Jack Shu believes that La Mesa is at a crossroad. He said the city has been on the cusp of change in the past, but always falls back into a small city protective role rather than looking forward with a better vision for all of La Mesa.
Shu said every square mile needs revitalization to be vibrant and believes he can help accomplish this, leaving no one behind. Running for La Mesa City Council, the 68-year-old Democrat said it needs to be done equitably, leaving no one out of the process, and tapping into the resources that are ready and available.
“We have some really smart, skilled, talented people in the city, and we need to give them opportunity to have input and contribute,” he said. “I often do not see that happening. I saw it happen on the police oversight and the task force on homelessness. A lot of people with expertise came in, tackled these topics in detail, get outside of opinions and figure out the best way to go forward. That is a new path that will take us to a better place.”
Shu served 29 years in the California State Parks as superintendent and has 30 years of public service experience managing park program state-wide, working with youth, government and community organizations. He helped form the Cleveland National Forest Association 25 years ago, now suspending his work with the board deeming a potential conflict of interest in running for office.
Shu said he is an advocate for La Mesa’s wellness programs, getting children more activities, helping the city become efficient, active in La Mesa’s Climate Action Plan, Homeless Task Force and also worked on police reform with the La Mesa Citizens Public Safety Oversight Task Force.
He stepped down from the Oversight Task Force not wanting it perceived it as a campaign ploy. He said it is near completion with a proposal for city council written by some of the best attorneys on this topic in the state.
Shu, who retired 15 years ago, said he was looking forward to staying retired and continuing his advocacy work. Because of the city’s lack of a strong response to the May 30 riots, subsequent responses from city council and the La Mesa Police Department, he said he thinks there are several areas where he can help the City and the region.
Shu said anything he has to say could have prevented the events of May 30 but pointed out that the issue with the LMPD and law enforcement across the country is that the culture needs reforming. He said La Mesa’s response of taking no action on the San Diego County Grand Jury recommendation that the city get an oversight committee five years ago, is a starting place. He said another time the city and LMPD could have responded better in when Brianna Bell was thrown down to the ground by a La Mesa police officer at Helix Charter High School in February 2018.
“The subsequent response then showed again that we needed something to fix things with the LMPD,” he said. “It is not the incidents happening, but the overall response to the community from the LMPD could be better.”
He said the incident at the La Mesa Trolley Station between Amaurie Johnson and LMPD officer Matt Dages was indicative that neither the city or the LMPD heeded the warning signs given years ago by giving no adequate response. Shu said in speaking with people in the community, their response was they already knew Dages as a racial profiler hassling people of color.
“This particular officer has had some reputation with not treating people of color fairly,” he said. “And the video is indicative of that. Had we had a better complaint process or involvement with the community and information had gone to the LMPD, perhaps that officer could have been taken off the police force or given additional training, whatever could be done so the we could have avoided that incident. To say our response was inadequate, I would say our response was not adequate from the very beginning five years ago.”