Eastside City Council member Alejandra Gutierrez pulled off a nice piece of legislative handiwork this week, brokering a compromise in the conflict over the Ortega Park murals between the city administration and neighborhood advocates.
With a deadline looming for the city to apply for an $8.6 million grant to help underwrite the upgrade and renovation of the troubled park -- and Park and Recreation Department officials striking a take-it-or-leave stance against neighbors demanding an up-front plan for preserving the park murals honoring Aztec, Mexican and Chicano cultures -- Gutierrez managed to lower the temperature on both sides; now the application will proceed while city officials step up engagement with community members to craft a mural preservation plan.
On Tuesday, Alejandra's colleagues lavished her with praise for her negotiating skill and work on the matter, with several observing that it is precisely the kind of hyper-local issue that district elections is best-suited to address.
"The city has to work with the community," Gutierrez told Newsmakers on Wednesday. "I live in that neighborhood."
Alejandra revealed some of the behind-the-scenes machinations that went into the deal, and also discussed several other controversies in District 1 during our conversation, in which she:
Acknowledged the heart-breaking frustration and anguish of the families of 17-year old Angel Castillo and 18-year old Omar Montiel-Hernandez that no arrests have been made, or suspects yet named, in their gunshot slayings in early January; Alejandra said she is in touch with SBPD investigators, who recently reached out to the boys' families, adding that she is certain they are pursuing the case thoroughly and aggressively.
Expressed confidence that city officials are making proper efforts to communicate with neighbors and community representatives about plans for a proposed upgrade of the Eastside Neighborhood Park, which she said has been afflicted by increased drug-dealing and other criminal behavior she fears has moved from Ortega Park, given the recent spotlight on that public space.
Disclosed that she and aides have begun interviewing Milpas Street merchants as an early step in trying to form a new Business Improvement District, which she hopes will draw Measure C funds, using the council's recent approval of $40,000 for businesses on Coast Village Road for a similar purpose.
Gutierrez also described herself as feeling "offended (and) very disrespected" by a comment Mayor Cathy Murillo made in a previous interview with Newsmakers, in describing her approach to seeking a re-election endorsement from Gutierrez: "I haven't even broached her about it," the mayor said, "it's like if you're asking your wife for a favor you kind of have to wait for the right moment and wait until she's in a good mood."
At Tuesday's council meeting, a number of citizens speaking during public comment sharply criticized Murillo for her words and Cathy finally apologized to Alejandra from the dias. "I know you haven't asked me yet - but am I going to endorse her?" Alejandra said during our interview, before answering her own question: