December 5, 2008
By Pablo Jaime Sáinz
After almost a month of uncertainty, community activist Pamela Bensoussan became the newest member of the Chula Vista City Council on Tuesday, the same day the San Diego County Registrar of Voters certified her victory by 46 votes.
In October, La Prensa San Diego officially endorsed Bensoussan for Seat 3 of the Chula Vista City Council.
The Democratic candidate won a tight-race against Republican Russ Hall after the Registrar of Voters had to count provisional and absentee ballots. She takes the seat left vacant by Councilmember Jerry Rindone, who, after 16 years on the council, couldn’t run again because of term limits.
Councilmember Steve Castaneda was also sworn-in that night after winning reelection against Scott Vinson. La Prensa San Diego also endorsed Castaneda for reelection.
For Bensoussan, who is co-founder of the Northwest Chula Vista Civil Association, the month-long wait after the election gave her time to reconsider why she decided to run in the first place: Serve the City of Chula Vista.
“I felt somewhat like my life was on hold,” she said in an interview with La Prensa San Diego. “But I also spent a long time reflecting on what I would do if I didn’t win how I could continue to make a difference in Chula Vista.”
She said that the tight-race and her narrow victory “reflects the fact that our city has become somewhat divided after years of battles at city hall and ballot initiatives.”
She said that the Latino vote was an important factor in her campaign, adding that as founder of the Northwest Chula Vista Civic Association she has worked with the Latino community for years. She also said her victory is due in part to her good relationship with Chula Vista’s working class.
“I feel that Latino voters were very supportive of my candidacy,” said Bensoussan. “Without a doubt, my success is due to a strong grassroots effort help from residents, working families and young people.”
Bensoussan said that her immediate plans as a councilmember are “to see that the budget cuts are made responsibly, with minimum impact on vital services and to find new sources of revenue to prevent severe cut backs in the future.”
Councilmember Rudy Ramirez, who endorsed Bensoussan, welcomed her to the city council.
“I know that you have a sincere concern for the future of our city,” he said.
During the swearing-in ceremony, the city council chambers, which were filled to capacity, supporters of Bensoussan and Castaneda cheered as the two took oath in front of the council.
“As your Council person I will represent everyone on both the east and west sides of this wonderful diverse city,” Bensoussan said during her acceptance speech. “I will do my best to bring together residents, workers, seniors, youth and businesses to work to improve our lives and our communities. We’ll need everyone to step up and work together diligently to build a city we’re all proud of that provides safety and basic services for all.”
The Chula Vista City Council faces harsh times, since it needs to make about $20 million cuts to the budget. Castaneda said that “tomorrow starts very serious work. We will have to make very tough decisions.”
Bensoussan addressed some of her plans for the next four years in the city council.
“As we enter into this difficult period of looming budget cuts, know that I will do everything I can to safeguard our quality of life and restore our city’s economic health. While we make the necessary cuts to survive, we must do everything we can to not lose sight of our goals and continue nurturing development of our bayfront, future university, and expand our job markets.
“Lastly, I pledge to you that while striving to accomplish these goals, I will do my best to assure open, transparent government, accessible to all our diverse citizenry. I am humbled to join my distinguished colleagues and serve as your representative on Chula Vista’s City Council. Thank you to all for this opportunity.”