Rev. Shane Harris, president of the San Diego chapter of National Action Network, speaks to the crowd. Photo by Chris Stone
The Rev. Shane Harris, president of the San Diego chapter of National Action Network. Photo by Chris Stone

Two San Diego civil rights advocates Wednesday blasted City Council President Myrtle Cole for not assigning colleagues from disadvantaged neighborhoods to the panel’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

Councilwoman Myrtle Cole. Photo by Chris Stone

At a news conference, the Rev. Shane Harris said the appointments raise the possibility that those issues could be pushed aside.

“She’s paying back her Republican friends who voted for her for council president,” said Harris, who spoke along with the Rev. Cornelius Bowser.

Harris said Cole was in for “a tough next two years,” and promised to put up a candidate to oppose her 2018 re-election bid.

The council on Monday unanimously approved a slate of committee appointments offered by Cole, despite some complaints that the roster of the Public Safety panel only included representatives of relatively affluent neighborhoods.

The committee over the past year or so has been the forum for contentious issues such as racial profiling in traffic stops, diversity in the SDPD rank-and-file, and video cameras that officers wear on their uniforms.

When asked for comment by City News Service, Cole’s chief of staff, Jimmie Slack, released a one-line statement: “Unfortunately, they may not have information on how committee assignments are made.”

Cole, a black woman who represents Southeast San Diego and its predominantly minority population, was named council president last week on a 6-3 vote that included support from two Democrats on the technically nonpartisan body — herself and Barbara Bry.

Cole appointed Chris Cate, who represents Mira Mesa, as the committee’s chairman.

Other members are Bry, whose district is based in La Jolla, and Lorie Zapf, who represents the beach areas and Point Loma. The fourth member of the committee, Chris Ward, is based south of Interstate 8 but in well-off downtown, Hillcrest and North Park.

The freeway running through Mission Valley is San Diego’s traditional — but not entirely accurate — dividing line between haves and have-nots.

“North of (Interstate) 8, they do not have the same issues with police reform and policing that south of the 8 does,” Harris said.

“The fact that they appointed all these people on the Public Safety Committee is a slap in the face to civil rights,” he said. “It’s a slap in the face to minorities across the city and it is a slap in the face to the district Myrtle Cole represents.”

Cole represents Southeast San Diego, which has a predominantly minority population.

Harris said Cole should have named herself, David Alvarez or Georgette Gomez to the committee. Alvarez represents Barrio Logan and San Ysidro, while Gomez’ district includes City Heights and Southcrest.

A spokeswoman for Alvarez said he had no consultations with Cole or her staff regarding committee assignments. A spokesman for Gomez said she worked closely with Cole on her committee roles, and said the councilwoman is committed to improving relations between police and the community.

Harris said Cole was in for “a tough next two years,” and promised to put up a candidate to oppose her 2018 reelection bid.

— City News Service

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