By Pablo Jaime Sainz
The race for the Chula Vista City Council Seat One includes an incumbent that was appointed to the seat last December in a process that many have criticized, and a challenger who says that he has roots in the community.
Councilmember Patricia Chavez and candidate and business owner Rudy Ramirez will face each other once again in the Nov. 7 elections after a mere 3 percent difference in the June primary.
La Prensa San Diego asked both candidates important questions about their candidacy.
Individual questions for Patricia Chavez:
La Prensa San Diego: Why do you feel you’re qualified to do the job as a Chula Vista councilmember?
Chavez: I have a fresh voice and new perspective. My experience in the public, private, and non-profit sectors has given me a well-rounded background to work on wide-ranging issues. As a neighborhood advocate, I organized a group to combat graffiti and crime. As a councilmember, one needs to understand the diversity of our communities and do the outreach that is needed for everyone.
LP: Your appointment was rather controversial and received a lot of criticism. There were negative attacks on you. Did you anticipate it being this way?
Chavez: I applied for the vacant seat because I wanted to serve my city. I was proactive in my community and had proven results, so I know I could do the same as councilwoman. And I have. I think the issue was that I was an outsider and I shook up the status quo. The nastiness has been more than I expected, but I figure some see me as a threat to the establishment.
LP: What have you learned in the last six months?
Chavez: I could write a book. I don’t think there is anything that can prepare one for life in politics any educated person can figure it out and maneuver through the craziness of it but what one needs is the courage to stand up for what one believes is right.
Individual questions for Rudy Ramirez:
La Prensa San Diego: Why is this race so important for you that you have devoted the last three years to it?
Ramirez: I believe that the future of our city is at stake. For too long, there has been the attitude of business as usual and a lack of respect for open, transparent government at our City Hall. We need someone with a strong, independent perspective and a lifelong commitment to Chula Vista who will stand up for all our residents and devote their energy to representing the interests of the people rather than special interests.
LP: What did you learn from your first campaign that you’re applying to this campaign?
Ramirez: I learned that the most important thing you can do as a candidate is focus your time and energy on personally contacting all the voters in Chula Vista and effectively communicating your message.
LP: How are you a different person, if you are a different person, from the one that ran as a green candidate in the first campaign where your focus was on a green belt around Chula Vista?
Ramirez: I have gained much more experience as a community leader on the Bayfront and General Plan Update Steering Committees, so I have much broader and deeper knowledge of the issues facing our city and how we should be planning for future needs, including future growth, traffic, public safety, and improving our quality of life.
Questions for both candidates:
LP: Traffic is a big issue in Chula Vista, yet in most cases the city is limited in what it can do. What would you support or work toward to help with this problem? In particular, traffic around our schools makes it dangerous for our young students to walk to school. What can be done to make it safe for our youth?
Chavez: This is an issue I have been working for a long time in and around my own neighborhood. It is important to understand that our communities are all different and the solutions for one may not work for another. This is why I initiated the City’s first “Neighborhood Traffic Safety Program.” It takes officers, engineers and leaders straight into the neighborhoods to understand the essence of the needs and help solve them.
In regard to school traffic, the city is already working on a walking school bus a program that safely monitors kids as they are walking to school. But for it to be effective through-out the city, we need to educate our families about the benefits of walking. We need to make it safe for our children: sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic lights, and in some areas pavement. We need to work more closely with our school officials to understand the traffic patterns at the individual schools in order to bring solutions.
Ramirez: The city can take advantage of emerging traffic technologies to provide better synchronization of traffic lights for smoother flowing traffic on surface streets. The city can also look at other traffic calming measures like permissive left turn signals and additional turn lanes for better traffic flow. We should also rollback existing truck routes through residential areas in Eastern Chula Vista. To improve safety in school zones, we should implement stiffer penalties for reckless driving and improve the signage, crosswalks and stop signs in school zones.
LP: Over the years potholes seem to be appearing at a greater frequency and the response to fill these holes has been slow or non existent, why is this? And what can you do to resolve this problem?
Chavez: Pot holes are a growing problem in any city as infrastructure begins to age and traffic increases. Our city’s infrastructure is our largest investment and our biggest expense. We have areas with streets and pavement that need complete renovations. In order to resolve this issue, we need to prioritize projects and funding to meet our growing infrastructure needs.
