Dozens of Chula Vista residents gathered inside a small auditorium at the Chula Vista Civic Center Library on April 12 to witness the three candidates for mayor -- incumbent Cheryl Cox, councilmember Steve Castaneda, and longtime resident and educator Dr. Jorge Dominguez -- square off in a question and answer forum sponsored by the Northwest Civic Association.
The three candidates for mayor sat at two banquet tables at the front of the stage. Not long after Cox started her opening statement did a centralized theme for the night emerge, the city's shaky financial standing. In the past three years, the city has had to cut more than 250 employees, and city revenues have decreased by nearly 25 percent.
“We have to run the city the same way we run our family bank account. We can't spend more money than we have,” the first term incumbent Cox said during her statement. “Until you have financial sustainability, until you have the jobs, the housing, the transportation, you don't have a city that works the way we want it to work.”
The statement left an opening for newcomer politician Dominguez and councilmember Castaneda to pin Chula Vista's financial straits on the incumbent.
During his statement, Dominguez commented on the reasons why the city lacks the fiscal sustainability that Cox referred to. The 33-year Sweetwater School District employee said that the development of the bayfront is the key to a stable economy.
“You might ask yourself why hasn't this been done. The reason, I believe, is ineffective leadership.”
Castaneda agreed and urged residents to take a look at the mayor's record during her three years in office. “Our city and the people that live here need relief now.”
For the next hour and a half, the candidates fielded questions about bayfront development, about the outstanding pension deficit, about medicinal marijuana dispensaries, and about each candidate's plans to bring jobs to Chula Vista.
“Take a look at this administration, there's a lot of ‘we will’ and ‘we're going to,’” said Dominguez. “There are no direct plans. I wouldn't hire either one of these two for mayor.”
To which Castaneda responded. “I agree with [Dominguez], you have to give someone else a chance.”
The election for mayor and two city councilmembers will be held on June 8.