Posts by Susan Duerksen
For 12 years — using a combination of up-to-date technology and old-fashioned attention from smart teachers — the San Diego Unified School District has been preparing my daughter for a productive life in the 21st century.
All kids need and deserve an education like this, not just for their own good but for all of us. We need them to become our accountants, nurses, lab techs, engineers, teachers, lawmakers, electricians, artists and business owners.
What seems harder to accept is that good, effective schools cost money. Through numerous decisions over the years, we have cut back repeatedly on what we’re willing to spend for public education. You can’t keep cutting without hitting bone.
San Diego now has schools built when Harry Truman was president that must have their roofs fixed, electrical wiring replaced and fire alarms updated. New classrooms and science labs are needed in overcrowded schools. Toxic asbestos must be removed.
These are not optional expenses. The district is proposing a school bond, the traditional way to pay for such projects, called Proposition Z, on your ballot next Tuesday. It not only makes sense — it averts a catastrophe.
If Prop. Z doesn’t receive 55 percent of the vote, San Diego Unified will have to lay off hundreds of talented, dedicated teachers to afford the school repairs. Class sizes will bulge to beyond manageable. And the district will lose its highly successful program of classroom technology that has helped raise test scores for four years straight.
That would be a giant step backward for a district that has now achieved the highest literacy and science scores of all large urban districts in California.
And yet what do we read about in local media coverage of Prop Z? An argument, prompted by the business group called San Diego County Taxpayers Association, over whether to count interest payments in the cost of in-classroom iPads purchased through the district’s 2008 school bond as part of the effective technology program.
The complaint is contrived and four years late, an intentional distraction by people who know they’d get less political traction by openly opposing public schools or computer literacy programs for under-privileged kids.
Don’t let the distractions obscure these facts about Prop Z:
• Every dime raised is guaranteed to go to local schools, with complete transparency and annual audits.
• It specifically prohibits “Poway-style” long-term, high-interest bonds.
• It funds neighborhood schools and charter schools, and all the projects are listed online by school.
You don’t have to be a parent to know how much we need schools — including safe physical structures, modern technology and great teachers. Turn off the noise and bluster of election season for an hour. Sit in any San Diego Unified classroom and think about what matters for those kids, your future fellow citizens.
We’re working on college applications at my house, and I’m voting for Prop. Z to make sure everybody’s kids have the chances mine did.
Read more of our ballot recommendations here.
Susan Duerksen is a mom and communications director at the Center on Policy Initiatives.
Mail-in ballots start arriving next week for the November 6 election. Beneath the high-profile races is a long list of initiatives with potentially dramatic impacts.
CPI strongly recommends voting YES on Proposition 30 and NO on Proposition 32. In the San Diego Unified School District, we recommend YES on Proposition Z.
YES on Prop 30 – Temporary Taxes to Fund Education
Proposition 30 would create revenue of approximately $6 billion dollars annually, primarily to support California’s education system. It would prevent drastic cuts scheduled for the current school year, both in K-12 and higher education. On the local level, without passage of Prop 30, San Diego Unified School District would be forced to increase class sizes and lay off up to 1,000 educators.
Prop 30 also guarantees that revenues will be available to local government to fund vital services like public safety. Responsibility for these programs was transferred from the state to local government in 2011, and this measure ensures the funding also will be transferred.
Revenues from this initiative would come mainly from the highest income Californians. The money could only be used to fund education and the other programs specifically outlined in the initiative, and the state legislature could not change that.
NO on Prop 32 – Special Exemptions Act
Masquerading as campaign finance reform, Prop 32 claims to take all corporate and labor money out of politics, but doesn’t. It takes workers and unions out, but keeps corporations in. By prohibiting raising money for political campaigns through voluntary payroll deductions – the method used by unions – it bars the organized voice of workers from political participation, while allowing corporate profits to be spent freely.
Prop 32 is funded by wealthy conservatives and donor organization, and would kick their most significant opposition out of the political arena. That would clear the way for initiatives to deregulate industries, remove consumer protections, defund public services and roll back workplace standards.
Prop 32 is the most important measure on the ballot this year. It’s essential that everyone who values democracy not only vote against it but help inform others that Prop 32 is a deceptive power grab by corporate interests.
YES on Prop Z – San Diego Unified School District facility bond
Prop Z will provide urgently needed funding for every neighborhood school and charter school in the San Diego Unified School District. It will fix leaky roofs and deteriorating electrical wires at 60-year-old schools, and construct new classrooms, science labs and other facilities in neighborhoods where the population has outgrown the schools. And it will make sure all our schools meet health and safety standards. The school district has been hard hit by state budget cuts, and Prop Z will provide local funding Sacramento can’t touch.
