A Buck Martin supporter's T-shirt
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At the June 28 Chula Vista City Council meeting, the council reviewed a plan to consolidate the library and the parks and recreation department — the decision to do so was made last week.

The decision ultimately entailed the firing of Buck Martin, the director of parks and recreation. A city document from 2011 reads, “The positive impact of a merger of the two departments could be the savings of a Director position (approximately $158,000 in the second year, after severance was paid, if no other management support was provided).”

Prior to the council meeting, people concerned that the loss of the director would negatively impact the city’s parks and recreation programs donned T-shirts that read “Buck Martin has a posse.”

In addition to the demonstration, the unpopular decision taken by councilmembers Rudy Ramirez, Patricia Aguilar, and Steve Castaneda generated a Brown Act violation complaint and threats by some private organizations to withhold funds.

The Brown Act complaint, filed by Mark Liaug, Jon Miller, and Kevin O’Neill, alleges that the three councilmembers reached the decision through “collective concurrence” or serial communication.

David McClellan spoke for the nonprofit organization Friends of Chula Vista Parks & Recreation. McClellan called the move to consolidate departments “arrogant” and suggested it possibly stemmed from a “personal vendetta.” He concluded his speech by saying that his organization would withhold further donations until the city worked out a better plan.

Along with McClellan, Buck Martin is one of the directors of the Friends of Chula Vista Parks & Recreation, according to the organization’s 2010 tax form. So are Mark Liuag and Jon Miller, two of the three people who filed the Brown Act complaint with the city attorney in order to stop the merger. The city attorney, Glen Googins, also sits as a director.

Public comment and council discussion lasted for several hours. During the discussion, councilmember Castaneda noted how few hours the park and recreation sites are available to the public. Of the seven centers, only one is open for public hours on the weekends.

A compromise was eventually brokered by Aguilar, Castaneda, and Ramirez and supported by the full council. The director of parks and recreation position will be eliminated, although there will be an assistant director. The departments will not be merged without seeking more input — which was a concern for many speakers.

With savings combined from various sources, the parks and recreation budget will receive $240,617 in additional funding.

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Comments

Pancho June 30, 2012 @ 7:54 p.m.

@Susan, those t-shirts were cracking me up. I think Mr. Liuag's first name is Mark, not Brian. There were a ton of great speakers at the council meeting and they had nobody there speaking in favor of what the council was trying to do, so I do not know why the council members were so unwilling to change their minds.

While many of us in the community appreciate the additional funding for parks & recreation (BTW: the council should have done this last year when they increased the funding for the senior center), removing the director that brought in all that grant funding and community relationships will hurt the city in the end. Many of us believe this was Ramirez hating on the director of recreation for something none of us really understand. Ultimately, the city only saves $30,000 a year because the council ultimately agreed to hire an assistant director of recreation after all that public pressure.

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Susan Luzzaro June 30, 2012 @ 10:52 p.m.

Pancho, you're right about the name. In my hard copy I had changed both Mark and Brian and corrected the wrong way. I'll see if I can get it fixed in the morning. Thank you.

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cvres July 1, 2012 @ 2:58 p.m.

So is that the city logo on the t-shirt? Did the city sponsor the demonstration?

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Visduh July 1, 2012 @ 8:03 p.m.

I confess I do not understand Chula Vista, and never have. How is it that the "community" jumps to the defense of a city bureaucrat whose cost to the city is in six figures a year? Does the typical CVistan earn that kind of dough? I doubt it. Has Martin brought such benefits to the city and its residents to justify a "posse" of supporters? Can someone 'splain all this to a dumb-as-a-rock No Countian? As in me.

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Pancho July 1, 2012 @ 8:48 p.m.

Visduh, I think a better question is why did the council push so hard to get rid of Martin, but after all the public pressure choose to replace him with an assistant director saving $30k? The council's original intent was a full salary saving, but after the public discontent, they chose to follow part of the city manager's advice. For me, it was less about a person or a job and more about merging the two departments, which the council had done before 1998-2000. This was a terrible experience for all involved and that was why they split the departments again shortly after. I do not know Martin personally, but I do believe the people there felt they were losing a promotor for public parks and recreation as well as somebody who allegedly brought in a lot of grant money.

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eastlaker July 5, 2012 @ 12:21 p.m.

I've been living in Chula Vista since mid-1995, and there is much that I don't understand, either.

Sometimes the levels of pettiness that exist between and among elected public officials are astounding. When perpetually small-minded people are in charge, there are problems. They are easily lead by those with grandiose ideas, even if the grandiose ideas are not well-thought out. There seems to be a disconnect between public officials and reasonable public policy, especially within school districts.

But I fear with the upcoming Chula Vista Bay Development project, there will be much railroading of the public, as a plan is being presented as being approved by all the authorities, and it doesn't leave much open space for the public.

What can be said, other than regarding the Bay project, there is lip-service paid to the public's input being requested and valued, and that is about it.

Regarding the school districts, there is actual stifling of public input and direct disregard for what the public wants and for what is in the public's best interest.

The democratic process requires eternal vigilence, but the people "in charge" in Chula Vista would much rather the public shut up and go away. I hope that will not happen.

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