Category: News

Hiring a homeless person – and learning

Hiring a homeless person – and learning

Homelessness is a major issue in our community. Early this year, my campaign released our Hope4Homeless plan to provide greater County leadership around tackling homelessness.  We sat down with policy experts, homeless youth, front line service providers, and did quite a bit of research. Add that to my own experience serving Rachel’s Women’s Center as part of Catholic Charities Homeless Women’s Services Advisory Committee several years ago and a healthy amount of journalism from Kelly Davis, Kelly Bennett-Heyd, David Garrick, Lisa Halverstadt and a few other journalists and we feel good that we’d spent meaningful time understanding before writing. Then this other thing happened. Read More

New Orleans Style Fun AND Civic Engagement: March to Vote (5/19)

New Orleans Style Fun AND Civic Engagement: March to Vote (5/19)

On Saturday, May 19th, Team Passons is making sure we all have a bit of fun with our electoral politics! Come out and join us as we “Second Line” our way through the March to Vote! A Second Line is a New Orleans tradition that you can read about here. But basically we are going to dance down the street with a big brass band doing its thing and anyone who wants to can join in the fun!  Bring your mail ballots so you can vote when we march to the endpoint – the post office!

The Basics

March to Vote starts at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday (5/19) at the IRS building downtown – 801 Front Street. We aren’t organizing the march, but we are bringing the fun! Join Euphoria Brass Band, Crew D’Etat, and a bunch of fun people to remind us that while marching has a serious purpose we can also mix in some fun!

March to Vote Facebook Event Page

After Party

Because the fun shouldn’t stop, we are going afterwards up to a South Park institution that has been the scene of many a political meet-up and forum (as well as several wedding receptions, wonderful memories with friends, and neighbor connections). Join us at Whistle Stop Bar (for those over 21) to keep the fun going from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Help us Fund the fun – Donate!

To RSVP to either event with Team Passons, email melissa@omarpassons.com

Or just show up!

Oh, here is Euphoria doing its thing!

Why the word ‘Believe’ is on our campaign shirts

Why the word ‘Believe’ is on our campaign shirts

We get asked regularly why our campaign shirts have the word ‘believe’ printed on the front above our Omar4SD logo.  There are two primary reasons.  The first comes out of a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that I became aware of while on a trip with my wife to the King Memorial in Washington, D.C. a few years back.

This quote is from Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

I started the clip at the point of the quote, but it is a great speech overall.  There is quite a lot to love about this speech, especially as we look at how some things in our region and our country are going right now.  But for me, I deeply believe in affirming the dignity, equality, and humanity of every person.  I loved this quote and wanted to carry it with us throughout the campaign.

Okay, what’s the other reason?

A group of supporters getting ready to walk in Pacific Beach

The other reason for using ‘believe’ as a mantra, a hashtag, a talking point, and just a point of discussion is that we want everyone in San Diego to believe in a different type of leadership and a different type of politics.  We believe we can have the type of leadership that focuses on making life better rather than taking political shots at others. We believe that the residents of the County’s District 4 ought to decide who represents them, not monied interests, political parties or Sacramento lobbyists and power brokers.  We believe in supporting our region’s children, in protecting our seniors, and in having honest – if difficult – public conversations about where our region is going.

Join us. Believe with us. Believe that we can focus on issues and substance rather than insider politics.  Believe in what makes San Diego beautiful and San Diegans warm and welcoming people and we can and will change the course of our region for the better!

About Omar

Where Omar Stands on the Issues

What Does the County Board of Supervisors Do?

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Economic prosperity and inclusion: the County’s role (pt 1 of 2)

Economic prosperity and inclusion: the County’s role (pt 1 of 2)

Economic prosperity does not happen by accident.  It is a byproduct of hard work, sacrifice, ingenuity, and – frequently – a bit of luck.  However, just as economic prosperity doesn’t just happen, it is also true that a complex set of factors has contributed to generational wealth limitations that have huge impacts on economic stagnation.  You might be wondering why as a candidate for the County Board of Supervisors I released an Opportunity4All plan to address economic growth or why I would be talking at all about economic inclusion and wealth. The answer might surprise you. Read More

North Park Festival of Arts (5/12) – Parent Comfort Room & Kids’ Play Area!

North Park Festival of Arts (5/12) – Parent Comfort Room & Kids’ Play Area!

On Saturday, May 12th, the Festival of Arts returns to North Park! Our campaign is driven in large part by my deep passion to better support children and seniors.  To help our youngest children (and their parents), we have decided to offer a few helpful comforts and some fun for the kiddos!

