February 23, 2007

A City Manager and District Elections for CV School Board

Focus on Community
By Patty Chavez

The search for a Chula Vista City Manager continues, this critical role will be responsible for developing a bayfront, redeveloping a downtown, courting a football franchise, and in essence transitioning from a sleepy town to a vibrant city. The “city” part is here, no doubt about that, with almost 230,000 residents and 50 square miles, Chula Vista has made its mark in this county, yet there seems to be a struggle with the evolution.

Certainly a city manger coming into this climate is in for a challenge. Community watch dogs harp on the preservation of sleepy town USA — but a sleepy city dies economically. There is also the debate on harmonizing character — words thrown out to stir emotions but with no real meaning or definition. And every move forward is often two steps back when it comes to helping and refreshing older neighborhoods.

And don’t forget the political struggles within City Hall. It goes with the territory. A city manger needs to work with a revolving door of topics and movements brought to light by council members, yet be able to keep a city workforce productive to provide the best for residents. And should a council be at odds with each other, a city manger needs to be weary of playing in the political muck or suffer the consequences. This could be why the average tenure of a city manager is short.

In Chula Vista, in addition to all the above mentioned, a city manager will have to understand the growing pains of a city and the cultural make up - ethnic and generational — that defines it. Like it or not, Chula Vista is almost 70% ethnic minority. So, I think it’s safe to say this is not the same Chula Vista of years past, where a good ol’ boy operation was a standard. I think it is time to bring citizens a city manager reflective of a diverse growing city.

Apparently, there has been a rift between Chula Vista City Council on the selection of a new city manager. It will not be an easy decision for sure, but to take it public will only add foder for people who love controversy and mayhem. And really, what sane city manager candidate would want to go through such a process. This isn’t Mayberry. We elected our represenatives, and we need to let them do their jobs. Let them duke it out in private, so they don’t have to play to the crowd.

But don’t let this stop you from sharing your voice. To do their jobs effectively, electeds need to hear from you. There are also many organizations locally who claim to believe in diversity — it’s time we actually hear from them too.

South Bay School Districts are also grappling with change. The same struggles are resonating in our school districts as residents are demanding equal geographic representation on their boards. A movement has begun to create district seats for the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Sweetwater Unified School District - a district that spans 158 square miles serving children in Bonita, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City, Otay Mesa, South San Diego and San Ysidro.

Here too is an evolution of growth. Residents want school representatives who live in their community, understand their struggles, and are accountable to them. It seems to me, it would relieve the burden for board members trying to understand and connect with such a large region, and give them more time to focus on the very complex issues surrounding education policy and programs. After all, don’t we want to offer the best for our children?

In order to bring this issue to a public vote next year, a petition with 750 signatures needs to be submitted in two weeks to the County Board of Education where a committee will review the petition and schedule a public hearing for discussion. Let our voters decide in 2008. To help with this cause - Look for Russell and Alice Coronado or another coalition volunteer this Saturday, February 24, from 10am-3pm, outside of Eastlake WalMart, VONS on Telegraph Cyn. Rd., Ralphs on Otay Lakes Rd. or call 619-482-22100 to add your name on the list and get more information.

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