Mary Salas and Shirley Horton
  • Mary Salas and Shirley Horton
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An edgy Chula Vista council meeting on January 8 ended with the council’s failure to appoint anyone to the seat vacated by Mary Casillas Salas when she was elected mayor in November.

At the same time Salas was elected, voters approved Proposition B, which allows the council to fill a seat that will be vacated for up to two years. The purpose of the proposition was to avoid a costly special election.

Out of the 44 people who applied to fill the vacancy, the council selected 8 for interviews.

Shirley Horton, former assemblymember and former mayor of Chula Vista, was one of the eight who interviewed for the vacated seat.

An exchange between Salas and Horton during the interview forecast the hard lines that would be drawn on the dais when it came time to nominate; it might also suggest how the council would function if Horton were appointed.

Salas told Horton (and each person interviewed) that Chula Vista needs $600 million to upgrade and repair the city’s infrastructure.

Salas: “How do we fill the gap? We’ve been developing and developing and not really doing a good job of keeping up with the infrastructure as it ages.”

Horton: “That’s too bad. I guess I was fortunate to be here during an era when we tried to maintain the streets and tried to keep up our infrastructure.”

Horton was mayor from 1994–2000. In 2000, the city’s population was 173,000; the current population is 257,000.

In her closing comments, Horton stated that she hadn’t run for mayor or city council in the 2014 cycle but had a recent epiphany when she was attending the opening ceremony for a newly paved section of H Street, which leads to the future bayfront development:

“This city has so much potential…if we don’t have the right people at the right place, some of this won’t happen the way it should, and I realized at that moment that I wanted to be part of it.”

Horton has been closely associated with the city’s old guard — former mayor Cheryl Cox and former fallen port commissioner David Malcolm.

When councilmember John McCann served on the Sweetwater Union High School District board, he nominated Malcolm to the committee that presided over the dispensation of district property.

Salas explained to her colleagues on the dais that she would not vote for Horton because so many of the other applicants had fresher perspectives and information. She referred to Horton as “out of the loop.”

After the eight interviews were completed, only three names got any play on the dais: Salas floated the name of former port commissioner Bill Hall; councilmember Patricia Aguilar put forward the name of James Clark, executive director for the San Diego/Tijuana Smart Border Coalition.

Neither got a vote from the councilmember Pamela Bensoussan/McCann camp. Bensoussan and McCann nominated Horton twice, each receiving the other’s second. When the vote continued to be split 2-2, they pushed to recess the meeting to a later date.

After a brief kerfuffle between Bensoussan and Salas about who was running the meeting, Salas adjourned the meeting until January 13 at 2 p.m. At that time, the council will again take up the question of the vacant seat.

One candidate must receive three votes by January 23 or the process defaults to a special election.

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anniej Jan. 10, 2015 @ 12:12 p.m.

The actions of Ms. Bensoussan are not setting well with the community - it is pretty clear she and McCann are hell bent on business as usual vs. moving on in a new direction. Ms. Horton's perceived arrogance that evening, not a positive reflection.

McCann and Ms. Bensoussan need to adjust their compasses and understand this is not about them, the old guard, or perceived prearranged deals - but rather, what is good for the whole of Chula Vista. The voters are watching - and they are a new and informed body - wonder if Ms. Bensoussan or McCann realize they are digging their own political graves. While I expected no less from McCann, Ms. Bensoussan is a different story - yes, McCann has brought the dysfunction of the old SUHSD Board with him - and it appears Ms. 'B' feels comfortable in what was driven/voted out of SUHSD.


aardvark Jan. 11, 2015 @ 12:43 p.m.

As an outsider looking in on this, I can't help but wonder--with all of the shenanigans that went on with McCann and the school board, how in the HELL did McCann get elected to the city council again?


oskidoll Jan. 11, 2015 @ 12:50 p.m.

Well aardvark, there were a number of factors. First, not enough informed people bothered to vote. Second, McCann's opponent was flawed as well and had a history that came back to haunt him...McCann used those flaws as fodder for hit piece-type campaign mailers that painted the opponent's flaws in bright colors while casting McCann as a 'victim' of the rabble rousers. And third, in my opinion, is a possible problem with level playing field at the County Registrar of Voters. Michael Vu has his own troubling past; we do not yet know why during the count of absentee/provisional ballots, McCann received an after-hours call from the Registrar of Voters Office (McCann's own description of why he abruptly left dinner at an Eastlake restaurant with Interim Supt. SUHSD) just prior to his phone-throwing tantrum with Kevin O'Neill ---and I am still wondering if his opponent also received the courtesy of a phone call or if someone at the ROV office was playing favorites.