At our campaign office (located at 3815 Grim Ave, across from Mike Hess Brewing) you’ll find:

  1. Private, air-conditioned room for pumping/nursing/quiet time
  2. Changing stations for older kids
  3. Bathroom (for parents/grandparents/caregivers only)
  4. Arts/Crafts/Slime area outside

PLEASE NOTE: We are NOT able to provide actual child care on site, just a calm place for parents if they want a little privacy, a clean bathroom and to learn about why my candidacy has been so focused on our region’s children.

Our commitment to our region’s children and families drives this campaign and I am living proof of what happens when we better support children from the earliest stages!  Come have fun, hang out, and enjoy a great event for all ages.

Read our StrongStarts4All plan

  • Includes steps to bring down the cost of quality child care, home visits, improved arts access, youth mental health support and more

About Omar

Omar’s Position on the Issues

What Does the County Do?

Can I vote for this position on June 5th?

National Foster Care Month – Why it matters

National Foster Care Month – Why it matters

On June 5th, San Diegans across the 4th Supervisor’s District will vote on who they want to be leading and shaping policy on topics like child welfare, family support, and helping create meaningful opportunity for everyone.  I have been thinking about the role of the County Supervisor in child welfare both because May is National Foster Care Month and because the research is clear about how quickly children (in and out of foster care) fall behind and stay behind.

Annie E. Casey Foundation: “10 Resources for Foster Parents”

This is a good time for me to reflect on my own life.  Having grown up in a foster home with dozens of foster brothers and sisters in a home in Clairemont, I can feel the experiences even as I type.  I remember vividly having a new sister show up with a couple trash bags of her belongings. I remember the fear and uncertainty on every face of my new brothers and sisters no matter what the circumstances were. I knew that expression well before I was old enough to really know what it meant.

It is about 6:30 a.m. and I spent the last couple hours reading evidence-based approaches to improve outcomes for children in school and in life. There is no shortcut to improving children’s lives but I see real opportunity to use the family-strengthening supports our County’s social safety net has to offer to make a difference. Expanding the home visit program to better prepare parents for the stress of parenting and critical developmental needs of newborns and infants will make a difference in the long-term. Managing that stress will reduce the type of violence I learned about in the scars and stories and tears of my siblings and the sometimes violent behavior they had as a result.

15-minute Podcast – Tony: Abuse, AIDS, and Compassion

I am grateful to have the opportunity to fight for children in foster care, to fight for parents and families to have more opportunity to lead a dignified life.  Every day I wake up looking for another opportunity to push our region towards better supporting every young person.  Education was a silver bullet for me and the only way we can expand its reach for many young people is to better support families so that children can thrive.

Read our StrongStarts4All plan to support every child

Jenna’s battle

Jenna’s battle

Editor’s note: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We turned over our campaign blog to people in our community to share their perspectives. On the last day of the month, we share the following.

In all “survivor” accounts of rape, sexual assault, or harassment there is always a venue where the crime took place. A venue that has been given greater attention recently is that of sexual harassment in the workplace. This was brought to light recently in the mainstream media by Hollywood actresses made to feel unsafe in their workplace on sets, in their trailers, at parties, and in meetings. While most of us do not have a workplace with a so called “casting couch”, there are all manner of workplace sexual harassment that can take place from the C- Suite to the mailroom to the parking garage. When someone is made to feel uncomfortable in their workplace due to a colleague harassing them directly or by creating a hostile work environment it can have detrimental and rippling effects throughout the work and personal life of the victim and their family.

When “Jenna” landed her dream job, she never thought it would end up in a courtroom with her being interrogated about what she wore to work, how late she stayed at the office, how many hours she spent in her supervisor’s office, and how “active” her dating life was. She never expected to be shamed in a public venue about totally inconsequential details of her life being made to look like she invited unwanted sexual advances in her workplace. After the first day of court she broke down in tears and refused to go back. It was only with a strong support system of family, friends, and colleagues by her side that she returned to court the following day, shaky, angry and upset. Because Jenna had the access to resources, finances, and a strong support system, she was able to file charges, have her supervisor arrested, brought to trial, and convicted. Following the successful conviction of her abuser, Jenna moved back home with her parents, deleted her social media presence, and is on medication to help control the anxiety and depression she has been dealing with as a result of the abuse she suffered. She is working to pay off lawyers fees, therapists bills, and pharmacy costs associated with her loss of income, trial costs, and recovery. With the help of her therapist, Jenna is building her career back up, and hopes to be at her previous “dream job” level within the next year or two.

