People of the Year in San Diego


Dec. 26, 2014 (San Diego) The people that we will recognize as the most influential this year are quite a large group. Some you have heard from, I am betting most you have not. The top getters for the honors this year are too many to mention, and would hardly get recognition from many in this town. So instead of trying to remember each by name, (or go though endless notebooks and sound), we will do this as a group honor. This goes to… please drumroll…

All the minimum wage workers who go to school work two jobs and still find the time to go to to council to not plead with them, but demand something be done.

Some are trying to raise children as well, and at times doze off. It is not because they have a lack of respect in the proceedings. This is the first uninterrupted 20-minute nap in days.

They are the ones who lead marches and walk out of their jobs at McDonalds, Burger King, and other places and get arrested. They have moral authority on their side, and our admiration. They are the people that day after day reminds us why the fight for civil rights and labor rights never ends.

In this group we include the Viejas workers. They voted to organize into a Union. While organizing is no longer as dangerous as it once was, there is still real risk involved. Nobody likes an organized workforce. So there are many tricks used to short-circuit a Union. In spite of it, the workers voted to organize. This makes Viejas the first labor organized casino in the county.

Now to our very much runners-up…

This is an interesting category since once again we had to carefully think of those who at times work where most of us never notice them. Some do, and some have gotten attention for their quiet leadership. So with no further…

The board of supervisors

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 This might be surprising, but all five? Yes, all five. The board is a quiet organization that works day in and out, and does good policy. During the May fires Supervisor Dianne Jacob was the public face, but her quiet leadership and demeanor took the county through that crisis. I guess that is when San Diegans learned of them. After the fires…well, most people did not hear of them until the park by the bay was inaugurated at 1600 Pacific Highway. (This park is a huge success.)

This year the Board quietly implemented policies that should reduce long-term costs to law enforcement with a program that will work with very high-risk youth, to divert them from the legal system. It uses both corrections and child welfare working in tandem. San Diego is one of four California counties chosen to implement it and two, which have. If it works, we will get in return productive citizens that never see the inside of a jail cell.

The board also voted on the formation of a task force to combat human trafficking. It is a large problem in our county, not that you would know about it. So after a couple of years of study, they took the steps necessary to initiate that task force. They expect to tackle the problem head on and help victims rebuild their lives.

The County also leads in programs that span human life, including research into Alzheimer’s and it’s eventual cure. On the other end the First Five support children from birth to year five. There are other programs that support residents in between. These policies place the county as a model for others around the nation to follow. Why the whole Board makes the list.

Former Council President Todd Gloria


I will admit this; covering politics can make a reporter rather cynical about the whole process. There is something to be said about not knowing the details of sausage making. Yet, Gloria is beloved by the people of San Diego. Not only did he step up to the plate and lead the city after the Bob Filner debacle, but also he truly cares about the city in deep ways.

Gloria is a rare politician who believes in putting the people ahead of personal ambition. This was clear during the original vote for Council President. This is one of those procedural votes that usually none, except for us politics nerds pay attention to. It is process, it happens every year, and the chambers are usually empty. Not this time.


People came to the Council and had nothing but praise. They were angry at the vote, and it was Gloria who quieted the crowd. We are sure that even in his diminished role as council member Gloria will continue to make a difference in this city.

Reverend Beth Johnson, Sister Justice Church and Rabi Laurie Coskie


These women live their religious teachings. All come and speak before our political leaders and support those at the bottom of society. Heal the sick, feed the poor, house the homeless, they do this as best as they can. Reverend Johnson was arrested with the Fight for $15 activists back in September. Some in fact, our person of the year award winners.

Many in this town will not remember that, but we do. (We missed the actual arrest since we gave a lift to Joe Riley, more on Joe bellow).

Over the years I have gotten to meet them in the front line. I also expect to see them in the front lines of the fight for social justice for many years to come. Who knows, we may even see another hunger strike in years to come.

Sister Church is one funny person, though likes to be somewhat in the background. Though when she speaks, she does so with the authority that comes from a woman committed to social justice.

Joe Riley

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Most people notice the old gentleman, with a quiet disposition and if you ask he will share his memories of Normandy, Market Garden and Bastogne. Joe jumped with the paratroopers and marched through Europe, starting one June 6, 1944. So talking to Council and speaking truth to power comes easy. Joe can be counted on in many social justice fights in this town. He is usually in the background. But when he speaks, he has the authority of history behind his still strong voice.

