November 3, 2006

Editorial:

Steve Padilla is the Best Choice to Lead Chula Vista into the Future

The City of Chula Vista, formerly considered a bedroom community to the City of San Diego, is now the second largest city in the County. Chula Vista is the twenty first largest city in the state of California. As Mayor Steve Padilla has stated, Chula Vista is larger than 75% of the state capitals in the nation.

Chula Vista has suffered the pains of its rapid growth, and is fighting to preserve its small town character as it looks to the future.

Who will lead the city into the future is the question that the voters will have to answer on Tuesday, November 7. Voters will be asked to decide whether they trust Chula Vista’s future to challenger Cheryl Cox or the incumbent Mayor, Steve Padilla.

The East side of Chula Vista is a wonderful place to live, with the exception of traffic congestion. It is a showcase of handsome homes, parks and lakes, shopping centers, an Olympic Center, and the future home to an institute of higher education. The West side of Chula Vista, though, is a different matter all together.

While the East side of Chula Vista has all the flash and glamour, the heart of Chula Vista still lays on the West side — in particular the Third Avenue historic downtown. For years now, the West side re-development has been put on the back burner: it is now at the forefront. A rift has grown over the future of the downtown Chula Vista between those who hope for a cosmopolitan city and the residents who want to retain the character and historical building heights of Chula Vista.

We feel that in the next four years, the future of downtown Chula Vista and the West side in general will be determined. Chula Vista’s next mayor will determine that direction.

Cheryl Cox is a fine person who comes into this race for mayor with credible credentials. However, we have some serious questions about whether she is a candidate of the people or a candidate for particular developers such as Mountain West Realty (Españada).

Open government and accessibility has been a key theme of this election and we question Ms Cox on this point. In this regard, we refer to her tenure as school board member of the Chula Vista Elementary School District. At several key moments during her tenure, Ms Cox, along with the whole school board, was missing in action. During the Castle Park school reassignment of five teachers, later overturned by a judge, Ms Cox did not come before the community or parents of Castle Park and talk to the community. The second time was when the principal of Heritage Elementary was fired over the parents’ protest. Ms Cox again failed to come before the public and talk about the firing. We find her lacking in communicating with the public.

In regards to standing with developers, Ms Cox was one of ten people representing such corporations as Pacific Waste, McMillin Companies, Mountain West Realty, and the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce, what we would consider pro-growth advocates, in creating a private company, Chula Vista Urban Development Committee (UDC). The UDC’s focus is to develop and promote the city’s redevelopment agency, creating a center city that could tap into redevelopment funds and tax incentives in order to redevelop downtown Chula Vista.

The UDC left the Chula Vista community and ethnic minorities out of the planning process. It was only after the UDC received public funding that it disclosed their plans to the public. Bottom line on this UDC — after a year or so of public meetings and reviews, the original UDC vision was kept in tact and accepted. What we have is a voting board that is filled with pro-development individuals and non-residents. Local residents form a strictly advisory group of that can only question the boards’ plans. The Redevelopment group can undertake projects with or without the public’s approval.

Ms Cox has made the budget a central part of her campaign with a focus on the drop in City reserves from $40 million to $10 million. While she points to this as a failing in Padilla’s stewardship, Ms Cox has been silent on exactly how she will bring the budget surplus back up. In city government, there are few avenues in which to do this: stop spending, raise taxes, or increase development fees. It is our belief as primary architect of the Redevelopment Corp., Ms Cox will steamroll forward with the pro-growth advocates and change the face of downtown Chula Vista through re-development with little input from community organizations.

On the other hand Mayor Steve Padilla, who also favors redeveloping the downtown area and moving the city toward a more cosmopolitan downtown, is willing to do so with the community’s input and concerns at the forefront.

He has included the community in the past during negotiations to change the height limits of the Españada project on Roosevelt and H Street. Mayor Steve Padilla was also instrumental in including the whole community in the General Plan Update, with the waterfront master plan, and moving forward on a four-year university.

The lapses in personal judgment of Mayor Padilla have played out in the media ad nauseum. Anyone who has read a local paper or seen a mayor debate or listened to an NPR interview or read political propaganda delivered to their mailbox in the past twelve months cannot have missed the fact that Mayor Padilla made some mistakes. These mistakes include accepting 10 payday advances, hiring a private body guard while the mayor was receiving death threats, and the “behind closed doors” appointment process by which Patty Chavez was selected to serve out the term of Patty Davis on the city council.

To his credit Mayor Padilla has acknowledged his lapses in judgment, but we don’t believe that these issues reflect the whole man or serve as an indictment of his character.

Under Steve Padilla’s watch the city has moved forward and positive changes have occurred in and around the City of Chula Vista. Yes, the city’s reserves are down to $10 million. But the city’s budget is balanced, pension funds are secure, parks were built, fire stations were built, the city’s historic downtown area has been reinvigorated with a new police station and a new city hall, plans are on the table for the bay front, and unsightly power lines along the water front will be put underground.

We believe that Mayor Padilla will continue to move the city forward, create change on the Westside in conjunction with the community and will maintain the character of the city. And he will do this with regard for his fellow citizens.

We support the re-election of Steve Padilla as Mayor of Chula Vista.

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