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At Chula Vista City Hall in early December, this correspondent attended a special budget hearing on ways the city could slash $4 million from this fiscal year’s budget and $20 million from the budgets of the following five years. The crowd was so large, hundreds of residents were forced to wait outside the hearing.

On one end of the plaza, just outside of the entrance, a group wearing green T-shirts held signs above their heads, protesting the proposed closure of the Chula Vista Nature Center. A dozen feet away, parents of young children held signs pleading for after-school programs to stay intact. Others chanted to keep their libraries and recreation centers open.

To avoid more citywide budget cuts, last month the Chula Vista City Council agreed to send the issue to the voters in the form of a mail-in ballot. If passed, the measure will raise the sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.75 percent for the next ten years, earning the city an extra $20 million in revenue each year, just enough to keep most of the public services that residents fought so hard for.

But as the May 5 deadline for the mail-in ballots approaches, opposition to the increase is mounting. A recent website, cleanupchulavistacityhall.com was launched by groups including the Chula Vista Taxpayers Association, Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association, and others. The website claims the sales-tax increase is “irresponsible, regressive, discriminatory, and hurts businesses and local economy” and includes no assurances how the money will be spent.

At a February 17 city council meeting, residents who initially supported Proposition A were skeptical of the way the city council handled the sales-tax initiative.

Patricia Aguilar, president of community activist group Crossroads II, spoke to the city council about their concerns. “There is a lack of trust in this community that you will do the right thing with this money and spend it responsibly.”

To address that lack of trust, Aguilar asked the council to put a proposition on the 2010 ballot that provides for revisiting the sales-tax increase in five years’ time if Proposition A is passed this May.

“That will give you five years to build trust with the community that you’ve spent that money responsibly.”

Councilmember Steve Castaneda responded. “I wanted to mention that Councilmember [Rudy] Ramirez and I had a meeting a couple of days ago with members of the public. There seems to be this recurring theme that maybe ten years is too long and we want to make sure that the money is spent the way it is supposed to be spent.”

Castaneda asked the city attorney to prepare a resolution to place a measure on the general election in 2010 to give the voters an opportunity to repeal the tax. That resolution is expected by next council meeting.

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thacerro Feb. 19, 2009 @ 9:47 p.m.

The Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association has absolutely nothing to do with the website cleanupchulavistacityhall.com. I am the president and we had a board meeting yesterday and nothing was said about this website, which I have never seen or heard of until now. A majority of the small number of members of the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association present on 1/26/09 voted to oppose the sales tax "as written." A majority of the board the week before had voted to support a half cent sales tax for five years, because a half cent would provide exactly the amount of money needed to avoid cuts and layoffs. As I personally see it the problem with one-cent is it puts too much extra money in the hands of at least three totally untrustworthy people. Councils have been fiscally irresponsible for years in Chula Vista, spending reserves in good times instead of building them. Now the City Manager is saying he wants to use the extra money to build the reserves during a recession!!! They just don't get the concept. Ten years is way too long to be giving these peole control over an extra 10 million or more per year. What councilman Castaneda did not say was that at the meeting he and councilman Ramirez held the Chamber of Commerce representative said that 80% of their members were opposed to the sales tax, but the Chamber was for it and would educate their members.--Another group that clearly does not get the concept of representing its constituents. I personally believe layoffs would be very bad for our economy in Chula Vista. I do not want to see services cut, but I have absolutely no trust in 3 of the council members who have consistently shown no regard for the southwest community and an insistance upon unfairly and unequally enforcing the laws of the city to the detriment of the existing residents and small businesses in order to win favor with out of town companies generous with their campaign contributions. Three of them wish to perpetuate social and environmental injustice in our community indefinitely. They do not deserve anyone's trust in my opinion. They also have no desire to reach out and try to regain trust. They refuse to put the sales tax on the council agenda for community discussion of options. They refuse to specify how money will be spent. They refuse to form a true overrsight committee with real power.

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eds Feb. 20, 2009 @ 1:38 a.m.

Simple solution. Don't shop in Chula Vista. Done.

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chulavistian Feb. 20, 2009 @ 9:02 a.m.

that was created by ed herrera, who is a member of the South West Civic Association and Chula Vista Tax Payers Association. someone just trying to make a name for themselves by jumping on a soapbox.

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CleanUpChulaVistaCityHall Feb. 20, 2009 @ 10:48 a.m.

Thank you for posting this article. To echo Ms. Acerro, the civic association did not put up the site. They are only referenced to as having voted against the current tax increase initiative.

The main concern is that Prop A will hurt Chula Vista families and businsnesses big and small. It's too much, for too long and profoundly lacks safegaurds. Sales Taxes are regressive, economists agree, and harms fixed and low income families most because it is they who must deal with an already drastically deminishing income to be furthered by Sacramento and it us they who must then "adjust" to a higher cost of living furthered by additional cost of living expense-- such as the sales tax. This means those families must prioritize and budget--cut certain expenses which usually means less shopping. Less shopping in Chula Vista means less money to our businesses, less jobs, and less revenue in the City's fund that pay for services. Learn more at cleanupchulavistacityhall.com

But leaving economic ramifications aside, no matter what side of the tax one is on we can mostly agree with the exception of the proponents who've already signed the dotted line to support Prop A, mainly being the elected politicians, We can agree Prop A lacks accountability for Chula Vista Taxpayers. Ms.Acerro of the Southwest Civic Assoc hits a few important points. City Hall would have us believe that there are very strict safegaurds but the truth is there aren't. They're misleading voters to believe that should they trust City Hall with thier money everything will be fine. How can we trust them on Prop A when they decieve us on the ballot statement clearly stating that there are these strict safeguards? In addition, not one cent of the tax is earmarked for Public Safety or anything that proponents state in the ballot the money would go to. City Hall has wrecklessly spent at least $270,000 in taxpayer money to make this special election $19,000 of it went to a consultant to poll 400 people to see if they would be successful in taxing us more. Not to mention City Halls many taxpayer money plunders from a so called fire inspection tax in our businesses to the Mayor paying over $200,000 to her aide/ chief of staff and refusing to give up full perks such as her car allowance. And the list goes on. It is certain that Prop A's "accountability " is purely cosmetic. And should Chula Vista taxpayers pass a tax increase, Prop A should not be passed as unaccountable it is, simply because it's the only tax optionin the ballot.

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