Click here to read CPI’s position on the other statewide ballot initiatives and download our handy voters’ guide bookmark. Please share this message!
By Susan Duerksen | June 12, 2012 |
This week, San Diego is celebrating the many accomplishments of Richard Lawrence, a CPI board member. On Thursday he will receive the San Diego Housing Federation’s 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award, and the San Diego City Council has proclaimed today, June 12, “Richard Lawrence Day.”
Council President Tony Young authored the city proclamation “recognizing Richard Lawrence for a lifelong commitment to a ministry of interracial and economic justice, and celebrating all of his contributions to making a better San Diego.”
At CPI, we regularly celebrate Richard’s active and wise participation on our board. He is a true leader in thought and action, and is deeply committed to fairness for all working people.
Many in San Diego know him as a leading advocate for affordable housing, a champion of civil rights, an inspirational speaker and singer, or all of the above. A retired Methodist minister, Richard is a powerful and articulate voice for social and economic justice.
Affordable housing has been his core passion through much of his life. In the 1960s, he worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on a bank boycott to protest discriminatory lending and hiring practices in Chicago. He also joined King in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
After retiring to San Diego, Richard founded the Affordable Housing Coalition of San Diego County and helped bring together a responsible development alliance of labor, faith and community groups called ACCORD. He worked with CPI on an inclusionary housing ordinance and the city’s first Community Benefits Agreement, which required developers near Petco Park to fund affordable housing.
His latest project is the San Diego Community Land Trust, which he helped start in 2007 and continues to serve as a board member. The land trust makes home ownership possible for low-income families and keeps the properties affordable for future generations.
Richard Lawrence is an inspiration, a good friend, a tireless advocate and, as the city proclamation states, “a true community hero.” We at CPI are lucky to know him and have him on our team.
By Susan Duerksen | May 25, 2012 |
In the June 5 election, working people in the San Diego region have an important opportunity to protect our communities, local economy and quality of life. With that in mind, I’m sending CPI’s ballot recommendations in hopes they will help you prepare to vote on June 5.
CPI Executive Director
San Diego: NO on Prop A
Proposition A represents special-interest politics of the worst kind. It is designed to give an advantage to certain contractors who want to avoid standards for local hiring and decent wages, and it could be extremely costly for San Diego taxpayers.
Prop A would restrict the City’s options for public works contracting by banning the use of Project Labor Agreements. PLAs are commonly used by both business and public agencies for major projects, and have been proven to save time and money. They are contracts with the construction trades that will be doing the work, and they establish completion deadlines, safety protections and skill requirements as well as standards for the kind of jobs that build a healthy local economy.
It makes no sense to remove this tool, which is available for the City to use when appropriate and useful. Besides, passage of Prop A is likely to cost San Diego up to $158 million in state funds by violating state law on open and fair contracting for public works projects.
Proposition A is a bad idea all around, and CPI urges a NO vote.
NO on Prop B
The irony about all the political bluster over pensions for San Diego city workers is that the people getting the inflated, $100,000+ pensions are administrators, managers and politicians, not the workers. Proposition B doesn’t touch those high pensions.
The average city employee pension is $40,000, and they don’t get Social Security like most of us. City workers like firefighters, 911 operators, park groundskeepers, trash truck drivers and many others have already sacrificed to balance the city budget. Prop B would strip them of a modestly secure retirement.
Prop B will be costly to implement and it’s flatly unfair. CPI recommends voting No on Prop B.
El Cajon: NO on Prop D
In a city that already has the highest poverty rates in San Diego County, Proposition D would drive down wages for local workers. Greedy contractors are pushing for city charters, in El Cajon and elsewhere, as a way to get around state requirements that they pay prevailing wages.
Prevailing wage law ensures that builders and developers with taxpayer-funded construction contracts pay at least the standard wages and benefits for the job in the area. That way, the jobs stay local and stay middle class.
The last thing El Cajon’s economy needs is to give low-road contractors a pass from those requirements. Vote no on Prop D.
Oceanside: NO on Prop E
In Oceanside, an effort to phase out rent control in mobile home parks would benefit developers and out-of-town corporate owners of mobile home parks. The results would be devastating for many of Oceanside’s vulnerable senior citizens, whose rents could skyrocket for the plots of land where their mobile homes are located.
Rent control for mobile home parks in Oceanside has helped many seniors and veterans make ends meet for 30 years, and should be maintained. Vote no on Prop E.
Statewide: YES on Prop 28
Prop 28 is a simple reform that will set a 12-year limit on time in the legislature and eliminate the need to shift between offices. We believe it will help our lawmakers get the work done.
