Justice Delayed is Justice Denied
Over 20,000 citizens of Chula Vista have signed petitions to put on the ballot the Elected City Attorney charter change and/or the General Plan Protection Initiative which would maintain the historical heights on Third Ave. and give the citizens the right to vote on any exceptions to the height limits in the General Plan Update. The citizens want to participate more actively in their government. Unfortunately the people in power are intent upon twarting this.
On January 15, 2008 the city clerk verified that the City Attorney Initiative had qualified for the ballot video . She read the agenda statement. (The entire discussion is on streaming video at this site. Click on 8 in the Agenda to the right in order to go directly to this item.)
Councilmen Rudy Ramirez and Steve Castaneda tried to get this on the June ballot as the signers of the petition wanted and the agenda stated. The Mayor and Councilmen McCann and Rindone refused to listen. Did they decide this together before the meeting in violation of the Brown Act? As soon as the two speakers finished video Mayor Cox (video) immediately proposed changing the wording to November. Video of part of discussion. She gave the reason that more people would vote in the presidential election than in the June election. She said she wanted people to have more time to discuss this issue. This issue has already been discussed for over a year as the petitions were circulated twice. Read a letter by Norma Cazares.
The General Plan Protection Initiative has also qualified again for the ballot and will be on the City Council Agenda January 22, 2008. Item 7 on the agenda deals with this Initiative and again proponents will ask for it to be put on the next election ballot in June. Will the Council again delay the people's will and vote to move the election to November?Channel 10 video
It turns out that since this is not a charter amendment they had to put it on the ballot in June, but many councilmembers expressed qualms about the initiative. Click here to go to council video, click on agenda item 7 to see this item.
On February 5 during mayor and council comments the mayor and Councilman Rindone made it clear that the council would be putting their own initiative on the ballot in opposition to this initiative. The Mayor also somehow got the idea to make Third Avenue a model of green building, which seems quite irrelevant, and in my opinion is an idea that should be implemented city wide. She also asked the city Manager to find someone to do an independent financial analysis of the Initiative, which considering the city's financial situation seems rather irresponsible. Click here to read the transcribed comments.
Unfortunately this way of thinking is not only prevalent with the Chula Vista City Council but also with the three school districts governing the schools in south San Diego, Chula Vista and National City. Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD), Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD) and the County Board of Education rejected an attempt to allow residents to vote on how school board members should be elected. An editor of the Union Tribune, Don Sevrens, explains what happened quite well in this editorial, which appeared in the Union Tribune on Saturday January 19, 2008.
U-T EDITORIAL: SOUTH EDITION
At issue was a proposal to change the way school board elections are held in the two districts. Currently, candidates must run for a specific seat number, which has no relationship to anything.
Under the proposed change, candidates would run for a seat representing a specific neighborhood, a portion of the district, but would be voted upon districtwide.
The change was proposed to encourage geographic diversity. Each neighborhood would be guaranteed a representative on the board. Chula Vista Elementary is the largest elementary district in the state yet all five trustees live in the same Bonita neighborhood. Sweetwater's situation is similar.
Change proponents presented petitions asking the county board to put the issue on the November ballot. There are three ways to qualify such measures for the ballot, and this proposal met all conditions for doing so at the discretion of the county board.
Instead, school district attorneys Bonifacio Garcia and Jack Parham, who don't even live in the San Diego region, threatened legal action against the county. Even if Garcia and Parham acted pro bono, the implication was clear: Taxpayer resources could be used to keep taxpayers from having a voice.
County trustee Susan Hartley voted against the proposal, finding fault with neighborhood maps attached to the petitions (a non-issue since the county would be tasked with drawing the actual maps). The number of petitions submitted met the standard for this option, yet board President Robert Watkins voted against, saying he preferred signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters. (What, to make the process even more costly?)
There are a number of ways to conduct school board elections. Most common is the open election, with say the top two vote-getters of seven candidates elected. This can pit incumbent against incumbent, something that never happens in the imaginary seat-number system used by Sweetwater and Chula Vista. San Diego Unified has a primary to select the top two vote-getters in a neighborhood. They run system-wide in the general.
County trustee Nick Aguilar, who voted for the proposed change, said there was no compelling reason not to put it on the November ballot. He called the rejection “abhorrent” and “undemocratic.”
Fitting adjectives, those. And why are two school districts so afraid of allowing the public to speak?
We hope the proponents don't give up. If they recirculate new petitions without maps, trustee Hartley, if she is a person of her word, would be honor bound to vote for the proposal. Obtain signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters and forget about trustee Watkins – he will simply be an irrelevant obstacle to the democratic process.
This issue is really about community empowerment. Sadly, neither South Bay jurisdiction has it.
Would it be acceptable for all five county supervisors to reside in Rancho Santa Fe? Or for eight La Jolla residents to comprise the San Diego City Council? Hardly. Neither should geographic isolation be acceptable in the Sweetwater and Chula Vista districts.
The people who circulated the petitions want to try again, but they only have one week to collect a thousand signatures on each of two petitions to get it on the November ballot. This petition is for the SUHSD and this one is for the CVESD. This is a summary of the petitions. As Mr. Sevrens says, "This issue is really about community empowerment." This is the e-mail sent out by the supporters of the Initiative:
The Coronados <email@example.com> wrote: