May 8, 2009

Editorial:

Chula Vista’s Prop A defeated, good news and bad news

The ten year, one cent sales tax increase proposed in Chula Vista’s ballot initiative, Proposition A, was defeated this past Tuesday. There is good news and bad news in that defeat.

The good news is that a regressive sales tax that would have placed an unnecessary burden on the lower and middle class wage earner was defeated. And the business community will not have yet another burden piled upon all the other economic woes facing them. The voters sent a clear message to the politicians: “No new taxes, cut wasteful spending!” Political leaders are now forced to go back to the budget and take a second look at what is absolutely necessary and what must be put on the shelf until the city can afford it.

The message from 67% of the voters is that at a time when everybody else has to tighten their fiscal belts and cut down on spending, city government has to do the same thing. The political leadership of Chula Vista will have to take a fundamental look at the role of the city in regards to its citizens and prioritize supporting services. At the same time, the political leadership will be accountable and have to justify to the voters their budget decisions. That is the good news.

The bad news is that more city jobs will be cut. Services and programs such as library hours, recreation services and street sweeping will be cut back. Funding for some services may be cut out of the budget all together - the Chula Vista Heritage Museum and the Chula Vista Nature Center have already been advised of funding restraints. The city will have to find alternative funding sources to continue some of its quality of life programs for its citizens.

However, the budget cuts might only be temporary. When the budget crisis lifts, as it is slowly doing now, cities should be in much better financial shape to fund those services and programs that city residents appreciate. People will once again purchase large ticket items such as cars and appliances, generating sales tax revenue, and home values will rise sometime in the future. Government budget cuts are not always permanent cuts. The city has an opportunity to take a hard look at its responsibility and begin the process of developing a strategy for generating new revenue for the city beyond new housing permits.

Side note on the City of Chula Vista:

Mayor Cheryl Cox has once again fumbled and bumbled with her attempt to remove Mike Najera as the city’s representative on the Port Commission. This is on top of the defeat of Prop. A. Mayor Cox was the primary architect of this failed sales tax increase.

When Cox asked Najera to step down from Port Commission, Najera quickly took control of the situation and went to the press with Mayor Cox’s request. He hired a lawyer. Mayor Cox, who has so far failed to show cause for asking him to step down, has had to back down from her statement and is once again in the middle of an embarrassing situation.

Mayor Cox has had a string of failures and embarrassments since taking office a little over two years ago. This string of failures includes the loss of the Gaylord project on the bay front, the embarrassing letter to the San Diego Chargers, her role in the Steve Castaneda prosecution case, her chief of staff earning close to $200,000 a year while he worked part time on a side job. Now she has failed to convince no more than 9,645 people in a city of over 106,000 registered voters to follow her lead and vote for Prop. A.

These missteps and embarrassments are a reflection on the city, adding to the problems already facing the city. At one point there was a recall effort. At the time, the recall did not seem justified, but our opinion is quickly changing on that. Mayor Cox’s first term is up next year, she should consider strongly if running for re-election is the best move for her and the city.

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