As you must know, it was a close election...with only two votes separating the candidates, at final count...neither of whom represented, in my opinion, our 'best and brightest'. It is sad but true.


oskidoll Jan. 10, 2015 @ 12:38 p.m.

Yes, it was quite distressing to watch. I expected more of Ms. Horton, who appeared to be fresh from the gym, unprepared for the 'interview' , speaking off the cuff, digressing so often that Mayor Salas felt she needed to reign her in but did so professionally, giving her a few extra minutes.

Horton meandered through the interview, telling old war stories...not an impressive performance, and offering nothing new to the conversation. Don't know what is going on with Pamela bensosoussan, but she is clearly at best naïve, not a good listener, and is out-of-touch with the expectations put forward for the new, interim councilperson. And for McCann, well, we do know not to expect sober behavior from a drunk! Let's not anyone be surprised when he performs according to his well-worn script.

Mayor Salas did make it clear that the choice would have to be 'someone we all can work with' and it is likely that is not Shirley Horton. Two other excellent candidates (Clark and Hall) seemed to have been nominated for the interview process by three of the council, and as Susan points out in the article, three votes are needed for the appointment.


oskidoll Jan. 10, 2015 @ 3:51 p.m.

Just read the article in the CV Star-News, which quotes McCann as stating that the only two candidates that did NOT receive his nomination as finalists were Hall and Clark. Isn't that interesting? I wonder why, as they both seem eminently qualified.

Hall is a member of the CV Chamber Board of Directors which did not endorse McCann in his 2014 run for the City Council....wonder what he has against Clark?


AlexClarke Jan. 10, 2015 @ 4:42 p.m.

I guess those voters who sat on the sidelines because they thought their candidate was a shoe in now wish they had gotten off their posteriors. Every vote DOES count. Looks like CV can't get it right (again). Looking forward to the special election.


VigilantinCV Jan. 10, 2015 @ 4:44 p.m.

We heard a number of weeks ago that Councilmembers Bensoussan and McCann, in cahoots with David Malcolm, would do exactly what they have done so far. Anniej has it exactly right -- they are hellbent on appointing Shirley Horton to the Council. In my opinion, this all about who is going to control the development of the Chula Vista bayfront.
If you recall, when John McCann was a Council member he was a solid advocate of bringing the Chargers to the bayfront. One of his questions Tuesday night to the interviewees was, “would you support organized sports on the bayfront?” All that being said, Cheryl Cox and David Malcolm want Horton on that Council because then they can control/manipulate the Council. Sadly, what is best for Chula Vista is not even a consideration.
James Clark, Bill Hall, and Mark Liuag all offer the promise of being able to bring new businesses to Chula Vista. Appointing any one of these three would be a giant step toward making Chula Vista a more desirable place to locate your business.
If Bensoussan and McCann continue their stubborness, I think an election is inevitable. To avoid an election, three of the Council members must agree on an appointee before January 23.


joepublic Jan. 10, 2015 @ 5:01 p.m.

So, Horton’s inspiration to apply for the council seat came from attending the H Street extension ceremony. I wonder if the vision of bay-front dollars going to her developer friends was just too much to resist?


oskidoll Jan. 10, 2015 @ 5:28 p.m.

And she did say it is important to have the 'right people' in place to make it all happen!

What she didn't say about who those 'right people' are is more important than the other drivel she did include in her less-than-stellar and ill-prepared interview.


oldchulares Jan. 10, 2015 @ 5:39 p.m.

Never understood what the draw was to Shirley. She never was known to be the sharpest nail in the box so her and John make a perfect team.


eastlaker Jan. 10, 2015 @ 6:56 p.m.

Windowdressing who would do what she was told?


anniej Jan. 10, 2015 @ 6:05 p.m.

ALL - do what was asked of me earlier today - forward this story to all CV residents and property owners you know - make note that the recipients should read the comments as well as the story. Time for McCann and Horton to be clearly identified as 'the past' and a call to action, we want new faces willing to SERVE for the good of all.


Visduh Jan. 10, 2015 @ 7:46 p.m.

Usually I avoid getting off subject, but with all this coverage of "Shoyl", I keep wondering if she looks like that stock shot that Reader keeps using. I'd guess it came from her publicity agency. On the surface I see someone resembling Heidi Klum or Marissa Miller. But look closely, and the neck and also the Jennifer Anniston hairdo and the glossy lips and . . . , well, you get the idea. That's a classic "glam" photo. What does she really look like? How about a current, real-life photo of her at a lectern or on the street? I'd guess the reality is far different.


theyknowmeascoach Jan. 10, 2015 @ 8:23 p.m.

