May 4, 2007

Focus On Community:

We hold the power to decide our future

By Patty Chavez

Change raises fears and clouds our judgment. In unfamiliar territory, we leave ourselves vulnerable and often believe what we are spoon fed. We have seen this throughout history and in the foundation of some of our current debates. It can happen to the best of us.

My nana would warn me, “No te vallen a lavar el coco.” Translation: Don’t get duped. But with gossip and sensationalism spread easily and often through print, TV and the Internet — how can we decipher what is real and what is not? In the course of my year in politics, as a Chula Vista Councilmember, I learned first hand how important it is to research and get educated before judging, because there is usually more than what appears.


Politicians, lawyers, developers and bureaucrats all play a role in redevelopment. No wonder we often distrust and fear the idea of placing the future landscape of our beloved cities and communities in the hands of individuals who carry titles that are stained by past stories or current embarrassments.

But growth is inevitable especially in California - where one in eight Americans lives! With increases in population we’ll need more housing, work space and industrial development. But our cities, as they stand, cannot meet it’s citizen’s needs without redevelopment. We are already seeing our older roads deteriorate. We see the need for more parks in our urban centers. The lack of affordable housing is a crisis. Local businesses need a boost. We need better paying local jobs. And our residents need better public transportation options. Responsible redevelopment can help strengthen the economy enabling public and private sectors to invest in infrastructure, community amenities, education, and open space preservation. Without redevelopment, we will experience a slow deterioration of our infrastructure.

Latinos will be most impacted by what occurs in the urban centers. Here in the South Bay, which encompasses more than 400 square miles has the highest percentage of Latinos in San Diego County, with a concentration in our urban centers. As redevelopment moves forward, Latinos have an opportunity to influence the cultural, economic and social landscape of our region and make advances in areas where we are still fall behind. For example: Latinos still find themselves facing many obstacles when it comes to homeownership. We fall way below the average statistics. And for those Latinos who have finally purchased homes, they have become the hardest hit in the recent wave of foreclosures.

We can work to open the doors to home ownership by utilizing redevelopment initiatives like the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). In place since 1977, CRA was enacted to encourage banks to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate — including urban centers with low to moderate income neighborhoods. CRAs can help city redevelopment corporations provide more and better affordable housing and even make “mico-loans” to local businesses. The National Urban League recently released a study that showed property values were as much as 69 percent higher in areas with CRA investment than without. There are opportunities out there — we just need to help broaden them to help our communities.

The Vote.

I spent the last weekend at the California Democratic Party Convention to hear the views and ideas of the candidates. It was an electrifying event. I even got to shake the hand of our future President!

No matter what your party affiliation or favorite in the upcoming Presidential race or local races, voting in our representatives is part of our society’s system - a system that we are very privileged to have. We are given a chance to let our voice count. We elect individuals to represent a whole community. It’s a shame to see some make mistakes that taint the reputation of all politicians, which unfortunately, has become a dirty word. But from experience in meeting and working with various National, State and Local leaders, I will tell you from the majority I’ve met, they are intense individuals and the weight of community issues weigh heavily on their souls.

In local issues, the fear and distrust that trickles from any sensationalized headline, has helped the local movement for ballot box planning. Ballot box planning was popular in the 70s and 80s and usually focuses on local growth issues. During an election, voters can seek control through local initiatives to regulate projects or plans. For example, in Chula Vistans will have to make decisions on two local initiatives, one being height limits, the other about electing our City Attorney.

While some Chula Vista residents are fearful of building heights, citing the possible change of character for communities, to ban tall buildings may seem ideal, it can be irresponsible to an unpredictable future. We will need to offer diverse housing and work space options that reflect the needs of changing environment, economy and demographics.

It lies within us to get educated on the issues and to vote when the time comes. If you’re only getting one side of the issue, that should be your red flag. Ask questions. Balance the pros and cons and don’t let fear drive your decision.

And we should not let our representatives off the hook. They are elected to represent all city communities and be responsible to create a sound foundation for the future. This is where the vote counts — to help bring in representatives who understand the fears and wants of today while balancing responsibility for tomorrow.

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