Myrtle Cole shares the message of hope and inspiration in her campaign
City of San Diego, District 4, Special Election:
By Daniel Muñoz
To get to the campaign office of Myrtle Cole, one has to drive through the heart of San Diego’s District 4, along Imperial Avenue. The special election for the city council seat is on May 21.
As you drive along Imperial Avenue, issues of this district become self-evident. You’ll pass a lot of small mom and pop shops, liquor stores, taco shops, along with barbecue rib restaurants. Most of these businesses look like they are barely hanging in there during these tough economic times. You can also see evidence of businesses that did not make it, where they once thrived now sit empty buildings. These businesses are interspersed with low-income homes and apartments, all divided by the trolley tracks and freeways. Your senses are bombarded with traffic noise, trolley whistles, and clanging of the bells to stop traffic as the barriers lower at each and every crossing, and yet another airplane descends overhead, engines grumbling as it slowly descends toward the airport.
In San Diego’s District 4, it is not so much what you see and hear but what you do not see. You do not see banks, grocery stores, office suites, or shopping malls. The places you normally associate with a thriving community. Then there are the persistent problems of crime, gangs, and drugs that plague the community.
This is not say District 4 is totally void of opportunity. It is the home of Cox Cable, a Coca Cola distribution center, Channel 10, and the crown jewel of the district, the Jacobs Center.
It is with this backdrop that you arrive at the campaign office of Myrtle Cole, called The Gospel Room, which somehow this fits the district. For the many problems and issues that face this community, a dose of some good old time religion is what this district needs. It also needs faith in the community, and a beacon of light and grace to guide the way.
Ms Cole seems to fit the role, bringing hope and inspiration to the community. When you listen to her at public forums or debates, while she is a little light on details, she reaches down and provides inspiration.
A good example of this inspiration was at a recent debate. When asked about the appointment to the Port Commission, she got up from her seat with microphone in hand and emphatically stated, “What we need is someone who looks like us on the Port.” The audience responded with ‘right on’ and ‘Amen!’ as they clapped in agreement.
This is Myrtle Cole wanting to inspire the community.
District 4 has long been considered the black district and at the forefront has been the black community driving the political and social agenda for the district. This community has historically elected a member of the black community.
However, District 4 has changed over the years and the black community is no longer the majority within this district. In fact, blacks are now the third largest ethnic community, behind the Hispanic community, which is the majority in the district, and the Asian community, which is the second largest ethnic group in the area. Despite this, the black community still dominates and drives the political discussion in the district, to the dismay of the other ethnic groups who have failed to coalesce around a candidate.
“It is really sad that the district is defined that way (as a black district),” stated Myrtle. “I define the district as a fabulously diverse district and that is what is so good about this district. I happen to be an African-American who loves this district, I happen to be a black who loves this district and who will support every single person in this district whatever color you are. Everybody in the district needs grocery stores, everyone needs to be protected, everybody needs jobs, and everybody has the same issues.”
“This district, this city is diverse, so everyone will be heard on my watch and I think that is exactly why people like Juan Vargas are supporting me because he knows I am open to everyone. David Alvarez and Ben Hueso are supporting me because they know I am not going to neglect anyone. That is not who I am, everyone will have a voice.”
In District 4, the number one issue with the community is public safety. In respones to this issue, Myrtle easily slips into her role with the big vision, speaking of hope and inspiration, with a little bit of religion.
“Just this morning (on television) there was a young man whose brother was killed and it woke him up like a splash of water on the face,” described Myrtle. “The issue is addressing the holistic problem of why kids are shooting each other. It is because they have no dreams, they have no visions. We have to give them dreams; we have to give them a vision.”
“It starts at home. It starts at home first and foremost because you are responsible for that young man, for that young woman. It starts at home then goes out into a village concept, and then it starts in the schools making sure our kids are graduating, making sure that they are learning. If they can learn, if they can get a skill, if we tell them they can be anything they want to be, if we can get them jobs. Let them have a paycheck and responsibilities. Let them know they can have dreams, that they to can become a city council person.”
It is going to take a village concept, it is going to take a church, and it going to take schools,” stated Myrtle.
Myrtle continued with her support of the police officers’ request to bring the police force back up to 2009 levels of officers with 300 new hires. She also champions the idea of bringing in more Community Service Officers (CSOs). “Those were the officers I worked with back in the 1990s, going door-to-door and implementing Neighborhood Watch programs. Those officers you see walking in the streets and meeting the folks…. We need to build better relationships.”
“Those are the officers I want, community relations officers to help build neighborhood watch programs because that works. I know it works, because it worked back then. When you have a good neighborhood watch program where people know you’re supposed to do it works to reduce crime, because people are watching out for their neighbors.”
The other top issues within the community are infrastructure and economic development within the community.
“I am going to do whatever it takes to get dollars into my community for infrastructure,” stated Myrtle. “There are streets with no sidewalks, pot holes. I will be a part of the Infrastructure committee. I am going work with Todd Gloria who just endorsed me and with David Alvarez who was just walking with me to make sure that we address infrastructure, especially in Council District 4.”
“As a district we spent $817 million dollars outside of our district. We need to cut through the red tape. The red tape is what keeps investors out of our neighborhoods. There are certain projects such as Valencia Park project, areas that Jacob Center owns, that we need to look at and see how we can develop those areas. Let’s get some grocery stores, let’s get some retail into the area. Let’s get those dollars back into our district.”
Last question of day was in regard to her relationship with Mayor Bob Filner who has been one of her strongest supporters. Would she be able to stand up to Mayor Filner when she disagrees with him?
“I am a woman and I am a black woman, I will stand up to anyone. I mean that is not a problem. I have been through the fires, my brother. If there is something I disagree with you better believe I will stand up for the best interests of the people of this district.”
A brief bio of Myrtle Cole
Myrtle Cole’s career started as a police officer in Arizona and then, after moving to San Diego, with the San Diego Community College District.
After 11 years as a police officer, Myrtle went to work for the San Diego City Council to help implement ‘Community Oriented Policing’.
She graduated from National University with a master’s degree in business and would end up working John Hartley in District 3. She would later work on the campaigns for Charles Lewis and Tony Young. She also worked on the campaigns of Bob Filner, Shirley Weber and Francine Busby.
Currently, Myrtle works for the United Domestic Workers (UDW), who provide in-home services to thousands of low- income seniors, children and people living with disabilities. Myrtle helps UDW fight for funding to keep the elderly in their homes and provide them with care, and to provide decent pay and benefits for the health care workers who care for them.
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