October 15, 2004

Butcher’s son says he’s the people’s candidate

by J.D. Hawk

The butcher’s teenage son asked his father for money. So the butcher did what any blue-collar Joe would do. He took the then future Chula Vista city council candidate Steve Castaneda out “for a ride”, and dropped him off in front of a Food Basket supermarket and told him to get a job.

Steve Castaneda (center) meets with residents of Chula Vista

The Helix high school graduate would work the grocery business the next 11 years until he left in 1987. During that time, Castaneda spent less than a year as a San Diego police officer from 1980 to1981 — an intermission, if you will, from his grocery clerk days. But at only 20 years old, Castaneda felt he wasn’t ready for police life or that type of responsibility. Calling himself too immature at the time, he left the police force. “Next to a soldier in time of war, it’s probably the most difficult job you could possible have,” he explained.

But Castaneda’s otherwise humdrum life was about to change. According to Castaneda, he was basically drafted as president of his homeowners association when he shared with his neighbors a couple of ideas. And when he felt the city of Chula Vista wasn’t paying enough attention to his issues regarding the southwest area of Chula Vista, he was forced to get even more involved in city issues. This involvement, in turn, led him to a meeting with future Assemblywoman Shirley Horton who, according to Castaneda, helped him further excel in civics.

Now Castaneda serves as the current Chair of the Chula Vista Planning Commission and has held that position since 1998. He has also co-owned Profile Research and Marketing since 1996. PRM is a business guidance company that in Castaneda’s words will help businesses “specialize in project management, specialized transportation planning, and construction management.”

But more importantly, what does Castaneda think he has to offer the citizens of Chula Vista? What’s his beef? “There seems to be a higher priority placed on the people that may move here one day, than over the people that live here today,” he said.

Castaneda believes that there is now spirit in Chula Vista’s city hall — a zeitgeist — that favors what Chula Vista may or may not become in future years, at the cost of the current citizens of Chula Vista. And that type of thinking is just plain wrong.

Castaneda cites several examples to back up his claims, including the view on the Chula Vista’s bay front, the recent San Diego Gas & Electric agreement, an increasingly slowing response time by emergency services and finally, misspent city money.

“We only have one bay front,” he said while figuratively drawing a line in the sand between himself and his opponent Dan Hom. “Chula Vista needs a public bay front, not expensive condos. The Bay front represents Chula Vista’s signature resource. We cannot make another, ...and if we allow it to fall under development, with condominium-style houses, we will lose it forever.”

Castaneda believes that 5,000 condominium units on the bay front will not benefit the citizens of Chula Vista, but only benefit a select few. And that isn’t fair.

Fairness is a word Castaneda uses a lot. “I want to treat everyone fairly and I think everybody should be treated the same.”

He said that right now the people on the west side of Chula Vista aren’t being treated fairly because requirements for developers on the west side are not the same as the requirements for developers on the east side of Chula Vista. While there are suggestions to increase development for more people in the west, Castaneda said there are really no plans for new schools at the bay front, no plans for new roads, or parks. “What they’re really talking about is waterdown the standards for amenities for people on the west. Why should we be treated differently here in the west than people in eastern Chula Vista? The same standards that they have there should be here,” he said.

SDGE also recently proposed that they would help put power lines underground. This, it was argued would increase property value. But putting these lines underground will cost money. So will SDGE pay for it? According to Castaneda, No.

“The $34,000,000 that will be used to do that will not be coming from SDGE; it’s coming from the ratepayer’s pocket,” Castaneda said.

The former SD police officer also had some stunning revelations on police response time, saying that Chula Vista’s growth has caused emergency services to slow down every year for the last three years. “Every year it’s taking firefighters and officers longer and longer to respond to calls.”

Just how long are officers taking to perform their duties?

“I was invited to a neighborhood watch meeting a couple weeks ago in southwestern Chula Vista, and the officer didn’t even show up!”

The fact that Castaneda’s home has been broken into on two occasions recently probably didn’t help his view either.

Castaneda charged that the police are over-burdened so much that they can’t investigate crimes properly and in many cases are merely going through the motions.

“That’s probably because there aren’t enough officers to deal with it. We need to change it.”

Castaneda said he would “change it” by increasing resources to public safety. But that means more money. How would he increase the funds? Castaneda said he’d simply re-prioritize how city money is spent — putting safety issues first. For example, Instead of providing the CVPD and city hall with their new $127 million administration buildings facilities, Castaneda said that he would have rather built substations around Chula Vista and refuse to tear down the old city hall building. He believes this would have saved the tax-payer untold amounts of money. In fact, the misspending of money really gets Castaneda going. He sighted a symbolic event that summarized his point: “Spending $100,000 to figure out what the city’s slogan shouldn’t happen. They spent $100,000 and they still don’t know what it should be.”

So the son of a butcher said he’d cut the fat by limiting the excessive public relation experts and legislative analyst the city currently has.

During the last primary, opposing candidate Hom doubled Castaneda’s vote. But Castaneda may give a stronger show in November’s general election. Former city council candidate Rudy Ramirez will not be running, which may have split the Hispanic vote during the primary. And though only 34% of registered Hispanic voters turned up to vote last time in the primary, Castaneda said that there will be a minimum 60% turn out for upcoming election because Hispanics vote in larger numbers during general elections.

But Castaneda insists that though some may vote for him merely based on his Spanish last name, he said he wasn’t relying on that possible advantage, stating that both he and still have to go out there and “earn those votes.”

For more information on Castaneda go to www.castanedaforcitycouncil.com.

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