October 24, 2008

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Publico

Why I’m voting for Steve Castaneda for Chula Vista City Council

I was a candidate for Chula Vista city council in the June primary election, but ended my campaign prematurely. My opponents, Steve Castaneda and Scott Vinson, are now in a run-off election, and many of my supporters from the primary are asking which I believe is the better candidate. I know Steve and Scott. They are both decent men who care about their families, our community, and our country. But I am urging my supporters to vote for Steve. Why? Because of Steve’s demonstrated strength of character and because of his governing style.

Steve Castaneda has been through an experience most people would not wish on their worst enemy. The District Attorney, on the word of a tipster who to this day remains anonymous, decided to investigate Steve. In the end he was found innocent of any wrong-doing, but how he handled the experience says something about Steve as a person. I’ve tried to put myself in Steve’s place:

I’ve done nothing wrong, but the DA, with her virtually unlimited resources, is investigating me. I know I’m innocent, so I cooperate fully. Finally, the investigation ends, and the conclusion is that no crime has been committed. But the DA is not satisfied. I’m accused of lying about something that was not a crime in the first place. She prosecutes and announces she is going to bring me before a jury. But behind the scenes, she is making offers to settle, if only I would resign from the City Council. The trial and the publicity surrounding it are embarrassing to me and my family. I can’t sleep. My legal bills are piling up. No one can tell me when this will all end. I have a decision to make, it would be so easy to take the DA up on her offer to settle, and end this nightmare once and for all.

If I had been Steve, that’s probably what I would have done. But Steve didn’t; he fought back. And in the end it paid off. The judge dropped some of the charges, the jury found him innocent of others, and the DA withdrew the rest. Steve’s perseverance in the face of this literal and figurative trial says reams about Steve’s inner strength and character - who he is as a person.

The other reason I am urging my supporters to vote for Steve is his governing style, which I would call inclusive. A “we know better than you” attitude permeates from much of city hall, but Steve is not part of it. In the first conversation I ever had with Steve we discussed ways to empower Chula Vista’s neighborhoods. So refreshing to hear that from a politician; they are usually a lot more interested in consolidating power than in sharing it. Yet there he was at Starbucks talking to me about ways to include more people in city decision-making.

It has not been possible to implement some of the ideas we discussed because first Mayor Padilla and now Mayor Cox seem to find the idea of an open and inclusive style of governing, where residents are given a seat at the table where the decisions are made, too threatening. Perhaps that will change in time, perhaps not. But in any case I know for certain that Steve is on the right side of the governing style spectrum. And yes, sometimes it is all about style.

Patricia Aguilar
Former city council candidate

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