By José A. Álvarez
The public’s distrust in city government. The City Council’s appointment process for vacant seats. Eminent Domain. Affordable Housing. Development and redevelopment. The Chargers.
These are some of the most talked about issues in the race for Seat 1 of the Chula Vista City Council. Five are the candidates vying for the positionCouncilmember Patricia Chavez, civic leader Russ Hall, social worker Pat Moriarty, public relations officer Jesse Navarro, and businessman Rudy Ramirez.
Their positions on several of these issues are slightly different. However, they all promise to restore trust in their elected officials.
Her controversial appointment, her political inexperience, and her unwillingness to say whether she would run for the seat she now occupies have been her opponents’ main issues of contention against her.
Chavez, a stay-at-home mother of three and public relations consultant, was a relative unknown until last December when her highly-questioned appointment became the most talked about issue in the city.
From the beginning, Chavez, born in the Los Angeles area, said she was there to represent the interests of residents and, if elected, she will continue doing the same.
“I want to work for the future of our city for our children,” said Chavez, adding that being a member of the City Council has given her the opportunity to do “more for the community.”
Regarding her highly-contested appointment, Chavez said she believes all candidates should have been given the opportunity to present themselves to the Council. A total of 19 candidates, including Hall, applied for the position. The list was quickly narrowed down to three and a selection made without public input.
“As a country, we don’t trust our elected officials…We need to make it (the selection process) as open as possible,” she said.
Chavez believes the City should continue working with developers and continue providing affordable housing so that young people and senior citizens can afford a place to live. All future developments, she added, should blend with the existing culture of the communities.
“It’s what Chula Vista has been doing and what we must continue to do,” said Chavez, who said she is against the Chargers coming to Chula Vista and in favor of Proposition C, which would restrict the City’s ability to seize people’s property.
A member of the City’s Economic Development Commission, Hall said his 17 years of civic involvement will help him make Chula Vista a more desirable place to live, work, and recreate.
“I am the only candidate with economic and business marketing experience,” said Hall, adding that the City “must meet the needs of residents and businesses.”
Regarding the City’s process for filling vacancies, Hall said the Council needs to explore when it would be appropriate to appoint and when to have an election. Regarding Chavez’s appointment, Hall said the “Council was rushed” and that “there was a lack of notification in terms of the entire process.”
On the issue of new housing developments, Hall believes developers must offer some affordable housing.
“We need to continue the policy of inclusionary housing,” said Hall, adding that he is against eminent domain because “no private homes should ever have to be taken because of eminent domain, period.”
On new development and redevelopment projects, Hall is convinced that Chula Vista, one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, must continue on the path of planned growth and said he would oppose any developments that would severely alter the image of the city. Hall said he would push for “no abnormal heights, abnormal structures, no abnormal designs,” and would not allow a Chargers’ stadium on the Bay Front and would continue to “support the work that has been done.”
A social worker by profession, Moriarty said she is running for Seat 1 to offer a “new face” to the City Council.
“I am disgusted and disillusioned with what is going on in city government,” said Moriarty, who favors Proposition C and opposes any buildings or structures that would change the image of the city.
“We need to respect the character of Chula Vista,” said Moriarty, who offers the City of La Mesa as a model her city should follow. “In 100 years from now, people are going to know we did the right thing,” added Navarro, who also opposes a Chargers’ stadium on the Bay Front and supports a mix of business, commercial and residential developments for the area.
Public relations officer Navarro said he waited several years before running for office because he was waiting for the most appropriate time when he could make “a contribution for the betterment of the community.”
Like the other candidates, Navarro said he agrees the decisions being made at City Hall should be more open to the public. However, Navarro said he opposes the appointment process and suggested the City Charter be changed to allow voters to elect who their representatives will be.
“You are the ones who should choose who’s going to represent you,” said Navarro, who favors Proposition C and opposes eminent domain, with certain exceptions.
“Certain community areas that are blighted are fair game,” said Navarro. He is also against the Chagers being on the Bay Front and believes affordable housing is absolutely critical.
“It’s a must for our community,” said Navarro, adding that he would not allow 10-story or 15-story buildings in Chula Vista.
“We have a dysfunctional government…It’s time for a change,” Ramirez has said is what prompted him to run for the position. “It’s time for a strong independent voice.”
Ramirez said that the current appointment process could lead to “hazardous situations.”
“The trouble is that people don’t have a voice and that could lead to backroom deals and cronyism…It needs to be an open process and the public needs to be able to speak on the process” said Ramirez, further proposing that the appointed person “wait at least two years before running for office.”
Ramirez has been very vocal about including community input in any developments proposed by the city, something that has been missing and has led to community distrust and the derailment of past developments.
“They missed a big point. The people,” said Ramirez. “The most important thing is bringing our community along, making them a part of the development effort.”
On the issue of inclusionary housing, Ramirez said it’s important for the City to “bring as much of a blend as possible.”
Ramirez is against eminent domain and said he will vote in favor of Proposition C because he is against the seizure of anybody’s home or business for “some one else’s profit.” He added that he is against a stadium for the Chargers on the City’s Bay Front and said he “will encourage the City of San Diego to continue subsidizing the team.”
The primary election will take place Tuesday, June 6. If no candidate receives 50 percent plus one vote, the two top vote-getters will go into a run-off election in November.