CPI joins the League of Women Voters and Common Cause in urging voters to approve Prop 28.
By Susan Duerksen | May 15, 2012 |
Report: Janitors’ low wages a blotch on biotech’s shining reputation
Janitors who clean the offices and laboratories of San Diego’s highly profitable biotech companies generally aren’t paid enough to live on, while their low wages are excluded from the industry’s claims of creating good jobs.
A new report from the Center on Policy Initiatives examined the pay scales and financial health of large local life sciences firms, including biotech and related companies. While the industry claims its salaries average more than $100,000 locally, that doesn’t count many essential support jobs that often are contracted out – such as janitors, security guards and food service workers.
Janitors at San Diego’s largest life sciences firm, Illumina, are paid an average of $8.84 an hour – $18,387 for a year of full-time work – while the company nets $125 million a year and CEO Jay T. Flately makes $9.9 million.
“These service workers are the invisible part of an industry that receives substantial public subsidy and is considered the best hope for our local economy,” said Corinne Wilson, lead author of the report. “The corporations are thriving and should be responsible employers for all the workers who make that success possible.”
The report, Swept under the Rug: Low Pay in San Diego’s Life Sciences Industry, also found that janitors’ wages in San Diego have consistently lagged behind the statewide average over the past decade, despite the region’s high cost of living.
One janitor profiled in the report, Martha Gómez, is paid $8.40 an hour after four years cleaning Illumina’s offices. She must work two jobs, leaving virtually no time with her 9- and 14-year-old daughters. Another janitor, Arturo Morales, makes $9.78 an hour after seven years at Gen-Probe, and has no health coverage for his wife Maria, who is deteriorating from the potentially fatal disease scleroderma.
Six San Diego janitors are starting a hunger strike today as part of a week-long demonstration of their need for higher wages and health coverage. They are hoping to gain an improved contract through the Service Employees International Union – United Service Workers West.
CPI recommends a Responsible Industry Code of Conduct for life sciences companies that would require service contactors to provide decent jobs with healthcare for local workers.
By Susan Duerksen | May 9, 2012 |
San Diego voters – across the city and across the political spectrum – favor fining banks to cover cleanup costs for foreclosed properties that are not maintained.
In a poll conducted last month, 70% of voters who expect to vote in November said they support $1,000-a-day fines for banks that let foreclosed homes become rundown. The opinion research firm Grove Insight surveyed 600 voters in the city by telephone, and found only 14% opposed the idea.
“San Diegans are fed up with the blight in their neighborhoods, the hazards to their children and the damage to their property values,” said Clare Crawford, executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives, which commissioned the poll. “And as taxpayers they’re footing the bill for police and fire calls, inspections, maintenance and other services the city must provide bank-owned homes.”
The Property Value Protection Ordinance, proposed by CPI and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), would require banks to register foreclosed properties and pay fines of $1,000 a day when they don’t maintain a home after complaints are received. The money would recover city costs.
The poll found more than 60% support the idea in every geographic region of the city, with 78% support among Democrats and 66% among Republicans and Independents. Overall, 70% of voters support the proposal, including 42% who “strongly” support it. Only 14% were opposed and 16% undecided.
“Foreclosure blight continues to be a serious problem in neighborhoods across our city,” said Councilmember David Alvarez, who is introducing the ordinance. “It’s time San Diego takes action, as many other cities have done, to recover the costs created by foreclosures and force banks to clean up their mess.”
Chula Vista and more than 70 other cities throughout California already have adopted similar ordinances.
ACCE member Rafael Bautista sent letters today to all candidates for San Diego Mayor and Council, asking them to take a stand on the issue publicly before the June 5 election.
CPI and ACCE issued a report last year that estimated foreclosures since 2008 have caused a combined home value loss of $19 billion for homeowners in the City of San Diego and cost taxpayers between $134 million and $855 million.
At today’s Land Use and Housing hearing, San Diego Councilmember Lorie Zapf, who chairs the Land Use and Housing Committee, announced that she has scheduled the first hearing of the proposed ordinance for July 11th, at 2pm. The public is invited to attend this hearing to ensure that the ordinance continues to move forward. Please contact Norma Rodriguez, firstname.lastname@example.org, 619-584-5744 ext. 62 for any further questions.
By Susan Duerksen | March 19, 2012 |
Under the guise of “streamlining,” Mayor Jerry Sanders is asking the San Diego City Council to steamroll community concerns and give him more power to make closed-door deals with contractors.
A vote is scheduled during the Council meeting that begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 20.
