January 12, 2007

Focus on Community

By Patricia Chavez

Editor’s Note: It is with pleasure that we welcome Patricia Chavez as a regular contributor (bimonthly) to La Prensa San Diego. Ms. Chavez brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to her column as a San Diego State graduate, a community advocate, and most recently as a City Council member for the City of Chula Vista. Ms. Chavez will speak on issues relevant to community concerns, social issues, and political action in this column and we encourage our readers to email her and share your concerns with her. It is our hope that she will be able to assist the readers and community to bring about change.

Happy New Year! As I wave good bye to 2006 and a whirlwind year of politics, I greet 2007 with a bi-monthly column that I hope will provide insight to our reader’s communities, the people, and the mechanisms that either move or hinder the prosperity of our neighborhoods. So, I step into the occasional role of political commentator and hope to offer you a fresh perspective to the often cloudy world of politics.

I begin with a compelling need to reflect on the passing of a President. Now I can’t claim to have remembered President Gerald Ford as I was years from voting age when he took office, but I was drawn to his story. He was recalled time and time again as a kind man — an ordinary man who filled a role he did not seek nor strive for — yet when called, he was ready to “step up” and serve. Ready to work on healing a country while keeping to his values and sense of self and with a wonderfully strong partner and wife by his side, he led our country.

Yet, how many of us, today, are ready to step up? Okay, so it may be a bit far fetched to believe we may get the call from the White House — por favor — the thought of a brown face or woman in the Oval office was just until recently more of a dream than a thought (a great discussion for another time). But, each one of us can start by stepping up to issues close at hand and there are many to choose from. This year, can be your year, to step up.

There are national emotional issues like immigration, global warming, and the war. These are important debates and subjects that we should follow and at the very least be tuned into through your favorite media outlet. Dad was our household news correspondent and the dinner table sometimes became a debate session. But after every dinner debate, Dad closed with “Van a hacer, lo que van a hacer!” I dared to disagree then, like I do now, and I challenge you to do the same.

I know it can be overwhelming in a world where we are rushing and busy at every minute; frustrating when solutions come at a snail pace; and scary when the news is so often negative and hurtful. We may not all be able to step up to the larger raging debates, but there are many other steps we can take to set the groundwork in shaping a healthy, vibrant, safe world — it starts in your neighborhood and the step starts with advocacy at your pace.

In the South Bay alone, we will soon be faced with decisions of revitalization, a new bay front, new or no power plant and even a football stadium. These are changes that can affect your neighborhood and they are not all necessarily bad. I saw first hand what voices can do — and whether I agreed or disagreed, the message is powerful. Yes, decisions made at the state and capital level effect us — but, so do the very decisions that are made just miles from your homes — City Hall — where these decisions penetrate your neighborhood like no other.

Let’s take for instance a most favorite local topic: re-development, a topic of disdain, disregard, or adoration, depending on whom you ask. Yet, the bottom line on this story is that South Bay is losing open space, land is getting expensive and construction costs are going through the roof. Affordable dwellings are being built far from our jobs; public transportation has been cut or snubbed in some areas; traffic is a four letter word; and the impact to our health and our environment is starting to manifest itself. Yet, in Chula Vista the more vocal voices have focused the debate on building height and character — which let me add never mentions culture in a city that is rich in ethnic diversity. This sad debate drowns out any advocacy for our multi-family housing, affordable income communities, healthy-walkable living or sense of cultural space. And while those people knock on your representative’s doors discussing art deco and freezing time, our health care facilities, schools, streets and businesses are suffering and this eventually trickles down to effect you at home.

This year you should discover your City Hall and get to know your decision makers. They don’t know it all — sorry to disappoint. Share your concerns — a phone call or a letter — letting them know about your neighborhood needs, what you like and don’t. This is where it starts — people who “step up” are the ones who influence policy. This year, you and I can do this one step at a time. And while we are doing this we will be teaching our children valuable tools for when their leadership is called upon. Because we will, one day, be recalling a kind, strong President with a Latino surname — and gasp! It may even be a Latina!

Email Patricia Chavez at Patty.Chavez@covad.net

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