By Patty Chavez
Councilmember, City of Chula Vista
For 33 years my parents rented a little 500 square foot house on a main boulevard in Los Angeles. From our front window we saw our share of accidents and fatalities. There was crime, graffiti and litter. On weekdays, we hauled and swept up debris left on the sidewalk and cared for the ‘city’ grass. At night, we locked our doors and shut the shades tight. We spent a lot of our time indoors, being a family and chatting around the dinner table.
Dad read two newspapers (English and Spanish) daily in detail. And we often debated the issues at hand. “Es como es,” he’d say. “There is nothing we can do.” I aimed to change that.
I left home in 1989 to attend San Diego State University, the first in my family to go to college. I put myself through school and graduated with a degree in Journalism and went on to work in media and employee communications. When I got married and started a family, I knew that I wanted to give our children a safe and healthy neighborhood I only imagined as a child and one that was also full of diversity and culture. Our choice was Chula Vista.
I had already experienced first hand what happens when an area becomes forgotten and the neighborhood gives up. It can happen anywhere. So when we moved into our new neighborhood, I made it a point to change that and get to know all my neighbors and create a support system.
It’s not easy. By the time one gets home from work, figures out dinner, children’s homework and sport activities, all other issues just wait. I was blessed that my consulting business was part-time and I could champion the issues for my neighborhood. I was facing the very same issues that ruined my old neighborhood: traffic, safety and litter. This time there were things I could do.
I started by proposing and establishing an Adopt the Park program to not only help keep our parks safe and clean, but to instill a sense of pride and ownership in our parks. Together with the neighborhood we made sure our area was safe from drugs and criminals by keeping in close contact with police. I met with city staff and council members to share my research and find solutions for better city communications and walkable communities especially in our areas that still lack the basic infrastructure we all deserve.
As a council member, I continue the fight. I have asked for a detailed report on our southwest infrastructure debacle. I am working closely with city engineers to develop a safe streets program that uses non-traditional means to calm traffic and make pedestrian activities safer, especially around schools. I have begun the process of establishing neighborhood associations to help facilitate interactive communication between city leaders, staff and residents. It allows residents to work together to prevent issues that threaten the stability of their neighborhood. More voices yield better outcomes.
I have begun the first step in offering regular translating services in the City of Chula Vista. Parts of Chula Vista website are now in Spanish and beginning in April with our streets workshop there will be simultaneous translation available. This was long in coming. The next steps will be to have translation services at all council meetings and a translated agenda.
I am working to bring a consensus for a common school calendar in Chula Vista. The safety of our children is of great importance. Often families have children in different school schedules leaving parents with no options but to leave kids home alone. We have a responsibility to these children.
The well being of our neighborhoods is directly connected to how we deal with safety, traffic, litter and infrastructure. As a Councilmember, and as a mom, I continue to take on these issues with the same no-nonsense, roll up your sleeves approach I did as a community activist. There is always something we can do. And we can do it together. By keeping communication open, understanding the needs of each neighborhood and making the health of our community #1 priority, we will preserve and protect our community for our children’s future.