June 11 2004


National City, City Council Running Amok

Of the eighteen incorporated cities of San Diego County, National City is the poorest of them all, with a median income of $34,405. Imperial Beach is the next poorest with a median income of $40,287. Yet, National City residents, within the two years of a City Council being led by Mayor Nick Inzunza, have seen the cost of living rise dramatically, among a number of other financial burdens.

Aside from the 18% pay raises that the city councilmen gave themselves with the arrival of Inzunza, aside from cutting the number of meetings each month, aside from an increase in sewer rates, which were tagged onto homeowners’ property taxes instead of a monthly bill, and lastly, aside from the increase in trash fees, the most antagonizing fee so far has been the citywide fleecing of residents by the city’s meter maids, in particular the 72 hour maximum limit on cars parked in one spot, in order to write tickets.

This year National City Council passed ordinance where any car parked longer than 72 hours would be ticketed. The rational for this was to clean up the city from junkers, and supposedly, the enforcement of this ordinance was to target business areas and busy streets.

But the reality of this ordinance, though, has been that it is a burden that has been imposed on the residents in local neighborhoods. National City outsourced the citation process to a private company from Huntington Beach, which makes a profit off each ticket. The meter maids have gone from patrolling the business districts to residential neighborhoods and ticketing residents’ cars not only for the 72 hour violation but for any other infraction they may find, no matter how trivial.

Examples of abuse: a woman reported that she fell ill and had to spend a week in the hospital, when she returned home, her car that was in front of her house had a ticket. Another resident had a see through plastic cover over his back license plate – a $60 ticket. In a cul de sac, a resident parked a little too far from the curb, a curb he has been parking next to for 18 years; he received a ticket. And now, we learn that church goers at St. Anthony’s are complaing of being harrassed and ticketed on Sundays.

Another annoying aspect to this is that in order to respond or challenge the ticket, the ticket recipient has to write to Huntington Beach, and if there is a hearing, it is held in the National City Police headquarters. The most insulting part of the appeal process is that if an interpreter is needed, in a community that is 65% Mexican, the resident needs to bring one along!

These extra taxes are on top of a $6 million library expansion bond, the Sweetwater School District bond (Prop BB), and the Southwestern Junior College bond, all of which property owners already pay for. And now, the National City council wants to add a $30 million dollar bond to the November election.

Why all the taxes? Because Mayor Inzunza is on a fast track to create a legacy, which he is hoping to parlay into higher political office.

Towards this end, the City Council, without a discernable economic base to pay for all this, has been pushing for several major building projects, including a new fire station, a new library, a new police station, a new college collaboration, and a new Indian “casino” hotel, more on this later. Least let us not forget the city of villages that Mayor Inzunza promised, starting with the Filipino Village, which so far consist of pennants hanging from street lamps.

All of this in less than two years. In another city, at a different time when the state isn’t in a financial crisis, all of this might make sense, but in National City, this is a recipe for a disaster because the ones who will pay the bill will be the residents of National City themselves, a community of working class people who cannot afford Inzunza’s ambitious dreams.

Take for example the Indian “casino” hotel. This hotel makes no sense when you consider that National City already has two fine hotels, one failed and is being converted into condos and the other which is struggling, at best. It doesn’t make sense unless, of course, the State allows off Indian reservation gambling. Meanwhile Inzunza is looking for future campaign donations. Oh yeah, then there is also the fact that Councilman Luis “Louie” Natividad is already beholden the casinos, since they bankroll his monthly breakfast.

Before this City Council drives its residents bankrupt, those same residents need to step up and ask for some accountability. The Committee on Chicano Rights, and its president Herman Baca, is circulating a petition in regards to the 72 hour parking ordinance in order to repeal this law.

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