February 18, 2000
When you mention the name Juan Vargas, more often than not, they say he is a nice guy, with a friendly smile - here and now we will concede that. And if Vargas was running for Mr. Nice Guy he would have our vote, but he is not. Juan Vargas wants to represent you in Sacramento as Assemblyman for the 79th Assembly District.
The 79th Assembly District (50% D - 26% R) is San Diego County's only Democratic district, the 79th was the first county district to be "constructed" by Supreme Court masters, mostly to concentrate its Black and Latino populations. The district takes in National City, half of Chula Vista and southern San Diego city (San Ysidro). As a result, the 79th is more than three-quarters minority, with Latinos having 49 percent, Blacks 16 percent and Asians 11 percent. The district also has the lowest number of registered voters in the county.
The intent of "constructing" a district with a large minority block was to give this constituency a political voice. The question is, does Juan Vargas give the minority communities of the 79th its best voice?
Fortunately, Vargas is not an enigma, as a two-and-a-half term member of the San Diego City Council he has a long history in representing the minority community of the 8th District. Unfortunately it is not a history covered in glory.
Juan Vargas has shown himself to be a tool of the establishment. He has, in his tenure, fallen in lock-step with the leadership of Mayor Susan Golding, rarely if ever stepping out of the shadow of the mayor. The best example of this can be found in Vargas' support of then City Manager Jack McCory and Susan Golding's attempts to cut off city advertising to La Prensa San Diego. In trying to push through the Padres deal, La Prensa was one of the few papers opposing the issue and to silence this paper the establishment threatened this paper. Going public in support of this effort was Juan Vargas, the only city councilman to publicly speak out, in the establishments' attempt to take one of the few voices of the Hispanic/Chicano communities away.
We can also follow his votes on the Padres Ballpark issue. The Padres deal with City offered Vargas an opportunity to stand up for the Hispanic community, to be a voice for that community which will be the most affected, the Barrio Logan community - yet Vargas was silent in representing their concerns. Then there was the San Diego Chargers' fiasco and lack of leadership in questioning this major boondoggle. Considering that he is a Harvard educated lawyer he should have been well versed in reading a contract. He lost an opportunity to say stop and be a voice for the minority communities of the City. Instead he followed along and voted for Chargers' seat guarantee.
We can revisit the lack of leadership on minority issues such as minority contracting with the City of San Diego. As of last report by the city, it was reported that Hispanic and Black contractors were receiving less than one (1) percent of the contracts. Where was Vargas' voice of outrage on this issue?
For years methyl-bromide was a huge issue to the residents, parents, and school children of Barrio Logan, we questioned the leadership of Juan Vargas on this issue. Then there is the issue of the 8th District being one of the worst environmental areas in the city, especial in Barrio Logan, again we question the leadership of Juan Vargas on this environmental issue. The docking of nuclear ships in the harbor, what is Vargas' position on this issue, quien sabe.
On the issue of Brown Field, Vargas has recently flipped-flopped on this issue, at first supporting the developers, but now needing the votes of the homeowners, to opposing the development - for now. Vargas has supported another developer in opening a pedestrian border crossing in San Ysidro that would kill the downtown business section of Sidro. With the residents of Barrio Logan wanting to develop their community with a mercado, Vargas has stonewalled this development.
On major issues of great concern to minority communities: Proposition 209, the anti-bilingual initiative and Prop.187 anti-affirmative action initiative, Juan Vargas was strangely silent.
In 1996 Vargas' displayed his disdain for the 8th district and the minority community when less than a month after being elected to represent the 8th district he announced his intention to run for Congress. In a county that has very little Democratic leadership Vargas then choose to run against Democratic Congressman Bob Filner - going against the Democratic Party and against a Congressman who had, up to that time, represented the Hispanic community well.
There are other instances of Juan Vargas' lack of leadership, like the time he wanted to oust all city employees who had any gang related affiliation, no matter how long ago or how little. For a Harvard trained lawyer, it was incredible that he didn't understand the constitutional ramifications of such a move and implications to minority communities which have few avenues to a life outside of the gang life -- threatening to close one of those avenues.
Juan Vargas was a loser in his bid for Congress, and now due to term limits is serving his last term as a city councilperson. Looking to continue his political career, Vargas has targeted the 79th as his best, last chance, and once again, like in `96, counting on his charming personality and Hispanic heritage to carry him to victory. But as a voter in the 79th you have to go behind the good looks and take a look at the man, and ask yourself does Juan Vargas represent my best interest?
The reason Voters of California voted in Term Limits was to do away with the career politician and to allow fresh new ideas and instill fresh blood into the system. Allow term limits to work, it is time for new ideas and new directions to flourish in the 79th Assembly District.