The aftermath that a victim of workplace sexual assault or harassment has to deal with is rarely investigated, but there is often a pileup of financial, emotional, and mental costs that the courts do not deal with. These myriad costs can deter victims from coming forward, thus preventing perpetrators from striking again. This re-ignites the cycle of abuse, and the underreporting and re-victimization can continue unabated. In order to make victims of workplace sexual assault or harassment feel safe in coming forward there needs to be a clear pathway of support, from reporting all the way to post-conviction recovery, so that all victims can advocate for themselves and stop the cycle of abuse in its tracks.

If you have been a victim of rape or sexual assault please remember that you are not alone. There are resources to help:

RAINN: https://www.rainn.org/national-resources-sexual-assault-survivors-and-their-loved-ones

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE

National Street Harassment Hotline: 855.897.5910

Vulnerability and Hope in My Campaign for San Diego County Supervisor

Vulnerability and Hope in My Campaign for San Diego County Supervisor

While traveling home recently from an out of town event, I was thinking about my view of candidates for public office before I became one. I have always valued a level of honesty that seemed elusive and when my wife and I sat down and decided to do this, I committed to being the same me throughout the process, for better or worse.  What would it look like if our elected officials and candidates were flatly honest about the campaign process? Here’s my answer.

For me, this conversation is about fear and about hope.  People ask me every day how I am going to raise the money to compete with career politicians who have more name recognition than I do and powerful connections.  I smile, look them in the eye, and firmly talk about my passion and professional background and willingness to listen to voters as individuals. I talk about how years in the private sector and prior stints working with and within government bureaucracies have helped prepare me to do this work.  I hope that this will resonate with people, but on any given day I really don’t know. And it’s more than a bit scary.  I hired staff on the advice of some folks I had to trust quickly and I have grown quite attached to my team. They work hard and are a big part of our ability to raise money and communicate with voters. But, like my friends who own small businesses I find myself thinking not only about their work but about their rent and personal expenses and their growth and their future. I can feel the pressure as I type this.  Don’t get me wrong, we chose to do this with eyes wide open, but the unfiltered truth is that every day I have moments of fear and doubt about their futures and raising enough money to reach the voters we need to reach.

I joke with my friends (when I see them) that I’m basically a telemarketer for 3-5 hours per day. Only I’m mostly calling either friends and colleagues or complete strangers to ask them for money. I’m not sure which is harder. Asking friends with their own families and bills and savings goals to invest in the hope that I’ll win and be the leader they really want is hard and a little emotionally draining. Asking strangers is a little bit easier, though the rejection rate is higher so that’s not what I’d call a picnic, either. The truth of a campaign for me is that I LOVE when I get to chew over policy issues or field questions from the community or knock on people’s doors – but most of a campaign is worrying about raising money and whether some group endorsing another candidate will close another door.

I could write a whole separate post about the behind the scenes petty behavior and shenanigans that confirm most people’s worst beliefs about politics, but I’ll save that for another day. Instead, true to who I am at my core, I’ll land in the place that brought me to this choice: hope.

My professional background in public health and land use law prepared me for much of the actual work of a County whose primary roles are in health and land use.  Growing up in the foster care system in San Diego gave me a window into people and our system that most don’t see.  Those were good starting points to which I added years of serving the community at the neighborhood and system level. But the truth is I put one pedal in front of the other every day – I bike to the office – because I believe we can demand the government we want. A government that can help give every child a fair shot, regardless of how they got started. A government that views its citizens as partners in an open dialogue about the community we want to be rather than adversaries to be tolerated or, worse, obstructed from participation. I have hope that San Diego County can be the best place in the country to raise a family because every family has the opportunity to breathe clean air, walk safely to a park, make a dignified living and love and live as they choose. I am running for this particular job because the County has the potential to help millions of San Diegans for generations to come – especially children and seniors. I tell anyone who will listen that the chance to make this type of difference every day is worth the stress and the fear and the time away from my wife and putting off our own savings plans as a family. That belief fuels me and it is probably what most people see when I talk about our policy priorities. But every day on the campaign is a mixture of that hope and a good dose of fear and stress. I think asking you to vote for me means I should be honest about both. Thanks for reading.

Towards a more inclusive (& competitive) economy – Richard Rothstein speaks

Towards a more inclusive (& competitive) economy – Richard Rothstein speaks

On April 4th, the University of San Diego Black Law Students Association brought acclaimed author and education scholar Richard Rothstein to the law school to share details about his book The Color of Law. The book is important for a number of reasons and in a brief conversation before the discussion, Professor Rothstein noted the same point I always stress: this is not about blame, it is about progress.  None of us were alive or involved in these decisions, but understanding their effect matters to the choices we now make.

The term “color of law” has two meanings in the context of the book.  It is a term of art in the legal field that means an action was taken with the force or protection of the law. Also, because the book is about government policies that intentionally discriminated based on the color of a person’s skin.  This latter meaning will seem like an absurd thing to most people today, because of course it is.  But we must move to deepening our understanding of why our economy is so uneven in San Diego, the impacts that has on population health in communities, and the role the County can play in getting us on the right track. To do this, taking a quick look at a couple examples from Rothstein’s book will help.

[NOTE: Visit Part I in this series to see a series of San Diego’s redline maps and the associated impacts]

Professor Rothstein highlighted one example in the Bay Area community of
Richmond.  There was almost no segregation in the community before the World War II boom. As the war needs increased and people flooded to the area for work, a local company needed to build more homes for its employees to live in. The government wouldn’t provide the resources needed unless the homes were segregated. This provided shiny new homes close to work for the White families and dingy, second-rate, distant homes for the African-American families.

Another example from Professor Rothstein’s talk really brings the conversation home.  One builder wanted to build 17,000 homes.  Obviously no company has that kind of money laying around.  To get the money, the federal government made the builder commit to not allowing African-American families to purchase or live in the homes.  Not surprisingly in California, over time the homes built for white residents rose dramatically in value and those homes were not available to the African-American population. That’s wealth the families who were able to move in captured while the African-American families didn’t.

In San Diego, we have an opportunity to get our economy working for everyone in a way that doesn’t make us beholden to the sins of the past but acknowledges the role we had in creating today’s inequality.  This is not a discussion about blame. It is about moving us forward and getting our economy and our communities to benefit from true, meaningful inclusion.

Supervisor Candidate Omar Passons discusses the role of local and federal government policy in stunting wealth in certain communities and the County’s role in improving economic opportunity for all San Diegans. For more details and other episodes visit www.facebook.com/blacktivision.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Their voices

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Their voices

editor’s note: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and our campaign wanted to amplify the voices of those whose experiences are most relevant to this issue. This is a serious issue that requires all of us to do our part. As a campaign, we are grateful for the stories we will get the chance to share.

Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault

-Leigh, L.

Sexual assault is a broad term that encompasses many different behaviors in which informed and affirmative consent was not given in relation to a sexual act or advancement. The definition varies from state to state legally, and the connotation of “sexual assault” varies depending on one’s education about the topic. However, the one thing that will never change about sexual assault is that it is never the victim’s fault. Too often, victims are marginalized and convinced that they are “overreacting,” to the alleged behavior. However, moves are being made to change the climate around sexual harassment. The #MeToo campaign is one way that women in the public eye and other victims of sexual harassment have increased the dialogue around this topic and have shown that it is not shameful to be a victim of sexual assault. While not everyone feels comfortable voicing their experiences, the #MeToo campaign has made space for solidarity with such victims. Other ways in which you can take action if a you or a friend has been a victim of sexual assault is reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org. It is also important to find a safe space. While there is no pressure to immediately share one’s thought or feelings on the experience, it is important to remind victims and bystanders of the situation that they are not alone, and that by seeking support can only help them in the long run.


We must raise our children differently

-Joy D.

We need to teach children, especially young boys, to not only listen and respect what their female peers say, but that every female voice is equal to their own. The current dialogue is different: we teach young girls on the playground that when a boy is mean to her and pulls her hair, that means he likes her. We see the trope in high school rom coms: the big, burly football player tickles the head cheerleader or lifts her into the air, even as she’s squealing and telling him to stop. It’s the classic story: boy meets girl, boy pursues girl until she says yes – or until she gets tired of repeating no. We’re told that it’s cute, funny even.

It isn’t.

The reason sexual assault is rampant in our society is the pervasive idea indoctrinated into us that what a woman says doesn’t matter: that when a woman says no, she’s not really saying no. When a woman expresses concern about unwanted advances, she’s told that she’s overreacting and to stop being so self-absorbed, as if the advances are something to be desired despite her clear discomfort. When self-proclaimed “nice guys” complain about women “leading them on” or “friendzoning” them, they get sympathy pats from their guy friends instead of explanations as to why women don’t owe them anything for existing. From the playground to the classroom to the workplace: we need to keep reinforcing the fact that what women say matters. Every word means something: especially the word “no.”