This story is flying over the net. I have received 3. The council can not become like the old Sweetwater board but with John there the future does not look bright.


VigilantinCV Jan. 10, 2015 @ 9:56 p.m.

We did not even recognize her the other night. She looked older, and of course the big change was that the last time we saw her, she was a blonde. Now, apparently, she is a brunette. Hmm. Maybe a zebra CAN change its stripes!


oskidoll Jan. 11, 2015 @ 11:32 a.m.

Anyone with enough paint can try to alter visual reality. However, the essence of this matter is more than hair color is about integrity and doing the people's business rather than one own's while seated on the dais.
Pamela Bensoussan and John McCann need to understand that -- Mayor Salas already does. Good for her!


erupting Jan. 11, 2015 @ 8:11 a.m.

A special election no surprise. No surprise Malcolm will be paying for Horton's run. Bensoussan and McCann help me understand this. I guess this is a sign of things to come for our new mayor. The power struggle has just begun. Who will prevail?


Susan Luzzaro Jan. 11, 2015 @ 10:32 a.m.

All of the interviews have value and would offer the viewer perspective. Horton was interviewed second, you could pick it up around 00:37


cvlancer Jan. 12, 2015 @ 10:49 a.m.

I have lived in Chula Vista for most of my life and except for the Chula Vista Star-News under Lowell Blankfort, there has been a dearth of investigative reporting except for Susan Luzarro and the true citizens of the South Bay (the people who add their comments to the Reader). The lame questions to the potential council member demonstrate the lack of vision that has plagued this area for over fifty years. The need is to build up businesses that are here and not keep repeating "bring in new businesses" mantra and "put Chula Vista on the map" (it has been since April 1887). Some of my classmates at Hilltop High who have left the area and are well known in their field , claim not to be from Chula Vista, but from south San Diego County. The lack of civic and regional identity is more than a marketing issue because it provides a unique identity similar to that which Lisa Moctezuma spoke of for the bay front not the cookie cutter plan that is proposed. The question not really asked why come to, live in, and promote Chula Vista. The asset and liability is not the proximity to Mexico, but the mediocre minds running the city. Candidates Moctezuma, Meisen, and Hall may have connections with the power structure, but the other named candidates are more entwined in the web of civic and economic corruption that has run this city for over thirty years. Focusing on Bensoussan-McCann ineptitude and corruption ignores that the new mayor is part of the same environment and needs to step up and be a force that she has not been, quiet Pat Aguilar might be the one to watch.


Sjtorres Jan. 12, 2015 @ 10:50 a.m.

Another biased hit piece by the author. Speaking of old Guard, Salas has been around for eons and hasn't done anything to promote economic growth. Salas' solution to everything is bonds and higher property taxes.


Susan Luzzaro Jan. 12, 2015 @ 12:16 p.m.


I appreciate your comment and all the background information you shared. The candidates that you refer to, Moctezuma, Meisen, and Hall did give good interviews. In Moctezuma's interview, which is the first on the meeting I posted yesterday, she reminded the council and the citizenry that she has strong international connections and, skin in the game, that is to say property on Third Avenue. The bookstore/gallery was a boon to the area when it was in operation.


cvlancer Jan. 12, 2015 @ 1:10 p.m.

Than you for your reply. I was working for the City of Chula Vista when her husband was there running the bookstore. He was a very nice man. At the time, there were two Spanish language bookstores in Chula Vista as well as two other bookstores. I feel that we have just changes faces not the corporate culture of administering governance in Chula Vista. We need bold and daring people to seek economic development. The border to south is only one asset; have not the political leaders heard of the Internet and the Pacific Rim (historical Japanese and Filipino connectins) or is this more political gesture not an economic one. Will the people on both sides of the border benefit or will it just more wage exploitation of Mexicans and job losses to Americans.


oskidoll Jan. 12, 2015 @ 2:52 p.m.

I think that the impasse over the present appointment is less about future direction of the City, than it is about resisting the attempt to gain power and influence by those who would remain behind the curtain. If it were only about the future direction of the city, McCann and Bensoussan would be eager to appoint those whose talents and expertise would bring fresh vision and knowledge to the discussion. As it is, their stubborn insistence is quite telling.

