Keep our rec centers open

November 12, 2008

SAN DIEGO--One hundred city workers and residents of San Diego's City Heights neighborhood gathered November 10 to protest Mayor Jerry Sanders' plan to close libraries and neighborhood recreation centers, lay off city workers and cut back after-school athletic programs.

In order to meet a budget shortfall of $43 million, Sanders is proposing that the city close 10 recreation centers and seven libraries, resulting in layoffs for an estimated 216 city workers.

In response, workers and residents of San Diego's City Heights neighborhood organized a rally at the park adjacent to their recreation center and library. Called on short notice by e-mail, phone and word of mouth, the rally drew about 100 residents from the working-class and largely immigrant district.

Speaking at the rally in both English and Spanish, local resident and Project Area Committee member Balestina Hernandez, said, "We need to unite and tell the city--we will not tolerate that injustice...We can no longer tolerate injustices against our people and our community...Our kids are our futures and they need these rec centers, so that they can have good activities so that they are not involved in gangs or violence."

Teenagers from the local swim team that practices at the City Heights Rec Center carried hand-made signs and spoke in support of their center. Tom Herman represented City Heights' Azalea Park Neighborhood Association in its opposition to the closings at the rally, and longtime activist and musician Chunky Gonzalez led participants in protest songs.

Several speakers called on people to voice their opposition to the cuts at the November 12 City Council meeting, where the cutbacks will be debated before a lame-duck session.

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