You've got to hear unopposed incumbent Rey Garduño talk about the International District. Most of the editorial staffers at the Alibi have had a hard time adjusting to the term that replaced the War Zone. The new name went on like a glossy coat of paint on a busted fence—or so we thought. By the end of our endorsement interview with the councilor, we were sold.
The people who live in those neighborhoods asked for the change for a couple of reasons, he tells us. One, the existing nickname was bad for morale, and two, "international" is accurate. A mix of cultures—Asian, African, Mexican, urban Native American—live in that up-and-coming area, he says. "I think it did give the people who'd been working really hard to change that, the nomenclature, the ability to say, This is who we are. This is what we stand for."
They're building businesses in their neighborhoods, and they've created a festival (it takes place on Oct. 1 this year). Garduño's was such a good pitch, we'll be there.
The region this councilor represents is interesting because it also includes Nob Hill. The high-class, walkable shopping mecca is actively involved in issues and vocal about its needs. In the past, Nob Hill's gotten a lot of attention while its neighbor to the east was ignored. But Garduño's been mindful of that and has tried to keep his eye on his entire district.
He's not looking to impose his will on the International District. Instead, he makes a point of saying he's trying to listen, understand and represent. "When I talk to the neighbors, I don't come from a place of, This is what we're going to do for you, or, This is what you need."
Though there's crime in the Southeast Heights, he says he hopes the community feels empowered enough to take it on. He'd like to see a decrease in crime, but "not at the expense of people's personal freedoms." He says people need to feel safe, and they need to "feel safe on their own terms."
Garduño introduced the measure that asked the feds to investigate APD. He says he was responding to the request he received loud and clear from people who attended Council meetings over the last two years. "How people haven't heard that, I don't know." There are too many people who feel distrustful of police. If it seems like the department is hiding something, he adds, that's not helping.
The city's making plans to roll back energy efficiency requirements on new buildings, which Garduño says is shortsighted. He calls the move “a complete disaster.” A developer has to pay a little more money during construction, but it saves inhabitants big sums over years—not to mention the decreased environmental impact, he says. "I think it's telling people, We don't care what happens to you in the future. We just want to look good today."
Transportation deserves a hard look, he says. "We can't continue to widen I-25 and I-40. We can't afford it." Comparatively, we don't really spend that much on the Rail Runner, he says. "No mode of transportation pays for itself. None." We pay hundreds of millions for roads, and we're talking about spending the same to fix Paseo del Norte at I-25. We spend big bucks on rural roads, he says, and they carry fewer people in a week than the Rail Runner does in a day. The Rail Runner also collects fare from its passengers—which, he adds, is more than can be said of roads.
There are ideological differences between the councilors, Garduño says, and he points out that the last 25 or so votes have split down party lines. "That's unfortunate," but he says he doesn't think it's deliberate. He has a good relationship with his colleagues, he says.
We wholeheartedly endorse Rey Garduño. He's a well-rounded, thoughtful councilor who feels it's his job to listen to his constituents—all of them. We hope he sticks around for a while.