Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chula Vista candidates talk about jobs, bay front development and Roger Hedgecock

Roger Hedgecock is as much a political activist as he is a media figure. He is not a journalist. He's San Diego's Glenn Beck. He's not the right person to host a candidate debate. Linda Rosas should know that. She damages the Chula Vista Star-News and her own credentials as a serious news publisher with antics like dropping support of a candidate forum just because Hedgecock won't be there.

Chula Vista candidates talk about jobs, bay front development and Roger Hedgecock
BY Rose Creasman
24 March 2010

Though it was ousted moderator Roger Hedgecock who made the biggest news after Chula Vista’s candidate forum last night, the guest panelists who actually appeared made waves of their own.

With Hedgecock’s last-minute withdrawal—the former San Diego mayor said he didn’t want his presence to detract from a public forum—came the dropping out of sponsor Star-News and several panelists, including incumbent Mayor Cheryl Cox. But that didn’t stop other determined candidates from capitalizing on the event’s sudden downsizing.

“If a group of Chula Vistans wants to sit down and talk about their community, I’m going to be there,” said mayoral hopeful and councilman Steve Castaneda, one of three candidates for the office and the only one to show up at the school Monday night. “It never mattered to me whether anyone else was going to be there.”
Without his two opponents present, Castaneda took the stage for an informal, relaxed explanation of his goals in office. The councilman talked about drug violence near the border and accountability, emphasizing Scripps Hospital’s outstanding bill from the city.

“That money is owed to the taxpayers, not the mayor or council members,” he said. “We need to hold people’s feet to the fire when they come to Chula Vista and want taxpayer assistance. Scripps is no different.”

Castaneda's opponents, incumbent Mayor Cox and Southwestern College trustee Jorge Dominguez, did not attend.

City Council candidate Patricia Aguilar dedicated her two-minute opening statement to commending the audience for taking action against Hedgecock, saying that plans for the nationally-syndicated radio talk show host to moderate the forum should never have been made. Hedgecock was brought on board by the Southwest Civic Association, but was ousted hours before the forum after the MAAC Project objected.

“This represents the very best of civic engagement and community activism,” said Aguilar, who is president of the community group Crossroads II. “It gives me a warm feeling because I’ve been part of that.”

Southwest Civic Association president Theresa Acerro told the Union-Tribune in an email that Hedgecock was only invited to ensure Mayor Cox would attend.

Three of four candidates running for outgoing councilman John McCann’s seat debated solutions to Chula Vista’s saga of unfulfilled promises, including the oft-envisioned plans to capitalize on the city’s undeveloped bay front and establish a four-year university. The questions, presented by fill-in moderator and president Ken Wright of the Northwest Civic Association, covered the creation of much-needed jobs and development, lobbying of politicians and medical marijuana dispensaries.

Aguilar kept herself decidedly distinct from opponents Humberto Peraza and Larry Breitfelder throughout the forum, emphasizing her involvement at the community level...

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