Ramirez: I believe we should make funding for basic street repairs and pothole repairs a top priority in our budget. In addition, we should invest more in preventative measures so that we do not need to spend as much in the future on pothole repairs.
LP: Sweetwater Union High School District is the largest district of its kind in the nation. As such it has a broad base to serve and doesn’t serve the city to the fullest. What do you suggest the city can do so that the education of our students is the best possible. National City is currently considering unification, is this something that CV needs to take a look at? And if not why?
Chavez: The youth are our future leaders. I made it clear when I first came to council that it was important for city leaders to have communication and discussion with our school districts so together we can work on bringing the best to our students. I brought back an Adhoc committee that sat leaders and school board members together to work on solutions. All of our kids throughout the community should receive an equitable distribution of school funding to give them the same opportunities in the future. News schools built in the East are more modern and better equipped, so we must work to improve and update older schools. If we cannot dialogue effectively between communities within the district, and with our city growing and the population increasing in the south bay, it may make sense to look at unification.
Ramirez: I do not believe we should consider unification. From a municipal government viewpoint, we need to work more closely with the Sweetwater Union High School District and develop more opportunities for joint use. The city and school district should join resources so that we can provide better services and ensure that all the educational resources are spent on students.
LP: Broadway is an embarrassment to the city, it is a hodgepodge of businesses, bars, tattoo parlors, auto related business, thrift and discount stores. While the focus has been on the Third Ave. corridor, no real plans have emerged to deal with side of town and for that matter the South-West section of CV. What would be your vision or plans for these two sections of town?
Chavez: Broadway should also have mixed-use housing projects centered on mass transit hubs, bike lanes, and safer pedestrian infrastructure, and improved parks and recreational facilities. A coordinated plan for business and companies for more jobs to our area, streetscape, and restaurants should be implemented to improve the corridor.
Ramirez: The Southwest is currently working to incorporate its own community planning group. This emerging community group will help lead redevelopment efforts in this region and give the Southwest section of the city a more visible presence and greater influence at City Hall. Community leaders in both the Northwest and Southwest need to be more vocal and focus more efforts on redeveloping and improving both the North and South sections of Broadway.
LP: The City of Chula Vista doesn’t, to my knowledge, provide translation services at the city council meetings, yes or no? If no, why not?
Chavez: I brought translation to City workshops. Workshops are held once a month. Though the new council chambers are equipped to accommodate translators, there have not been enough funds allocated to meet regular Council meeting needs. I am the sole councilmember who can translate when needed. I should note I did bring translation to our web site, too.
Ramirez: It will be a priority for me to look at ways the city can provide better services to all residents of the city, including for Spanish and Tagalog speakers.
LP: What is the city’s track record in hiring or awarding contracts to minority small business men? Would you take a look at this and if found not reflecting the community what would be your position and how would you propose to address this issue?
Chavez: I do not currently know the city’s track record on hiring or awarding to minority small businesses, but I believe that the city should make every effort to encourage and promote locally owned and minority owned businesses through our contracts and projects.
Ramirez: I believe that an open, fair competitive process best serves the interests of taxpayers and provides the best services for the community.
LP: Regarding the budget, what would be your number one priority?
Chavez: Prioritize. We have seen good times and have been spending on many of our wants. Unfortunately, the increase in revenues has not exceeded our expenditures in a few years. We need the funds to provide for the needs and safety of our neigh-borhoods. In the coming years, we will have to prioritize projects and needs so we don’t run out of money. Our reserves must be kept at save levels to protect us from down years, and we must carefully plan for the reduction in development fees as we reach our city’s maximum planned build-out.
Ramirez: My number one priority is to fund the basic city services, including transportation and public safety first.
LP: The crime rate is increasing in Chula Vista. What would you do about the rise in crime in the city?
Chavez: We need to increase our police force on the street and in our detective division. Violent crime is up and that must be reduced. Task forces with other agencies should be continued and increased. I also believe that we can each make a difference through neighborhood watch programs and increased awareness.
Ramirez: I would make sure that public safety funding is one of top priorities in budget. I would also open a new police storefront in East Chula Vista.