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Special election County District 4 supervisor candidate: Monica Montgomery

San Diego District 4 Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe is running in the San Diego County Supervisor District 4 special election on Aug. 15, recently vacated by former supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s resignation. The 45-year-old Democrat is an attorney and began her term on the San Diego City Council in 2018. Her current term ends in 2026. Steppe lives in Skyline Hills.

Prior to entering elected office, Steppe worked at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial counties as a criminal justice advocate, served as a senior police advisor at the City of San Diego.

During her term as a council member, Steppe brought in more than $100 million in new parks, paved streets, repaired sidewalks, streetlights, a new senior center, a new library, graffiti removal, neighborhood clean ups, affordable and market rate housing, and small business support to District 4 in San Diego. She said she led the effort to ban the police carotid restraint, increase MTS security oversight, and pass Measure B, creating a Commission on Police Practices with subpoena power and independent investigators.

She created the Office of Race & Equity, worked with community leaders to create the Peace Movement: Let’s Live, Let’s Love to reduce neighborhood violence and helped seniors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steppe said her top three priorities are homelessness, including affordable housing and strengthening health and human services at the county level, in particular behavioral health services. Providing economic opportunity for every resident in the region so everyone has a chance to thrive, and third, keeping the community safe by focusing on public safety, and supplementing law enforcement with holistic approaches.

“We have vacancies in regard to the patrolling officers, and vacancies inside the jails,” she said. “That is a concern. What I want to bring is a wider net in how we look at these issues. Being proactive instead of always being reactive. Officers have an important job of tempering down the law, specifically violent crime after it has happened. I believe there are certain circumstances that almost always tell us that folks will commit crimes. People suffering from poverty. People who do not see any other way. Those folks are often those who get caught up in committing crimes. I believe in providing opportunity to people, providing mental health services, letting them know that there are other ways that they can live their life will help us.”

Steppe said she has seen improvement in the city of San Diego’s southeastern division, most neighborhoods she represents by incorporating holistic approaches.

“We championed a program No Shots Fired, and from the time the contract was signed by the organization we are working with in 2021, until the end of the 2022 calendar year, we saw a nine percent increase overall in the southeastern division. We also saw a 65% decrease in homicides across the entire city. I do believe these things work,” she said.

Steppe said she supported every single police department budget that came before her, supported additional funding for recruitment, additional money for lateral bonuses, supported providing law enforcement down payment assistance so they could buy and live in neighborhoods they serve.

Steppe said she has served on the SANDAG Transportation committee and served as a board member, and SANDAG’s proposed mileage tax is a difficult subject. She said her understanding of the proposal is that for people who are not purchasing gas, are “still contributing to the pot.”

“Right now, those who can afford electric cars are not being taxed the same as those who are not,” she said. “I am interested in learning more about what the proposal policy is that comes to the ballot. I think that we are taxing the people a lot by increasing water rates, so I want to look at it holistically and I usually will not say I will or will not support it until I truly get the ability to look at the policies.”

Steppe said she is open to how greenhouse emissions can be reduced.

There are state mandates that must be met, and the mandate times are getting close, and goals are not being met. She said she does not know if the mileage tax is the answer.

“But we do have to move swiftly, and I would definitely be open to supporting it,” she said.

Steppe said she believes that it is important for people to take her experience into consideration, both personally and professionally, when she talks about opportunities for all. She said her district has disadvantaged communities, and the supervisor District 4 area has disadvantaged communities, with many of them lacking access to public transportation and representation.

“I am the only person that comes from a disadvantaged community,” she said. “As a supervisor, I would take a role in unincorporated areas of being that local representative that folks can go to for all their concerns. We have built a reputation of putting constituents and community members first, responding to their needs, and making the government work for folks. I am excited about the opportunity to be able to work in some of those unincorporated areas.”

Steppe said some things she has done in the city’s District 4, has some similarities to communities in East County’s disadvantaged communities.

“We had challenges to bringing businesses to the city’s District 4. We had to learn how to communicate and revitalize those areas for opportunities for folks who otherwise might not have had it. We focused a lot on first time home buyers. I championed programs that provided first time home buyers with down payment assistance for their homes. I have worked with a variety of different chambers of commerce, and in doing that we have been able to provide technical assistance for businesses that want to start businesses in these areas that have other challenges or are already there,” she said.

On the ongoing challenge of homelessness, Steppe said this is something she deals with every day in her council district.

“We have many canyons and homelessness is not as visible as it is in many other areas,” she said. “They might not be living on the street per se, but they are living in a park, a canyon, somewhere where they are not always visible to us. It certainly is an issue and data tells us that. For every 10 people coming out of homelessness there are 13 going in. There are different points for different people depending on what stage of homelessness they are in. It is best to catch people before they enter. Whether that is providing additional rental subsidies, especially our seniors, for that is the demographic rising the most. When someone loses shelter, they are more likely to begin to have mental health problems or start the horrible cycle of addiction. They are more likely to get caught in situations that folks on the streets get in.”

Steppe said data shows that housing first works in some demographics, but it must be done strategically and with precision.

“I do not believe people should be given shelter and thrown to the wolves at the same time,” she said. “People do need shelter, a place to stay. Often, being out on the streets without shelter is what drives you crazy. We do not talk about what it takes for people to get to the place by the time we see them where they need intense help. I know housing first works when we have the wrap-around services. It is housing first because it is not housing only. We must be committed to the people who are most vulnerable in that way. We can be organized and strategic in the way we execute.”

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