Alan Durden, 56, a financial planner, decided to run for La Mesa City Council after the protest on May 30, and a history of racial profiling in his 45 years as a La Mesa resident.
The Independent said when his family moved to La Mesa in 1974, the family received a signed petition for them to leave. He said they stayed, because La Mesa was their home. His brother was killed across the street from La Mesa Dale Elementary in 1998 by a 16-year-old. Again the family decided to stay.
Durden said the day after the May 30 protest and violence, his wife and he were profiled by people taking photos, writing down their license plate, just driving home from the Vons shopping center.
“I was absolutely appalled by that,” he said. “Maybe it is because I am African-American, and they were making sure that I belonged in this neighborhood.”
Durden said while at the shopping center he was approached by a woman who asked him why so many minorities were moving to La Mesa. She told him she was a proud resident of La Mesa for 25 years but that the city was “going to hell.”
I’ve been in La Mesa for 45 years, so does that mean you moved into my neighborhood?” he replied. “She just walked off and I said that is enough, I’ve got to get in here and do something about this.”
Durden said he has no hidden agendas but to keep La Mesa safe, build its thriving business community and provide families and children a safe environment to gather.
“When I recently went to the library, there was really no privacy,” he said. “They had a Mommy and Me class with about 15 mothers and infants, which is great. But we have to do better for that. There is property around La Mesa where we can expand the library and community center.”
Durden said the Community Center with a pool and building is wasted premium valuable space.
“Move the library over there so we can have a bigger space and use that community center as a public gathering,” he said. “Use it as part of The Village.”
Durden said people need to be inclusive, whether it be transparency, like with the La Mesa Police Department, and issues need to be solved in a quicker manner in City Hall.
“I’ve gone to school with the previous chief Ed Aceves and with Chief Walt Vasquez as well,” he said. “They are both local guys. But the mistakes were made, like Vasquez bringing out the armored truck for the PA system. I trust what he said, but that was a wrong move. I don’t think we have contingency plans for anything.”
Durden said having a representative that represents La Mesa and a person that represents the face of La Mesa is important.
“There are very few diversity decisions that have been made,” he said. “We do not have any diversity in The Village. We don’t have the food. We haven’t invited the diversity organizations to come and join our farmer’s market or enjoy an Oktoberfest.”
Durden said his big thing right now is the American flag. He said he believes the flag should represent all people.
“I want the people of La Mesa to understand that it is time that black people, brown people, white people, Indian people, and people of all races and all colors should fly their flag from Oct. 1 until election day Nov. 3,” he said. “When I walk through my streets of La Mesa and I see a flag, I think of a conservative. And when I see a conservative, I may see that conservative as a racist. That is not necessarily the fact. I have black neighbors that fly it because they were in the military. I have other black neighbors that fly it just because the are proud of our nation.”
He said that people that don’t fly or accept the flag are excluding themselves. Durden believes people need to take the flag away as a prop, misusing it and putting it on the back of trucks and tell those people that they are not a representative of this country.
“We have to be inclusive in order to be one sovereign city,” he said. “We start with La Mesa. If we can start that and bridge that gap, I think that helps us all feel a little bit safer and understand that this is a one community-based city.”
Durden said people came in from outside of the city started the mess. He divided the group between peaceful protestors and agitators. He said groups like Defending East County, with 20,000 members do not represent the city.
“People are coming in and trying to influence decisions that La Mesans should be making,” he said. “We have to register people to vote, get people more involved and we have to reach out to the public instead of making them come to us. It is our community and we need to keep it.”
Durden believes police officers should be required to live in La Mesa after a year of service and second, they need street police walking The Village and more populated place to get to know the people and businesses.
“If you see John who is homeless and he acts up every once in a while, you are not going to take out a gun and shoot him because you know the situation in your part of the city,” he said. “We don’t have that anymore. Everything is force, everything is a military operation.”
Durden said with COVID-19, he thinks people have to listen to the experts. His mother and father are 83 and 84 and he said there is no way that he would put them at risk.
“I think that the resistance to being conscientious about COVID is the reason we are continuing what we are continuing,” he said. “People are disregarding masks, people don’t care. Do the right thing. Follow directions so that we can all get back to normal.”
Durden said along with COVID, comes budget problems and allocated dollars that need to go to the proper places He said now, he has no idea where the money will go, but he sees no transparency in City Council now, and wants to change that.