach mayor Jim Janney, announced his intention to run for the office in November.
Dedina, 49, who is the executive director of the Wildcoast conservation agency as well as a surfer with a Ph.D. in geography, made his candidacy public on January 15. He said that his concern with the tenure of Janney is a major reason he is running.
“I've been appalled over the past eight years watching mayor Jim Janney fundamentally disrupt the tradition of community leadership, planning, and involvement in Imperial Beach,” Dedina said, citing a lack of citizen involvement and the low number of citizen advisory committees. Dedina said he would make big changes in this area and “significantly increase the number of citizen advisory committees."
Mayor Janney defended the city’s record, stressing that the city is responsible for staffing the committees and already considering their expansion. “There have been two active citizen advisory committees” for over a dozen years, said Janney. “The Imperial Beach City Council appoints these committee members.” New committees are “an agenda item for discussion at a future council meeting. This was at the direction of the city council late last year.”
Dedina cited the controversy over the planned privatization of the city’s sports park as evidence of a lack of “values of caring, compassion and empathy” at work in city hall, and said that Imperial Beach needs “a mayor who really cares about them.” The sports-park issue resulted in angry public meetings. The majority of residents were against the plan to turn over management of the park to the YMCA, which would have resulted in new fees and costs. The plan currently being negotiated is to turn over management to the Boys and Girls Club.
Janney defended his handling of the issue. “The goal of the proposals to operate Sports Park was to increase recreational opportunities for all ages of our community. The city has proposed continued funding to offset some of the operational costs.”
Dedina pointed out that Janney’s third term for mayor would be “unprecedented” for Imperial Beach, which has had only two-term mayors since incorporating in 1956; Janney said San Diego County is full of mayors who have been around for many terms, pointing to Lemon Grove’s Mary Sessom, who has been in office since 1996.
Dedina said he would have a “very grassroots campaign” with door-to-door campaigning, public events, and meetings with “local business owners and organizational leaders...and communities of faith” in order to “ask them about how we can help to improve the quality of life for all in Imperial Beach.” He mentioned his bilingual skills and said, “I will be reaching out to the Hispanic community in English and Spanish.”