Mayoral candidates weigh in on veterans' issues - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Mayoral candidates weigh in on veterans' issues

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    A special election for the city of San Diego will take place on February 11, 2014. Check out related stories, videos and links on CBS 8's resource page. 
    A special election for the city of San Diego will take place on February 11, 2014. Check out related stories, videos and links on CBS 8's resource page. 
SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The two candidates for San Diego's next mayor shared their individual visions for the city's thousands of local military veterans in a special forum at the Veterans' Museum in Balboa Park Wednesday night.  

David Alvarez proposed creating a Director of Veterans Affairs position in the mayor's office, who would provide support to those service members transitioning from active duty to civilian life. 

"We need to make sure there is someone in the office who understands all of the needs of the veterans, old and new," Alvarez told the audience.  

One of Kevin Faulconer's proposed initiatives is a "Boots to Badge" program, to recruit and train returning combat veterans to find positions in the San Diego Police Department. 

"We are 130 officers short," Faulconer said. "We have a real opportunity as we provide funding to move forward on this."

Another major issue raised at Wednesday's forum: increasing rates of homelessness among returning veterans, many of whom are dealing with post-traumatic stress and substance abuse issues. 

Faulconer stressed his support for programs like the Veterans Administration's new Aspire Center, a rehab treatment program which will provide assistance for 40 returning service members, as well as local transitional housing programs like Connections Housing. 

"Who we are as a city is defined by our veterans," Faulconer said. "We have to back that up and show that support not only politically but more importantly with dollars for services that make a huge difference." 

Alvarez also emphasized the need for more business owners who are returning veterans to take an active part in the city's economic recovery. 

"In order to be able to participate in the success of our city, we have to give you a chance to gain some of those contracts the city provides," Alvarez told the vets. 

Faulconer, who received the endorsement of a group of high-profile military veterans last October, has also pledged to form a special "military advisory council" if elected, which would be tasked with making sure San Diego is doing all it can to assist returning veterans.
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