The broad-based Community Budget Alliance, which includes CPI and more than 20 diverse community organizations in San Diego, objects that the change would allow the Mayor to award public works contracts of up to $30 million without any Council or public review, a substantial increase from the current limit of $1 million.
The Mayor’s proposal also would allow large contractors to choose subcontractors with no obligations to hire locally or pay wages that cover the cost of living in San Diego.
Read more in an op-ed published Friday by alliance members representing the League of Women Voters, NAACP and United African American Ministerial Action Council.
Please attend the Council meeting Tuesday afternoon or contact your Councilmember: Tell the Council to reject this deeply flawed proposal and develop a real streamlining plan that retains public control of our public works and benefits our neighborhoods rather than big contractors.
By Susan Duerksen | March 8, 2012 |
People whose neighborhoods have been left blighted by foreclosures joined with CPI and our ally ACCE yesterday to urge the San Diego City Council to consider our proposed ordinance to crack down on the banks.
Norma Rodriguez of CPI appeared on local TV news last night to explain the need and the solution. Watch her here and see an example in City Heights of the hazards created by abandoned foreclosures.
The Property Value Protection Ordinance would help clean up neighborhoods and recover taxpayer costs by fining banks $1000 a day when they fail to properly maintain a foreclosed property.
A report released last year by CPI and ACCE, Foreclosure: The Cost Communities Pay, found that besides lowering nearby property values, blighted properties cost local governments millions of dollars for maintenance, public safety calls, and other code enforcement.
Click here to contact the City Council’s Land Use and Housing committee and urge them to take up and approve this reasonable solution.
By Susan Duerksen | February 21, 2012 |
A UT story this morning on the Millionaires Tax proposal to fund California schools referred to “what some see as a wealth gap.”
That’s like saying “some see” the Grand Canyon as steep terrain.
The huge divide between the super-wealthy and the rest of us is a matter of arithmetic, not perception.
- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported in December that the gap between the rich and the poor has hit its highest level in more than 30 years, and the US has the fourth-highest inequality level, after Chile, Mexico and Turkey.
- The top 1% wealthiest households now own almost 40% of our national wealth, while the median household income dropped by $10,000 over 25 years, the Economic Policy Institute reports.
- And in San Diego, Census data analyzed by CPI shows that the poverty rate rose to almost 15% in 2010, while the top 20% of households take almost half of all income in the region.
Those are hard facts.
The proposed Millionaires Tax is sensible and fair, and not just because of the injustice in the rampant wealth inequity.
People who earn more than $1,000,000 a year can easily afford to chip in a small fraction to preserve our schools. After all, they could not have achieved that wealth without an educated workforce – from attorneys and accountants to engineers and technicians. It’s time to pay it forward.
The Millionaires Tax would add a 3% tax only on income above the first $1 million, and an additional 2% on income over $2 million.
A coalition called Restoring California kicked off the signature drive last week to put the Millionaires Tax on the November ballot. It would restore up to $9 billion a year that has been cut from education, elder care, public safety and infrastructure.
To learn more and sign up to help, visit www.millionairestaxca.com.
By Susan Duerksen | November 30, 2011 |
Research shows more people uninsured in county, while outreach lags
As residents of San Diego County continue to lose health insurance, County officials could enhance their efforts to bring in federal funding newly available to increase coverage.
The Center on Policy Initiatives is calling on the County Board to re-examine its approach to the federal Affordable Care Act, in light of new research findings:
- Employment-based insurance is declining, leaving an additional 27,000 San Diego County residents uninsured in 2010, and pushing many thousands more into public, taxpayer-funded programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, CPI reports in The Uninsured in San Diego County.
- San Diego County spends relatively little on the uninsured, compared to other major California counties, and is lagging on outreach and enrollment in preparation for the new federal funding, CPI found in Improving Access to Health Coverage: San Diego County and Federal Health Reform.
“Counties are responsible for providing a healthcare safety net,” said Corinne Wilson, CPI research and policy lead. “The federal government is offering funding to strengthen those safety nets, and that gives the San Diego County Board an opportunity to benefit taxpayers as well as individuals who’ve fallen on hard times.”
As the Union-Tribune reported this week, the County has limited early enrollment in the new Low Income Health Program, instead transferring participants in from another program it opted to close. Because the closed program had broader eligibility standards, the change by the County will leave more people uninsured in the future.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, which will be fully implemented by 2014, an estimated 203,000 more county residents could be eligible for Medi-Cal and others qualify for additional public programs. However, decisions on eligibility standards and allocating matching funds are left up to county governments.
CPI urges San Diego County officials to gather input from a wide variety of community stakeholders on the best way to respond to the federal healthcare reform opportunities, for the good of community residents as well as healthcare providers such as hospitals and clinics.