January 27, 2006

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Publico

Eminent Domain Not Welcome in the South Bay

Despite overwhelming public opposition to the use of eminent domain to transfer private property from one property owner to another private property owner, and citizen sponsored ballot measures in both National City and Chula Vista designed to curb this power, city officials in neither city are willingly giving up their power to use eminent domain as they see fit.

Officials in National City took property from several property owners last week to clear the way for a private developer who proposes a luxury condominium tower. Then, just this week, the city filed a lawsuit against a citizen who sponsored the ballot measure to restrict their power to do so in the future. Beware: if you intend to exercise your rights to direct democracy in National City, it’s going to cost you!

In Chula Vista, Mayor Steve Padilla has been gearing up for an aggressive eminent domain program. This week, he required prospective appointees for the city’s new redevelopment board to each state their opinions regarding emient domain, and then chose only the two candidates who most strongly supported the use of eminent domain for private development purposes for appointment - even though neither even lived in Chula Vista.

To slow support for a very popular ballot measure to restrict eminent domain being circulated in Chula Vista, Mayor Padilla has been making statements that are less than forthright. For example, Mayor Padilla repeatedly claims that no one will lose their home because of eminent domain in Chula Vista. The truth is, that while a city policy restricts the use of eminent domain on owner-occupied property that is zoned residential, this policy does not provide ANY protection for owners and renters of homes that are not zoned residential. Nor does the policy provide any protection for the thousands of residents in the redevelopment area who rent their homes. Further, this city policy may be changed by the city council; therefore, it is an empty promise that provides no real protection for any resident or property owner.

Instead of filing lawsuits to block citizen efforts, “stacking” the redevelopment board, or making Clinton-esque statements that mislead voters, why not embrace citizen input and provide real protections against eminent domain abuse? (That’s what the Mayor and City Council voluntarily did in Encinitas).

Matthew Sisson
Chula Vista

Chula Vista Redevelopment Commission Appointments Drawing Heat

Last week, when asked to consider seven candidates for appointment to two openings on the new Chula Vista Redevelopment Corporation, the Mayor first required each candidate to state their position with regard to the use of eminent domain for private projects. The Mayor then moved to appoint the two candidates who expressed the strongest support for the use of eminent domain - even though they weren’t residents of Chula Vista and even though qualified residents of Chula Vista had also applied.

The Mayor’s handling of the CVRC appointments sends a clear message - the city is preparing for aggressive use of eminent domain as a tool for redevelopment.

The Mayor has resisted the public outcry for more participation at City Hall with the Espanada project, the General Plan Update, the appointment process for the recent City Council vacancy, and most recently, with this decision to appoint non-residents to serve on the Chula Vista Redevelopment Corporation over equally qualified residents.

Now comes word that the Mayor plans a program to delay, confuse and prevent a prompt election on the ballot initiative that has been circulated to restrict the city’s ability to use eminent domain on behalf of private developers. These efforts reportedly will include placing a competing measure on the ballot to confuse voters and using tax monies for “feasibility studies” to delay an election.

Mayor Padilla: embrace citizen involvement as a positive contribution to your work; realize that an open process produces better policy and better government, not worse. And join the campaign to prevent eminent domain abuse - don’t try to prevent or delay our right to vote.

Daniel Ruiz Fries
Chula Vista

Inzunza Bashing

I recently re-watched the movie “Selena” and enjoyed the scene were Selena’s father describes the Mexican-American conundrum, vis-a-vis Mexican Americans being disliked in both the United States and Mexico. You can throw in National City as part of the mix.

As a former resident of National City I experienced both the pros and cons of the Inzunza administration. Interestingly, in my years reading La Prensa de San Diego, I have never read any positive articles regarding the Inzunza administration. Was it really that bad? The answer is no.

Before Nick became Mayor, National City was a regressive city with no economic ambitions or cultural identity. The city was the laughing stock of the South Bay, with negative population growth, high crime and mayor who had no connection with local residents. As of today, National City will be the first city in the South Bay to have high-rise condos (they look awesome), a beautiful new public library, satellite campuses for SDSU/Southwestern College, crime rate that has been decreasing, a Police Chief that has a connection with residents, possibility of development in west side, etc. Ask any citizen in National City (especially the Spanish & Tagalog speakers), if the city is better than it was five years ago.

Ultimately, this paper even went as far as calling his father, Ralph Sr., a “sell-out” to the Chicano cause. Well, thanks to Mr. Inzunza, in one semester, I learned more about my Mexican-American identity and importance of civic participation than my whole lifetime and two semester of Mexican-American history at San Diego State. So what if Nick made some feria in real estate (shoot, all homeowners in NC made feria too.)

Pues, caramba...Ya basta! Let’s start moving forward and begin supporting our leaders (Chicano, Mex-American, Latino & whatever the hell we want to call ourselves). It sure beats the carambera we had before. Stop Inzunza bashing as its getting as old a gringo cry of reverse discrimination. Stop reporting carambaras and start reporting informational journalism (take a cue from La Zeta).

Julio C. Flores
via email

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