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Art brought to Barrio Logan battle

"It's a fight between corporate moneyed interests and the regular people."

Barrio Logan residents and other San Diegans packed the Chicano Arts Gallery on Logan Avenue Saturday evening, May 31. Showing was Until our Last Breath, a one-day art exhibit organized by longtime Barrio activist Brent Beltrán in support of the passage of Propositions B and C. If passed, the initiatives would allow for the implementation of a community plan update developed by locals, approved by the city council, and opposed by a big-money campaign largely funded by the area's shipyards.

"Artists wanted an opportunity to express themselves when it comes to the community plan, Props B and C, and the general pollution that's been ongoing in our neighborhood," said Beltrán. "I've curated shows in the past, so it's something I thought I could do, and the idea was to put it together right before the election, to hopefully at least get a few extra voters out."

Inside the gallery, people milled about, observing walls packed with paintings and murals depicting the challenges of living in the most polluted neighborhood in San Diego County. A portrait of Beltrán's young son, Dino, wearing a gas mask, greeted visitors at the front entry.

"What you see is a variety of not just artistic styles, but a variety of approaches to conveying what pollution means in this community," Beltrán continued.

Several speakers, including Beltrán, addressed an overflow crowd gathered on the sidewalk outside the gallery, where visitors also took in a contribution too large for the gallery to house — a giant totem carved from an unearthed tree trunk.

"You walk around and you see industrial properties right next to people's homes, around the elementary school — that's something that's unique to this community, something you don't see anywhere else," said Georgette Gomez, representing the Environmental Health Coalition, which has been supporting the plan update even before it was placed on a citywide ballot.

City councilman David Alvarez, flanked by Georgette Gomez and exhibit curator Brent Beltrán

Onetime mayoral candidate and area city councilman David Alvarez also addressed the crowd. Alvarez has been a vocal supporter of the community plan throughout the campaign to overturn it.

"You can see through a lot of the artwork what this fight is all about — and it goes beyond Barrio Logan," Alvarez said. "It's a fight between corporate moneyed interests and the regular people. Unfortunately, [the opposition] is spending probably 20, 30, 40 times as much money to get their side heard. It's our duty to stand up and say, ‘This isn't right.' What they're trying to do in buying this election should not be allowed.

"Never have I witnessed a campaign where there's so much money being spent on one side, and so little on another. This is an uphill battle, and we're going to need to push hard to get up that hill."

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Barrio Logan residents and other San Diegans packed the Chicano Arts Gallery on Logan Avenue Saturday evening, May 31. Showing was Until our Last Breath, a one-day art exhibit organized by longtime Barrio activist Brent Beltrán in support of the passage of Propositions B and C. If passed, the initiatives would allow for the implementation of a community plan update developed by locals, approved by the city council, and opposed by a big-money campaign largely funded by the area's shipyards.

"Artists wanted an opportunity to express themselves when it comes to the community plan, Props B and C, and the general pollution that's been ongoing in our neighborhood," said Beltrán. "I've curated shows in the past, so it's something I thought I could do, and the idea was to put it together right before the election, to hopefully at least get a few extra voters out."

Inside the gallery, people milled about, observing walls packed with paintings and murals depicting the challenges of living in the most polluted neighborhood in San Diego County. A portrait of Beltrán's young son, Dino, wearing a gas mask, greeted visitors at the front entry.

"What you see is a variety of not just artistic styles, but a variety of approaches to conveying what pollution means in this community," Beltrán continued.

Several speakers, including Beltrán, addressed an overflow crowd gathered on the sidewalk outside the gallery, where visitors also took in a contribution too large for the gallery to house — a giant totem carved from an unearthed tree trunk.

"You walk around and you see industrial properties right next to people's homes, around the elementary school — that's something that's unique to this community, something you don't see anywhere else," said Georgette Gomez, representing the Environmental Health Coalition, which has been supporting the plan update even before it was placed on a citywide ballot.

City councilman David Alvarez, flanked by Georgette Gomez and exhibit curator Brent Beltrán

Onetime mayoral candidate and area city councilman David Alvarez also addressed the crowd. Alvarez has been a vocal supporter of the community plan throughout the campaign to overturn it.

"You can see through a lot of the artwork what this fight is all about — and it goes beyond Barrio Logan," Alvarez said. "It's a fight between corporate moneyed interests and the regular people. Unfortunately, [the opposition] is spending probably 20, 30, 40 times as much money to get their side heard. It's our duty to stand up and say, ‘This isn't right.' What they're trying to do in buying this election should not be allowed.

"Never have I witnessed a campaign where there's so much money being spent on one side, and so little on another. This is an uphill battle, and we're going to need to push hard to get up that hill."

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Barrio Logan has a right to develop its own community plan to protect the health and well-being of its residents. But Big Money Interests -- disgracefully fronted by ex-Mayor Jerry Sanders who now heads the Chamber of Commerce -- are paying to subvert that right by having the entire greater San Diego community weigh in on what is a neighborhood matter.

In a litmus test for San Diego's future and the independence of all other community planning groups, Barrio Logan's rights and its Community Plan depend upon the number of voters who turn out citywide tomorrow June 3 to VOTE YES on PROPS B and C.

June 2, 2014

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