July 25, 2008

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Público

Mayor proposes a new study for Hi-rises in Chula Vista

The Mayor is up to her old tricks, attempting to promote a high-rise redevelopment agenda under the guise of another unbiased report and proposing a new $120,000 expenditure for the purpose.

The origins of this study date to the 2005 battle against the Espanada hi-rise condominium tower proposed for the corner of Third Avenue and H Street. Withdrawn in the face of widespread opposition, the Espanada proposal was replaced by a new plan to “study” hi-rise buildings on H Street at some point in the future.

That day has come. While careful not to describe this item as a study of hi-rise buildings, city documents indicate that changes to the General Plan and Urban Core Specific Plan are anticipated from this process. The history and the origins of the study, together with motivations of the proponents, make the purpose suspect: another so-called “unbiased” study designed possibly to lay the ground works and prepare the public for more hi-rise buildings on H Street.

It is also important to note that in the months preceding this proposed study, Mayor Cheryl Cox has met three times with Espanada developer Jim Pieri and other members of her H Street Study Group. These meetings were closed to public participation.

This study is BAD for Chula Vista!

Instead of respecting the clear will of the majority of West Chula Vista voters for a say in hi-rise buildings as indicated by the support received by Proposition E on the west side in June, proponents of hi-rise have apparently chosen to see the results as a “green light” to lay the groundwork for even more ambitious hi-rise plans for western Chula Vista.

It’s BAD timing!

· Their action comes too close to the June election — before the city has even had a chance to heal.

· This item is being rushed forward before the city has even properly identified adequate traffic and park fees for new development, adding further risk that new development will continue to decrease the quality of life for existing residents.

· Currently the city has been unable to garner interest from developers to build hi-rise buildings in the areas where consensus exists and our general plan provides for them. Most recently, a proposal for development at the Old Corporate Yard has been made for 5-story construction despite a general plan that allows for hi-rise redevelopment.

· Without the economic conditions that will allow for hi-rise redevelopment proposals in areas where they are appropriate, why would the city be spending scarce resources to promote additional hi-rise redevelopment in areas where strong community opposition exists because of impacts to existing neighborhoods?

It cost too much!

· At a time when the city is canceling our annual fireworks display and vital city services are cut or short changed, the city proposes to use $120,000, apparently to promote a controversial hi-rise redevelopment agenda.

· The city’s claim that the funds are from redevelopment and not the general fund is just more deception. The city’s subsidies for the redevelopment agency have reached almost $28 million, including an additional deficit of $286,593 last year despite the budget crunch.

· The money is coming from the Redevelopment Agency, where most of the funds have gone to fund staff, consultants, and developer credits instead of improvements for the community. This is just another example of consultant funding.

When will Mayor Cheryl Cox listen to the people instead of simply her developer contributors?

Robert Garcia
Chula Vista

Education in San Diego?

How is it that all the continued failure of our educational system to raise the level and rates of success of our Latino Students continues to be excused by all?

We hear it over and over again – members of our school board and the entrenched educational administration laying the blame for student failure rates upon the Parents, upon the new superintendent and his staff, upon even the teachers and students themselves. Yet, I have never heard a single school board member take even the least bit of responsibility fora system they are in charge of directing and overseeing. Or, exactly who has the power in our local Educational system?

Perhaps it is Gregory Morales? Perhaps it is I who holds all the power and control over our educational system; a system, so it appears to this observer, which continues to fail our students…. In that case, here are some points I believe we can “work” upon to effect positive changes in our communities.

Representation and Anti-Spanish language agenda?

Exactly what was it the school board did not like about, Eddie Caballero? It appears that they wanted him NOT to be at Sherman, but did they ever put into writing exactly why that was? Moreover, if there were such strong reasons to not have him at that post – then why did they flip-flop on their decision and reinstate him? Politics appear to dictate policy - perhaps in both cases. Facts do not change, only opinions change. Nevertheless, it seems policy is a result of politics - any discussion on policy is political. Only the elected have the power to make choices in policy based upon their opinions and only the people in positions of power can put opinion above fact and data and not hold themselves accountable?

So with Sherman Heights Elementary - what happened? Why did it happen in the first place? Exactly what are the real academic qualifications of the members of the School Board? Are they really the most highly trained educational professionals that the City of San Diego has to offer up for public service? Please explain exactly what the reasons were for removing Eddie Caballero from the office of Principle.

Another interesting point is Poverty funding:

It seems that SDUSD gets some; how many millions of dollars for poverty funding? Yet instead of providing greater levels of support for the schools in lower income/tax districts in an attempt to make education support more “equal” – poverty funds appear to be directed to schools with higher or even perhaps the highest tax based area support in SDUSD. 

It appears that 100% poverty schools must be funding, but it also seems the much of the funding is going to schools that already have many times the funding level of some of our schools in the South East.

Currently the cut-off for poverty funding is somewhere around 40% (unless I find something to suggest otherwise we will accept this number). Funding schools with poverty funding in non-poverty areas - exactly how is that putting our students on fair and balanced footing to start their educational life? Why not raise the floor for poverty funding to 60% poverty? Will the schools at 50% student poverty rates in areas with much higher tax revenue rates, still not have funding totals greater than any school with student poverty rates which are 70% or higher?

Third point:

‘Uber-gate kids’ – students in seminar classes – such created classes where once held in many of the southeast schools. However, the classes have now (so it seems) largely been moved to the northern sections of San Diego Unified. It appears that students identified for seminar classes are identified at an early stage. Gauging student performance at this early age automatically put students not of the mainstream culture at a testing, and therefore a selection disadvantage. Having seminar classes physically located in the ‘poorer schools’ appeared to be a good idea. Yet it appears that the super-majority of these classes have been moved to “the right kind of schools” (North of 8) and while budget cuts have placed even more disadvantages upon the students in schools enjoying lower levels of total support funding the ‘seminar classes’ with students who are already judged as not needing special help or assistance in learning, still enjoy student teacher ratios of some 20 to 1 or perhaps 23 to 1.

 It appears that some 11 million dollars – are directed to these programs – exactly what is the demographic distribution of this student population – do they reflect the ethno-demographics of our total student population? Or, is it policy that only certain groups of students are ‘smart enough’?

20 to 1 class ratios supported from Target Instructional Improvement Funds. Now perhaps 23 to 1 student teacher ratios. Yet it is clear that these students do not need the extra help nor the extra time our lower-performing students require.  

Exactly what are the Budgetary Priorities in San Diego’s School System and exactly who are they reflectively representative to the general population and student populations of San Diego?

We believe they are not.

Gregory Morales
San Diego

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