After a well fought campaign, and despite nasty smear efforts from his opponent, Stephen Whitburn is victorious in his run for San Diego City Council District 3. We were able to get some questions answered by Whitburn on his win and his plans for helping and improving the third district of the City of San Diego.
LGBTQSD NEWS: Similar to Harvey Milk, you got elected on your third try. How does it feel?
I’m grateful to everyone who voted for me and to all the terrific people who supported my campaign in ways large and small. This was a huge team effort. I’m honored by the trust people have placed in me, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility to serve our community well in the years ahead.
LGBTQSD NEWS: The homelessness problem is getting out of control — Downtown, Hillcrest, etc. What are your plans on this issue?
My number one priority will be solving our homelessness crisis. We have a moral obligation to help those who are suffering on the streets. It’s also a quality-of-life issue for our neighborhoods. I’ll ensure we conduct more effective outreach to people who are unsheltered, better coordinate services among agencies, provide emergency rent assistance to people facing eviction, add short-term housing by using state grants to purchase inexpensive hotels, partner with San Diego County to provide behavioral health services, and supply job training and ongoing support to help people become self-supporting.
LGBTQSD NEWS: There are many nightclubs/bars in the 3rd District. Do you support extending their operating hours and continuing outdoor dining in 2021?
The additional outdoor dining has been popular with residents. It has also helped restaurants to stay open, serve more customers, and employ more workers. In general, I support continuing the expanded outdoor dining. As for bar and nightclub operating hours, there are many individual variables, so those would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
LGBTQSD NEWS: How do you think redistricting will change the 3rd District?
Every 10 years following the census, the council district borders are redrawn so that each council district has a similar population. District 3 has grown in the past 10 years, so people expect the district’s boundaries to shift a bit to reduce its population. An independent panel will determine how best to do that.
LGBTQSD NEWS: Do you support the Police Department and law enforcement being welcomed in the San Diego LGBTQ Pride Parade?
I was San Diego Pride’s executive director when the Pulse Nightclub shooting happened in Orlando in June of 2016, a month before our Pride celebration. Few people know the lengths to which the San Diego Police Department went – in ways seen and unseen – to keep our community safe during our Pride celebration that year. Their effort to protect us was extraordinary. Of course, large numbers of people have had a different experience with police, including many in our Black, Brown, and Trans communities. As a councilmember, I will support measures that aim to build trust between our communities and our Police Department, and I look forward to the day when everyone feels safe and included in our celebrations.
LGBTQSD NEWS: Do you support the proposed San Diego AIDS Memorial being in Olive Street Park?
Thousands of San Diegans died during the AIDS crisis, and many of them and their loved ones were not treated properly due to the politics of the time. The memorial will remember them with dignity. With the city settling on a site, I hope people will soon have a special place to quietly reflect upon the many community members we lost.
LGBTQSD NEWS: Do you support stricter building height limits?
Appropriate building heights are tailored to individual neighborhoods. A 40-story tower might be great Downtown but not in University Heights. Ultimately, we need good urban planning and community involvement in decision-making.
LGBTQSD NEWS: Do you support the proposed Ferris wheel in Balboa Park?
This is a new proposal, and I’d like to hear the thoughts of the community and other stakeholders before I weigh in on it. It is currently being considered by the Balboa Park Committee, which advises the mayor and City Council on matters relating to Balboa Park.
LGBTQSD NEWS: You have already started focusing on the lack of quick response when it comes to 911 emergency lines. Can you tell us about it?
Some people have expressed frustration that when they called 911 to request police, they didn’t get a quick response. Recently, a man threatened the manager of a restaurant in Hillcrest. The manager called 911 three times requesting police. I know how busy our officers are. I recently spent an afternoon with an officer, and we went from one call to the next throughout the entire shift. I’m looking at what we can do to ensure that every urgent call to 911 gets a quick response.
LGBTQSD NEWS: Residence and business leases are forcing people to leave the 3rd District. What do you hope to do about this issue?
People who love our community should be able to keep living here. Sadly, we’ve seen longtime residents move away because they could no longer afford housing. I’ll work to preserve and improve existing affordable housing, add affordable apartments on excess land around trolley stations, offer property tax incentives to builders who include extra affordable units, and assist residents who would like to add an affordable rental unit behind their home.
LGBTQSD NEWS: Do you support more bike lanes?
I support adding bike lanes that integrate well into our neighborhoods. We need bicyclists to be safe, and that requires a network of bike lanes so that bicyclists can safely get to wherever they’re going. We also need to be thoughtful about how we add bike lanes so we don’t leave residents or businesses without parking.
LGBTQSD NEWS: You were subjected to a smear campaign by your opponent and yet you still ran a clean campaign. Do you think that was a factor in your decisive election?
Many people thanked me for running a clean campaign. I always enjoy keeping things positive, and people seem to appreciate that. Now that the election is over, I’m looking forward to all of us moving forward together.