He commended the City Council for their political courage to vote for a minimum wage increase. He quoted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he did. Joe was right. It took courage on the part of the council. We expect to see Joe in those front lines for as long as he can. If need be, we will give him a ride again.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, (and staff)


Assembly Woman Lorena Gonzalez

Assembly Woman Lorena Gonzalez

I first met her when she was still president of the local labor council, behind a megaphone, in the streets of San Diego. She still works for the people. Her bill to give workers three days of paid sick days is a model for the rest of the nation. This is but her first term in the Assembly. So we expect a lot more from her.

Next year already started with a bang. The proposed bill will give workers who have to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas double pay will have to go through those twists and turns in the legislature. Her roots are in the struggle of labor, and these are her values.

Council Member Marti Emerald and Sarah Saenz


An infatigable fighter who took on the Taxi issue and shepherd it along. She was not alone, as Saenz and the Union President Mikaiil Hussein were by her side. This was the classic inside/outside operation with both demonstrations and behind closed doors negotiations. In the end it paid off, with dividends.

When Emerald was diagnosed with breast cancer she did not slow down. She continues to fight and shepherd issues in Council. We wish her well in her new responsibilities as President Pro Tem as well.

The naughty List

There are those who should have found not just a lump of coal under the tree, in a few cases a well stoked mine. So first our Coaly of the year goes to….drum roll…

The San Diego Chamber of Commerce, the hotel and restaurant owners and Jerry Sanders

What can we say? The misguided fight to keep workers making as low as possible in the fourth most expensive city to live in the United States is misguided economic policy. Cities were doom and gloom was predicted after a modest rise in the minimum wage has seen their economic prospects improve. In San Diego we would have seen the same thing.

They also went against the wishes of the majority of San Diegans, as well as the Council. They showed that if there is money, there is a way to mislead. What is of interest is that by rejecting the moderate increase now; with the annual modest increase after 2017 they have ensured that San Diego will not be competitive for even entry-level work with other major cities to our north. Los Angeles intends to seek $15\hour and San Francisco is intending to go there by 2018. This will make what they wanted here very moderate indeed. They also are ensuring slower economic growth.

They have also made sure a new battle, which will be for much higher wages than what Council approved. With all that in mind, with the coming cold days, I guess they can use that coal to stay warm. I guess we all need to look on the bright side of things.


San Diegans have a love affair with the car. We all know it. But policy makers should not be looking to the past, but the future. SANDAG’s climate change plan was an illusion, and the courts found such. It does not even start to meet green house gas reduction targets. So they get an oil field, courtesy of the Oil and Gas industry, and back to the drawing board with you.

This county needs to focus on public transportation that works. This has to leave the urban core and extend to rural areas as well. As a society we need to change how we do planning and de-emphasize private transportation. This is not about us; we love our vehicles (but we still take public transportation often). It is about our children and grand children.

Climate change is a reality. It is time to act as if the crisis is here, mostly because it is.



Yes, we know that the federal government would have been shut down. It came this close. There are two items in the bill that mean the U.S. Congress gets an honorary Coaly. The first is way too much inside baseball for politics nerds, The limit of contributions to politicians is going up. Yes, McCain- Feingold spending limits are all but dead letter. I guess we will continue to mention them out of habit. We have a problem with money in politics. This just opened a gaping wound in the system. We are aware, one of many, but still.

The second item that gives us pause is essentially the death of Dodd-Frank. Again, this is the kind of stuff that working people do not usually pay attention to, but one would think the 2008 crisis is not that far behind us, but it might as well be. The weak sauce regulatory environment put in place to avoid another crisis was finally removed. Banks will once again gamble with your money. mark our words. Banks have been working on this for a while, in particular Citi Bank. They do not like anything that might even get a tad in the way of profit…err greed.

So off we go to the casino and we are expecting another crisis. Perhaps this time we will get an actual depression. Well, maybe then we will get something like Glass Steagal back in place and the breakup of the monopolies. Now talk about depressive talk right there.

Twitter: @nadinbrzezinski

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Granted Congress could just get that Coaly for being the least productive like ever, but we expect the next Congress to get that award anyway, given how dysfunctional politics are in Washington these days.

And with that, we bid goodbye to 2014, with all the good, the bad and the ugly.

Categories: labor, Social Justice

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