Saturday, July 13, 2024

City Council Candidate Laura Wilkinson Sinton’s Unplanned Journey to Politics

Laura Wilkinson Sinton is an accidental politician.

After co-founding Stop the Sewage, a grassroots organization that has lobbied locally and nationally for funding to address the Tijuana sewage crisis, she began to grow more and more involved in Coronado’s political landscape. With two city council seats up for grabs this year, she’s decided to run for one of them.

“I’ve always advocated for a better society in every place I’ve ever lived, including Coronado,” Wilkinson Sinton said. “I had never thought of running for office, but I started getting encouragement from so many people who say the sewage issue is important and appreciated the advocacy because not enough was being done.”

While her goal was never political office, she has always held an interest in public policy, she said. As she earned her master’s degree in sustainability leadership from Arizona State University, she focused her studies on Coronado.

During that program, she studied traffic in the city and completed a Capstone project exploring how the Coronado Unified School District could adopt a zero-waste policy.

“Studying sustainability in Coronado was one of the things that really motivated me to run for city council,” Wilkinson Sinton said, “because public policy is what drives the future. These changes are coming, and we need to be ready for them.”

Wilkinson Sinton has been a front runner of advocacy for the Tijuana sewage crisis, so it is unsurprising that her platform centers on securing the rest of the needed funding to address crumbling infrastructure that causes millions of gallons of raw sewage to be dumped into the Pacific Ocean daily. Once funding is secured, she wants to ensure that the International Boundary and Water Commission is allocated enough funding to maintain its infrastructure and expand it if ever necessary, so that the problem does not arise again.

Beyond that, though, she has other goals. Speaking with her about her goals for the city, she seldom stopped for air as she outlined issues she says must be addressed to protect Coronado’s unique charm and quality of life.

“The role of city council is go govern the city, and through public policy, enhance the quality of life,” Wilkinson Sinton said. “First and foremost, it’s about public safety.”

Top issues of safety, according to Wilkinson Sinton, are addressing the sewage crisis and regulating electronic bikes to prevent major accidents.

“E-bikes have exploded in Coronado, and we have not caught up in terms of keeping our kids safe,” she said. “I don’t think there’s an adult who drives in this town who has not seen a kid on a e-bike looking at their phone. It is neglectful not to address it; we should not wait until someone gets really hurt.”

After safety comes sustainability. To Wilkinson Sinton, this means both environmental sustainability and protecting Coronado’s interests from outside agencies who also influence the city, such as the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the San Diego Association of Governments, the California Coastal Commission, and the Port of San Diego.

She wants to see the city applying for the state’s electric school bus grants and switching to recycled water for its irrigation. She also wants to push for improved stormwater drainage to prevent floods during heavy rains, such as those that happened in January.

The effects of those storms were lasting, Wilkinson Sinton said, referencing the January storm’s resulting closure of the John D. Spreckels Center, where she does yoga. The center reopened on June 17.

“Our flooding is getting worse, and that was a brand-new building,” she said. “Are we building for resiliency? The (Coronado Library’s) Winn Room remodel – is that going to be built for resiliency? One of the ways we can build for resiliency is to have places we can gather socially.”

That said, Wilkinson Sinton said she believes the recently approved Cays Park masterplan is too big – and too expensive – in scope, and hopes to rein that in so it can remain a community meeting place without a $31.2 million price tag. While some Cays residents vehemently opposed the park’s redesign, others supported it, and Wilkinson Sinton wants to revisit the plan to find a middle ground solution.

While it is enticing – and exciting – to renovate the park, or to give Orange Avenue a makeover, Wilkinson Sinton cautions against using too much city funding on what she considers the more flashy, but less important, projects.

“We’ve got to be prudent about the amount of money we’re spending, and making sure we’re spending it for future Coronado, not just for glamorous things right now,” Wilkinson Sinton said. “The question is: Are we being good ancestors?”

Despite her myriad opinions, Wilkinson Sinton said she would approach her job as council member by listening. She plans to start sitting in front of the library as ‘open office hours,’ in which residents can voice their opinions.

“What is your concern? What’s important to you? What would you change if you could, knowing that I can’t change overnight,” she laughed. “We are all so fortunate to live here, but there are issues that need to be taken head on, and as a councilwoman, I will fight to make that happen.”

Megan Kitt
Megan Kitt
Megan has worked as a reporter for more than 10 years, and her work in both print and digital journalism has been published in more than 25 publications worldwide. She is also an award-winning photographer. She holds BA degrees in journalism, English literature and creative writing and an MA degree in creative writing and literature. She believes a quality news publication's purpose is to strengthen a community through informative and connective reporting.Megan is also a mother of three and a Navy spouse. After living around the world both as a journalist and as a military spouse, she immediately fell in love with San Diego and Coronado for her family's long-term home.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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