I also think Mayor Salas is doing her level best to position the City for responsible development on the Bayfront and in the University project, but she is being opposed by McCann and Bensoussan who seem to want to anoint Shirley Horton (and by reference her developer pals) for more of the 'same ole, same ole'. Don't forget that the future of the SUHSD real estate entanglements will also be dependent upon approval from the Council, and we have reason to suspect that Horton's pals, especially David Malcolm, are involved in those schemes.

Mayor Salas cannot focus on the positives in the future with those wolves nipping at her heels from the dais, and I hope she will stay determined to bring new talent and energy to the Council instead, if only in this two-year interim appointment.

As was mentioned during the interviews, the City's Economic Development Department has been decimated by budget cuts during the economic downturn. It will be essential for that department to be reinvigorated and to find new professional leadership to help coalesce actions in purposeful and well thought-out development strategies.


eastlaker Jan. 13, 2015 @ 11:34 a.m.

Very well stated. Chula Vista could remain with the feudal mentality of Malcolm et al, or Chula Vista could actually grow up and be responsible for real future achievement in every way. We can only hope that enough people wake up and realize what is at stake.


VigilantinCV Jan. 12, 2015 @ 3:28 p.m.

Councilmember Bensoussan's role in this power grab is fascinating. She is very angry over labor/Democratic party's support of Mary Salas in the Mayoral primary. Labor/Democratic party cannot be too pleased with her stubborn support of Horton. Is she about to bolt to the Lincoln Club/Republican party? Either way, I think her political career is over when she terms out next year. Meanwhile, she may end up saddling us with Horton for two loooong years. I weep for Chula Vista!


oskidoll Jan. 12, 2015 @ 3:59 p.m.

VigilantinCV....someone should tell Ms. Bensoussan that the election is over and Mary Salas won! She should reconsider her snit in light of the importance of the appointment about to be made. You cannot tell me that William Hall or James Clark would not be acceptable to the rank and file Republicans, even though, this is not supposed to be a partisan appointment, nor are the council positions themselves partisan.

However, it is what it is. It may just be that Bensoussan is not bright enough to realize that she could play a very pivotal role in the forward progress of the business of the City of Chula Vista and that by helping, instead of hindering the process with a compromise that does not include Horton, she might be enhancing her own political future. Too bad she insists on stonewalling!


VigilantinCV Jan. 12, 2015 @ 8:18 p.m.

Pamela Bensoussan and John McCann both have ties to David Malcolm. Shirley Horton owes her entire career political to David Malcolm. If they succeed in getting Horton on the Council, David Malcolm will be de factor Mayor of Chula Vista.


oskidoll Jan. 13, 2015 @ 10 a.m.

VigilantinCV... You have summed it up nicely. It is more than a disgrace.


VigilantinCV Jan. 13, 2015 @ 11:06 p.m.

My spouse told me that John McCann would not be the jerk on the Council that he was on the high school board because the City Council is an entirely different situation. Wow, it did not take my spouse long to admit THAT IDEA was wrong last night!

Has anyone heard that Moot is having any luck with his lawsuit? Is there hope?


oskidoll Jan. 14, 2015 @ 2:08 p.m.

At least Mayor showed John who is boss of THIS council! That didn't stop him from being the partisan jerk we know him to be, but Mayor Salas called him out on it. Good for her.

Pamela Bensoussan finally saw the handwriting on the wall. Too bad it took her so long to get over her intransigence and post-election snit.

Too bad it had to be such a long-drawn out and contentious process, but those who were determined to play out their little drama in the shadows were forced to play in the open. Mary's arm will be sore from banging the gavel so hard!


cvret Jan. 14, 2015 @ 5:37 p.m.

unfortunately, on tv she came off as petulant


oskidoll Jan. 14, 2015 @ 6:43 p.m.

Sorry cvert, but the classic definition of petulant is "The definition of petulant is someone who gets irritated without a good reason. An example of petulant is a toddler throwing a temper tantrum when they don't get ..."

Mayor Salas had plenty of good reason for her demeanor. Her actions were moderate in light of the aggravation she had been subjected to. She did not throw tantrums, as we have seen McCann do from the dias and throwing his cell phone at someone...she used her gavel appropriately to call a recess when she was frustrated with the inept behavior of McCann and Bensoussan who continued to thwart any forward movement to appoint a member of the council.

Mayor was the height of control and temperance in light of severe aggravation. I continue to applaud her control of the dais, which is her prerogative.


cvret Jan. 14, 2015 @ 8:25 p.m.

ok but my dictionary says: having or showing the attitude of people who become angry and annoyed when they do not get what they want.

and from the 6 second clip of her storming out that's what it looked like. no further context on tv, just her storming out.

