By CHRIS WARD | City Council District 3
“Budgets are moral documents,” is an oft-used expression in governing. What money are we spending where and how does that reflect the values of the leaders who created the budget? Are we prioritizing our children? Public health? Working families? Or is the money going into the pockets of billionaires and corporations?
I would argue that government investments tell the same story. These are our tax dollars. They should not be funding existential threats to our planet and our democracy. Full stop.
That’s why I proposed that the city of San Diego divest our public investments from fossil fuels.
In fighting the climate crisis head on, it is our responsibility as a national leader in combating climate change to take a holistic approach to promoting and supporting the green economy. Investment activities made by the city should support a future where all people can live healthy lives without the negative externalities caused by fossil fuel companies.
Elected officials have been given a significant charge by the voters: protect San Diegans from the threat of climate change while making fiscally sound decisions with taxpayer dollars. These two things intersect heavily in everything from paving streets to where we invest our pension dollars while we navigate through the new realities of a post-Prop B San Diego.
San Diego won’t be alone. At least 18 other cities in California divested from fossil fuel interest. However, San Diego can and should take a leadership role in the state and take things a step further.
That’s why I have also proposed that the city establish a Socially Responsible Investment Policy that will fully support the city’s obligation to manage taxpayer funds in a way that supports the priorities of the people we represent. We should restrict investment to fossil fuels, single-use plastics, palm oil, tobacco, private prisons, expansion of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, and firearms or ammunition for a recipient other than the United States military.
I would also like to see this policy taken to the state level. The University of California system has divested from fossil fuels. SB 185 (DeLeon), requiring the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to divest from coal companies, passed in 2015. But more progress is needed on the state level.
Why are we still investing in oil companies? The legislature outlawed private prisons this session, so why are they still in our investment portfolio? We have to continue the effort to ban single-use plastics — while we’re at it, we should divest from those companies too.
The problems we need to solve are big ones. Working families have it harder than ever. The ocean is gaining on us every day. Fires rage out of control. Communities are being torn apart by a criminal justice system that makes profit from locking people in cages. Children are dying in schools. We cannot afford to be timid in these times.
We can and should be fiscally and morally responsible. Our tax dollars should build the kind of future where every Californian can be safe, healthy, and have opportunities to thrive.
— Chris Ward is a San Diego city councilman, representing District 3. He is also a candidate to represent the 78th Assembly District, which includes Uptown Communities.