Becoming involved in the political process, either running for office or in supporting and working for a ballot issue, is not for the timid! Politics can be a rough game and if you are in the game you have to have tough skin, you will take hits and some will be personal. Like it or not that is the nature of politics. In Chula Vista, historically, the nature of politics has been pretty straight forward, honest, and at times a little tough but in the end most elections could be looked upon as an effective effort of Democracy that the residents could be proud of. Sure, Chula Vista has its ‘good old boys’ and the power seemed to lie in the hands of a few, but the political campaigns usually were a decent affair, that was until this last election!
The last election, the level of discord, deceit, and down right meanness reached new levels, levels that should have the residents of this city, at the very least, disappointed in their leadership and the type of politics filtering into the city.
The most disappointing outcome from this past election was the misuse of city funds by Mayor Cheryl Cox with the support of city council person Jerry Rindone who used the city as their personal piggy bank to bolster their opposition to Proposition E.
Prop. E was significant, not so much for what it would have done if passed, it simply reinforced the General Plan, but was significant in what it represented. Prop. E indicated who would have greater control over future redevelopment of the downtown Chula Vista, the developers or the residents.
If Mayor Cox were to lose this battle it would have indicated a significant set back of her ability to lead and more important her ability to come through for the developers who have provided significant monies and support to her election, and who provided significant support and money to defeating Prop. E. The developers, for their part, want a mayor and city council that would then deliver for them the opportunity to do what they do best, which is to build.
Prop. E was an issue Mayor Cox could not afford to lose. With councilman Rindone, Cox manipulated the rules, hired a consultant at taxpayers’ expense to the tune of $30,000 as was initially reported, later the amount was dropped to only $18,000, to prepare a study that was blatantly biased in order to scare the voters into voting No, supporting the opposition to Prop. E. Mayor Cox used tax monies as her own slush fund in support of her political agenda.
The second disturbing aspect that came out of this past election was the malicious attacks by the Lincoln Club against council man Steve Castañeda in his reelection bid.
Councilman Castañeda had spent two years of his life fighting false charges filed against him by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ secret integrity unit. Castañeda was cleared of all charges. Despite this, the Lincoln Club, which is a conservative political organization that had until recently stayed out of South Bay politics and describes itself as ‘the premier business-friendly organization in the region,’ produced and paid for a vicious mailer that stated Castañeda was guilty despite what the jury said.
Correlations have been drawn by some between Mayor Cox, DA Dumanis, and the Lincoln Club working in unison, along with the developers and the Chula Vista Chamber, to create that all important pro developer board majority.
The bigger picture is that politics in Chula Vista have turned the corner on how far politicians will go to win. Politics have been a rough and tumble affair in Chula Vista in the past but never to the low point that the Lincoln Club took it with its flyer, and this is the first time in memory that an elected official has ever tried to sway an election using taxpayers’ funds. It is ironic that the Mayor has the funds for a bogus study, but has to cut the City’s fireworks display in recognition of the country’s freedom from tyranny.
As councilman Steve Castañeda put it after two years of fighting for his personal freedom, much less his political career, it is these types of politics that keep the good people out of politics.
The City of Chula Vista used to be better than this and the residents of Chula Vista deserve better.