McCann threw his cell phone at someone? they should have pressed charges.


oskidoll Jan. 15, 2015 @ 11:29 a.m.

You might watch the entire video of the proceeding (it is on the Chula Vista City website) to gain more complete understanding of the context of the meeting. Of course, the news report showed the most dramatic part!

Mayor Salas was assertive, confident, forceful, firm and emphatic that the council appointment would go to someone they all could work with. It appeared that McCann and Bensoussan were stubborn in their persistent determination to appoint Shirley Horton, who was NOT supported by Mayor or Councilmember Aguilar.

And yes, McCann did throw his cellphone (probably the one owned and paid for by the Sweetwater Union High School District) at Kevin O'Neill's car sometime in mid-to late November. Now, THAT was a good example of petulant. Check it out


shirleyberan Jan. 14, 2015 @ 8:05 p.m.

They showed a news clip of McCann basically attempting to run the meeting, something about swearing in Miesen right away. She wasn't having any of it, So proud of her!


Susan Luzzaro Jan. 14, 2015 @ 10:27 p.m.

This is so funny, how the dialogue carries on and adjusts to the news. Oh, by the way, Miesen was appointed :-) . The perspectives and information shared can't help but enrich those who read...the South Bay Community needs more dialogue...


bbq Jan. 15, 2015 @ 5:58 a.m.

Susan you are so correct on the necessity of additional dialog.
My suggestion to the citizenry of Chula Vista, Sweetwater Union and CV Elementary school districts is to be involved with the representatives you have alligned with or voted for.

My example is if you believe that John McCann is your man (Not Mine) and has your interests in mind, contact him and be sure he knows what you are thinking about the issues of the community, not just the ideas of the so called power brokers at the lincoln club or David Malcom, or the Political elite.

He and the others are supposed to have available office hours to earn (?) their $50K per year. Pester the heck out of him/them to look at issues from a citizen's point of view, demand your "FaceTime".

The politics and politicians of this community/region are way to "comfortable" not only with each other and the "power elite", but with the ease of doing what they want, due to the lack of scrutiny of the press and public. BBQ


cvlancer Jan. 15, 2015 @ 2 p.m.

You are so right. It is time to demand accountability from elected officials as responsible citizens. It is also time to move beyond slasher Pam and juvenile John, and the victim Mary. Having supported Mary Salas and had dealings with Pamela Bensoussan I am not impressed with the former electoral teammates of 2012. McCann and Bensoussan have had chances to change and be more community oriented and have decided to be speed bumps. What are the unexpressed agendas of the mayor and of all the council members? This why investigative reporters are just as important as individual citizens. The old Watergate refrain "fellow the money" is still unfortunately the moving force in hidden as well as public agendas


cvret Jan. 15, 2015 @ 4:52 p.m.

yes, follow the money. if we can. I suspect they will make that difficult.


shirleyberan Jan. 15, 2015 @ 4:39 p.m.

I don't have any prior knowledge of Mary but what she did at that meeting was heroic. She did not allow Bensousan and McCann to control the council, a strategic break gave them time to figure out people know they were trying to stack the board to favor Horton and old private developer pals. After Miesen was appointed, I believe McCann thought he could further manipulate all by telling her they could swear in that moment, as if he was fine with losing. Susan, I didn't see a victim, rather an empowered woman. Perspective is subjective. Gotta see the video.


Susan Luzzaro Jan. 15, 2015 @ 6:19 p.m.

cvlancer, I wish this were like cowboy poker and all the money was on the table :-)

but, there are these bread crumbs


anniej Jan. 15, 2015 @ 10:31 p.m.

It is quite clear Mayor Salas may indeed find herself in need of a choker chain when attempting to handle McCann - I might also suggest a muzzle as he is like the canine in the Beggin' Strips commercial - the only difference, rather than salivating over bacon, there has never been a news camera or reporter that McCann would not step over his own mother to get to.

Just my opinion.


oskidoll Jan. 16, 2015 @ 11:17 a.m.

I would characterize John McCann as the schoolyard bully who entices others, such as Pamela B,. to join him in harassment of others, and then goes crying to the teacher that everyone else is picking on him.

However, in this case, Mayor Salas is the principal and calls the shots. Hooray!

As Anniej points out, Mayor will have her hands full with McCann on the dais and behind the scenes as well.


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