You might have seen Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas on TV before November’s election.
Salas, one of the county’s first Latina mayors, appeared in a commercial urging voters to support Measure B, which would have approved the sprawling 1,700-home Lilac Hills Ranch development near Valley Center, in northeastern San Diego County.
The development would have been more than an hour away from Chula Vista. Yet there was the city’s mayor, leading the charge for it.
The measure lost resoundingly — roughly 63 percent of county voters rejected the project.
Salas also appeared on mailers sent to households across the county supporting the measure. Alongside her picture was a map of where the project would be located in the county –the project and Chula Vista are so physically far apart that they couldn’t both fit on the same map.
Back in November, Salas declined to talk about why she supported the measure.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
I've just recently had the opportunity to work with Mayor Mary Salas and to see her in action in her community. It was immediately clear to me that she brings sound, innovative leadership to Chula Vista, where city services and programs for the community are responsible and forward-thinking. Over the past 20 years I have worked with hundreds of city leaders throughout the nation (from Silicon Valley to Abu Dhabi, throughout our state/nation) and Mayor Salas is one of the most talented, dedicated and service-oriented leaders I have seen. Chula Vista is in a great position to keep building value for its residents and visitors through strong and visionary city leaders that should be tapped by regional agencies to lend their expertise.
I grew up in Chula Vista, graduated from Hilltop and went to Southwestern College. My in-laws go back four generations and over 100 years in Chula Vista. I have family and many friends there. Our family's aviation business started in 1965 at Brown Field is still run by a family friend who bought it from us in 2002. There is a place near and dear to my heart for my home town. Now as a Councilman in Lemon Grove I find this article divisive and filled with half truths and propaganda and it does not serve the best interests of the region.
To start, South Bay has not been locked out of leadership at Sandag. Ron Morrison of National City served as Chair from 2002-2004 and Imperial Beach Mayor Jim Janney was second vice chair when he was defeated in 2014. Second it's not a Democrat thing or a woman thing as Mayor Mary Sessom served twice (two terms terms and four years since 1996) as Sandag Chair and is a Democrat and female.
Mayor Salas for whatever reason did not have the support on the board, even among the South Bay cities. I suspect that as she was new to Sandag that year and locking a new member into the four year succession process without some experience there was concern among many on the board. I was an alternate then and didn't get into the details. I like Mary and share a kindred affection for our hometown so I didn't push when I heard she withdrew her name. Mayor Dedina's run for the second vice chair position ran into the same debate that questioned the value of the position. Some question a succession plan that spans four years and an election cycle. The current plan eliminates the second vice chair and places the Policy Committee (sub committee) Chairs on the Executive Committee which increases the pool of potential Chair candidates. Mayor Dedina is now the chair of the Borders Committee and as such is just where he wanted to be albeit in another form. Granted his assent is not assured and he has to compete with three other committee chairs but he has not been locked out. His experience, demonstration of leadership skills and ability to build consensus will determine his success.
As to the infrastructure issue please!! The 125 toll way was determined several generations in the past. We knew about it when I still lived there 40 years ago and it irritates me as much today as it did them. The decision to exchange the 805 expansion for the purchase of the 125 toll road was a long term decision and supported by the Chula Vista Mayor and South Bay Supervisor at the time. It lowered the cost, shortened the pay off time, and in theory reduced the need to expand 805. I was part of that discussion.
North/South divide? Really? How self-serving and short sighted can it get. The issue isn't one of bad decisions but one of time and history. Yes there is a difference in North and South County but it's about when they developed in time. I tend to draw the line at I8 but the development pattern is the same. North County developed in a more recent time where the basic quality of life standards were very different than South County in it's development boom. It's really no different than east and west Chula Vista. Sandag is a regional transportation agency. It is their responsibility to build and maintain a regional transportation system that is balanced and serves the entire region, not just one sub-region or city. Parks and amenities are local decisions, made and paid for by locals in their individual cities unless San Diego and Chula Vista intend to co-opt the land use authority of the other 16 cities on the county as well.
How sad it is that partisan and sub-regional politics are working to divide us rather than bring us together. In spite of what the supporters of AB 805 want the public to think the restructure of Sandag will destroy a system that demands consensus. When the two cities of Chula Vista and San Diego or any sub-region can dominate regional spending and decisions without opposition that is oppression. When an Assembly Member can dictate regional policy from Sacramento that's a power grab and abuse of office. If we let this happen and Sacramento removes our local control and rights as individual cities it will have consequences we all will regret.
These are my personal opinions as formed from an inside perspective.
@Jerry Jones you are right on. Don't forget that my bid for Vice Chair was also thwarted. It is not a North/South divide. (I was Mayor of Solana Beach at the time.) I strongly believe it is a Republican/Democrat divide. The Republican party makes Republican Mayors and Council members sign a pledge they will not vote for a Democrat for a leadership position. What happened to me, to Mary and to Serge has to do with the fact we are all Democrats. While Mary and Serge were new to the Board, I was not. But even while Mary and Serge were new, all of us, if I might say so, would have made excellent Vice Chairs and ultimately Chairs. The problem with SANDAG isn't going to be solved with AB 805, a proposal that will remove the voice of most cities and hand it to Chula Vista and San Diego. It's going to be solved by either electing more Democrats and sending them to SANDAG or hoping the Republicans sent to the Board by their Councils don't sign that harmful pledge.
@Lesa Heebner @Jerry Jones Lesa there will always be partisan undertones in everything that gets done. It's always been a frustration of mine my entire political life. I never found a label of much use when representing my city. Then again I was only interested in serving my city and not seeking a higher office. You and I worked together and you know that. While the three of you may not have been able to secure the support for Chair and there may have partisan undertones they weren't impossible obstacles as Mary Sessom's two terms as Chair illustrates. Even if you weren't able to secure the vice chair seat you did have a committee chair as does Mayors Dedina and Salas now. I would hardly call that a "Backseat" as this article implies.
This whole discussion and move to restructure Sandag is nothing but a bald face power and revenue grab for all the wrong reasons. As they say, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. The idea that any party is willing to take away local control for the sake of partisan control at the state level should scare the hell out of everyone.
And for what it's worth I was never asked to sign a pledge when I was a Republican. Then again most people didn't know what I was and that is as it should be in a non-partisan office. Recently I solved the problem and removed the label.
@Jerry Jones @Lesa Heebner Mary Sessom had a hard fight to become Chair and it was years ago so not relevant to the last 2 very divisive political cycles. As to the Pledge...that is not in dispute. It is done. That said, I agree that the proposed legislation is extremely bad for our region. SANDAG has worked well for the entire region for many years. Look at any and all the maps of projects for transit, bikes/ped, roads, opens space, etc, and you will see it is spread equitably around the region. That's because SANDAG has set up criteria that has to be scored by experts in those fields...not Board members...and then the results were shown to Committees and then the Board, to confirm. It was rare indeed when something was disputed. I feel I'm in an alternate Universe when I hear people thinking AB 805 will do anything positive.
This is an article without focus. It touches on SANDAG politics, the housing shortage, Mayor Mary Salas's life, and several other themes, without doing justice to any of them. Focus and depth would have been appreciated.