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50 People to Watch in 2003


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(page 6 of 10)

dan mcallisterDan McAllister
The sight of a political candidate on a street corner waving his campaign sign is not all that unusual. But wait, this was country treasurer/tax collector–elect Dan McAllister, standing at Front and Ash in downtown San Diego a day after the polls closed, waving a thank-you sign. The way McAllister accepted victory is the way he ran his campaign: humbly and happily.

Defeating an incumbent county treasurer is almost unheard of, but then having an opponent like Bart Hartman is almost unbelievable luck. On the day he was sworn in to succeed Hartman—a month early, after Hartman abruptly quit—McAllister vowed to “turn this office into a model of professionalism, efficiency and accountability.” If he just comes to work occasionally and avoids sexual-harassment claims by his subordinates, he’ll be miles ahead of his predecessor.

steve mcwilliamsSteve McWilliams
He’s the most famous pothead in town, by his own design. And there’s no question medical-marijuana activist McWilliams has had a tough year. First, he was arrested by U.S. drug agents, who uprooted his Normal Heights pot garden (federal authorities don’t recognize a 1996 state law that allows people to grow and use marijuana with a doctor’s okay). Then, his Shelter from the Storm cannabis center lost its lease and was shut down.

But McWilliams, who faces five years or more in prison if he’s convicted of federal drug charges, swears he’s not about to change his vocal ways. “The vote of the people must mean something,” he says. “Truth and justice, as well as the will of the people, are on our side.”

al medinaAl Medina
A critical year is ahead for Proposition 36, a state measure that allows many nonviolent drug offenders to enter a treatment program rather than do jail time. And the man overseeing its controversial implementation is Medina, head of the county’s Alcohol & Drug Administration.

The county estimates 3,500 to 5,000 local users are eligible under the voter-approved initiative; about 15 percent of them require residential programs. Medina must find the beds for the heads, and while he doesn’t like the not-in-my-backyard sentiment, he knows it’s out there.

Recognized statewide as a highly accomplished director for county-run alcohol prevention and recovery programs, Medina also must balance those funding needs with the $13 million local cost of Proposition 36.

jason mrazJason Mraz
He was discovered by Elektra Records while playing on the San Diego club scene at places like Java Joe’s. Some predict Mraz could be pop music’s next big star. His CD, Waiting for My Rocket To Come, is in stores now. The lyrics are smart. The tunes are catchy. He’s been touring with another local singer/songwriter who cut her teeth at Java Joe’s—Jewel—and with the Dave Matthews Band.

Mraz, who’s managed by Bill Silva, has also been touring the country on his own. Though he’s originally from Virginia and now owns an apartment in Los Angeles, Mraz says the basis of his music is rooted in San Diego. He’ll be back.

betsy morrisBetsy Morris
“Affordable housing” may seem an oxymoron when used in connection with the city of San Diego, but Morris speaks these words as a plan, not a self-canceling phrase. As CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission, she brings a strong entrepreneurial bent to the task at hand: how to find housing for thousands of low-income folks and first-time homebuyers.
One major item on tap for 2003: Thanks to the passage of Propositions 46 and A, San Diego should (state deficits permitting) have access to about $210 million. Morris must find a way to turn the dollars into domiciles. “Enough housing at different price ranges so we can all have homes—that’s my goal,” she says.
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