Jeff Clemetson | Editor
[Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on the La Mesa City Council races. Next month La Mesa Courier will feature a sit-down interview with the incumbent candidates. Election coverage in La Mesa Courier does not constitute an endorsement. The Courier, like all newspapers in the San Diego Community Newspaper Network, does not endorse political campaigns.]
As the November election draws near, Democrats across the nation are campaigning for what they hope will be a “blue wave” to take back Congress and rebuke the Trump administration. Locally, the mid-terms could also bring a blue wave to La Mesa’s city council.
Dr. Akilah Weber and former San Diego County Sheriff Commander David Meyers — together nicknamed “The Doc and The Cop” — hope to unseat incumbents Bill Baber and Guy McWhirter, joining fellow Democrat Coin Parent to make the first Democratic majority on the La Mesa City Council in several decades. Also, Dr. Weber would be the only African-American woman, and Meyers the only openly-gay man on the council.
On Sept. 23, the two candidates met with supporters at Parent’s home to introduce themselves, discuss their campaigns and answer questions.
Meyers — who recently lost a bid to unseat San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore — told the audience that he jumped into the race for city council after learning from Parent that, although he had lost the countywide vote, he had beat Gore in La Mesa.
“I’m not done getting involved,” Meyers said, adding that he retired from his 35 years in law enforcement after running against his boss and losing. “I’m not done providing government service. I think, like a lot of you, the reason we’re here is because we cannot sit back and watch what is happening nationally, that’s trickling down to local elections, continue. I can’t sit back and do that.”
Meyers said he hopes to change the narrative of today’s politics that ignores the concerns of people.
“Whether that’s local government, whether its school districts, healthcare districts, water districts — we have to pay attention to the people that say something.”
While door-to-door campaigning, Meyers said he has learned that a lot of people’s concerns are not being addressed — especially on the west end of La Mesa, where he and his partner have lived for 15 years.
“The west end of La Mesa, quite frankly, has been neglected both in development and housing,” he said.
On the issue of cannabis, Meyers said that because of his experience in law enforcement, he is in favor of safe access and regulation. Illegal dispensaries “popped up over the years because the city of La Mesa has failed to do what the citizens wanted them to do,” he said.
Homelessness and housing was the issue most discussed at the campaign event. Meyers urged supporters to back Prop 1, which provides housing for veterans with a $4 billion bond, and Prop 2, a $2 billion bond measure for homelessness prevention.
Locally, Meyers supports providing a homeless navigation center in La Mesa that directs homeless to services. He also said the current practice of handing out citations for trespassing “is not a law enforcement strategy.”
“The strategy they are employing right now is displacement,” he said. “And jail is not the answer. Arrest is not the answer to create that sense of community around homelessness.”
Dr. Akilah Weber
Dr. Weber moved to La Mesa in 2014. She grew up in Oak Park, San Diego before attending college in Louisiana, medical school in New York to study gynecology, a residency in Chicago, a pediatric gynecology fellowship program in Cincinnati, and work at a hospital in Dallas where she met her husband.
The Webers moved back to San Diego in 2013 when Akilah was 36 weeks pregnant.
“[I moved back] not only so my kids could be raised around family in the same area I was raised, but also so that I could start to give back to the community that gave me so much,” she said. “We chose La Mesa because one of the things we noticed about La Mesa, is it’s not just a city, it’s an actual community where people know each other, kids grow up together, you see each other out at dinner, while shopping. … But when I look at the City Council as a whole, I don’t see that it really represents all of La Mesa very well, so that’s why I decided to run.”
Part of that imbalanced representation, Weber said, is an overrepresentation of Downtown Village at the expense of other areas.
“We need to go out into the La Mesa community and promote the other area of La Mesa, the other businesses in La Mesa,” she said.
Weber works as an OB-GYN at UC San Diego. She also implemented a pediatric gynecology division at Rady’s Children’s Hospital, despite that hospital’s reluctance to start one when she first proposed it.
“Now they can’t imagine what it would be like to not have a gynecologist there,” she said. “So that just shows that I can see what we need; I’m a visionary and I can plan into the future.”
Weber’s plans for the future include three priorities, with public safety as the top one.
“I want my family to be raised in a very safe environment … so we need to make sure that we continue to support our public safety officers, but that we as a community also have a say in that.”
Weber said she supports some citizen oversight of La Mesa Police Department to help ease concerns of residents following an incident at Helix High School where a student was body slammed by an officer.
Housing affordability is another priority for Weber.
“When my husband and I moved back from Dallas there was a huge sticker shock when we went to purchase our home here. And it really shouldn’t be that way for people who want to come into a community and live and grow and develop in a community.”
Being a doctor, she said health and wellness is also a top priority. She cited her support for the city’s passage of a Climate Action Plan but added that the council needs to make sure it is implemented. “Not just something put on paper but put into action,” she said.
Weber also shared her thoughts on the homeless issue in the city.
“I don’t think that the council, in the past, has addressed [homelessness] very well or even really acknowledged it as a problem in La Mesa,” she said. “When I look at the issue of homelessness, I look at it in two folds. One is people who might not be on the street but do not have a home. Leaders need to have a vision for dealing with affordable housing, low and middle income.”
The other focus is medical, psychological issues leading to homelessness, she said, and offered a potential solution.
“We pay into the Grossmont Healthcare District so we need to go to them as representatives of La Mesa and say, ‘Hey are residents are paying into this Grossmont Healthcare District, you’ve got a hospital here. What kind of free services are you offering for the medically and psychologically unstable so that they can then get off the street and start providing for themselves?’”
For more information about City Council candidate Dave Meyers, visit daveforlamesa.com.
Learn more about Dr. Akilah Weber’s campaign at drweber4lamesa.com.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.