October 6, 2006

Commentary:

Business as Usual at Chula Vista’s City Hall

By: Robert Castaneda

At Chula Vista City Hall, a culture of political cronyism, frequent backroom dealings and a general lack of respect for the will of the people have all been prevalent for far too long. Most of the time, this kind of behavior goes unnoticed by the general public, but when it is aired out, so many of us simply accept it as business as usual.

After Councilmember Patty Davis unexpectedly resigned from office last fall due to illness, Patty Chavez was hastily appointed to serve on the Chula Vista City Council. Unknown to the public at that time, Chavez’s appointment was rushed through the process at the urging of Mayor Padilla, who hand picked her from a field of over a dozen candidates. But how did Mayor Padilla know Chavez was the best person for the job when he never interviewed the other candidates?

I did not know of Patty Chavez prior to her serving on the Chula Vista City Council, but I have been following this race since her appointment and have noticed some inconsistencies in her claims. The group that she co-founded, Chula Vistans for Civic Solutions, which was the backbone of her “open government” platform during her appointment process, was put together at the last minute prior to her appointment and since has fallen off the radar…how convenient. In addition, on Chavez’s council appointment application, she had stated that she was a homemaker. Later, during the primary campaign, she claimed to be a communications consultant, which would require a business license. Public records show that such a license was never obtained.

Throughout Patty’s tenure on the council, she has claimed to make concerted efforts to improve government transparency and openness and increase communication with Chula Vista voters. In reality, Chavez is simply paying lip service to her constituents while proceeding with more of the business as usual politics that have become the norm at Chula Vista City Hall.

For example, while in office, Chavez has spearheaded a lobbying ordinance that on the surface seems to limit City Hall lobbying. However, this ordinance excludes labor, who had contributed a large amount of money to her campaign. Chavez has also received special interest money from Urban Corps of San Diego staff and spouses, and in turn has awarded them a no-bid contract for graffiti abatement with the City of Chula Vista. This is your typical game of smoke and mirrors. How can someone who champions a movement for a more transparent government behave so hypocritically?

Chavez’s fast tracked appointment to office and the ensuing controversy over her campaign for re-election have spurred two new ballot initiatives that will appear on the November ballot. The City Council is asking the voters to reform the policy for future council appointments so that we can ensure that this process is more transparent and open to the public. If passed, these ordinances will prevent a backroom appointment like Chavez’s from ever occurring again.

This November, we have the opportunity to elect a candidate who will break out of this business as usual mold at City Hall. Rudy Ramirez is running against Patty Chavez for City Council. Rudy is a lifelong Chula Vista resident, successful local business owner and long-time community advocate who is deeply invested in the future of our city. Rudy is the candidate who will offer Chula Vista residents a truly independent voice at City Hall while looking out for the best interests of his constituents rather than special interest groups. .

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, “Politicians and diapers need to be changed frequently…and for the same reason.” We must take action and look to replace those who have soiled our democracy. Rather than accepting more of the same old business as usual from our local elected officials, we have a better option this November in the race for Chula Vista City Council in lifelong resident and community leader Rudy Ramirez.

Bob Castaneda is a community relations consultant with Castaneda Communications.

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