September 19, 2008

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Publico

Fire Protection just another tax

The new fire inspection fee for businesses brought forth by our elected representatives at City Hall is just another sad attempt to mask the incompetent and deceitful practices that have left Chula Vista in a financial mess.

When this fee is sent out in January, there is sure to be confused and angry business owners wondering what hit them.

Lisa Cohen, the Mayor’s regular water carrier and CEO of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce, has been surprisingly quiet. The Chamber of Commerce membership has not even been informed of the new fire tax as yet. Whose interests are being represented by waiting to inform Chamber members?

City Hall was certainly vocal concerning the utilities tax “decrease” they tried to push past us. That didn’t work so well, since it was actually a sneaky tax increase.

I shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of communication from City Hall. It took three months for us to find out our City Manager was abusing city resources to ogle women on the internet.

The never-ending schemes and scandals at City Hall need to stop. We need to change the way our government handles itself, and restore public trust. An independent, elected City Attorney will bring exactly the kind of balance our city desperately needs.

Robert Garcia
Chula Vista

On more than one occasion, the Chula Vista Taxpayers Association has objected to city fees being inflated to the point of becoming hidden taxes. The offense goes beyond money when the community’s commitment to public safety is cynically exploited as a pretext to raise taxes.

The supposed business fire inspection fee is such a case. This is nothing more than a flat regressive new annual tax on local business during a recession. It’s not based on a true risk assessment - it’s simply a device allowing city hall to hide behind our firefighters while picking the pockets of local business.

There are a surprisingly large number of businesses in Chula Vista. Even in the doubtful event that all the appropriate businesses in Chula Vista will be inspected every year, the cost of the tax to the public is obviously above the cost to the city of doing the inspection and I don’t think the city is going to be sending refund checks to those who are not inspected.

Let’s be honest all of that’s irrelevant to the mission of this tax which is simply to take money from the public under a phony rationale. As with the former “sneaky tax”, the phrase “bait and switch” comes to mind again.

We appreciate the concerns that have been expressed by councilmen McCann and Castaneda about fees being abused into taxes. There’s still time to head off this fiasco and we encourage the Mayor and Council to reconsider this reprehensible new tax.

Larry Breitfelder
President, Chula Vista Taxpayers Association

Mayor Cox does have a knack for politics, and a talent for speaking out of both sides of her mouth. Inappropriate behavior is appropriate in small doses. At least if you are the City Manager with a habit of cruising cyberspace for images of scantily clad women.

Her decisiveness and fitness to lead are unmistakable. Just look at the recent vote to pay for Councilman Steve Castaneda’s legal fees. She strongly disagreed and showed it by abstaining from voting!

Lucky for her, since her developer buddy John Moot has decided to sue the city for its decision to pay.

I guess all these legal fees and attorneys must be getting expensive, so City officials decided to add a new tax for local business, a $105 fire inspection fee to be sent out in January.

Unfortunately, no one remembered to inform the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce membership. The tax does directly affect them after all. I bet they would like to have that tidbit of information, but I guess they will find come January when they get the bill.

Our inefficient city government keeps hemorrhaging money, but the people who are supposed to protect our interests only seem interested in taking more in taxes.

When is it going to end?

 Angelina Garcia
Chula Vista

Time for Chula Vista City Council to oppose power plant

I call on all Council Members and Candidates to voice their opposition to a new power plant that is more than twice the size of the original with the potential to emit significantly more pollution. I am very concerned about the potential impacts on community health in Chula Vista. I have witnessed firsthand residents’ concerns and heard testimony about asthma and related health problems – primarily among children and the elderly in the surrounding neighborhoods.

While proponents argue that this plant will be more efficient and less polluting, that argument fails to mention the following: the decision of which peaker will be go into service at any given moment when needed is determined by the plant’s efficiency and age. Thus a new efficient plant will run considerably more often than an older plant. The proposed plant might be ‘more efficient’ per MW hour, but it will be 122% larger and can be expected to run far more frequently resulting in significantly more actual pollution in the community.

I am greatly disturbed by how elected officials and state agencies willingly disregard local land use policies. In 2005, the Chula Vista General Plan Update was unanimously adopted. I participated in writing the Plan - serving on the environmental subcommittee and the steering committee – and I remember countless discussions about the need for preventing the kind of environmental injustice that was perpetrated in the past, particularly in Southwest Chula Vista. To prevent this from occurring in the future, we wrote into the new General Plan policies designed to protect community health from inappropriate adjacent development. The new Plan sought to protect neighborhoods by ensuring that residences and schools would not be threatened by the close proximity of toxic air emitters like power plants. In fact, the General Plan Policy E6.4 was written as a direct response to earlier attempts to expand this peaker plant. The policy states, unequivocally to ‘avoid’ locating power plants or re-powered plants within 1,000 feet of sensitive receptors. This project is 350 feet from homes.

While concerned about our energy needs, I feel that we do not have to sacrifice community health. There are viable alternatives and other locations that are better buffered from residences and schools. As a regional leader in environmental policy the City of Chula Vista must recognize that the potential for energy efficiency and clean distributed generation is barely tapped locally. We need to stick to our carefully crafted and unanimously approved land use policies and explore new clean sources for energy generation.

Pamela Bensoussan
(Bensoussan is a candidate for Chula Vista City Council)

Regarding the McCain-Palin Ticket

On Bush and McCain’s watch, we now have an unemployment rate of 6.1% the highest rate in almost five years - 600,000 have lost jobs since January alone. Home fore-closures are at frigthening levels and the energy crisis continues. McCain wants to drill in your back yard while he votes against incentives for alternative energy solutions. If you like the economy we’ve got, vote Republican. McCain is 90% Bush, 9% trigger happy, and 1% to too old.

Now McCain gives us Sarah Palin who’s claim to fame is selling State surplus on E-Bay. Palin’s one-liners make her a good candidate for “Last Comic Standing,” but a potential U.S. President? She abuses power by firing a State employee who would not do her political bidding, and gets rid of a librarian who would not remove books Palin didn’t like. She doesn’t believe in science and is against abortion even in the case of rape or incest. What’s the difference between Sarah Palin and the same old GOP extremism? Lipstick!

McCain and Palin now claim to be reforming the Republican Party.

They don’t need reforming, they need an exorcism.

Major Robert Tormey, USAF Ret.

I believe most will agree that this national election is the most important to our country in recent history. It most certainly is for me, and I am 81 years old. I personally see this as a contest between the two men running for President; although the Vice Presidential candidates do effect the way I see the country going.

One of the presidential candidates has worked his way to a great education through hard work. The other candidate was put in a special high school in order to get a high school diploma. He did poorly. Because of family influence, he was given an appointment to Annapolis ahead of much more deserving young men. He finished fifth from the bottom in his class and showed a minimum of leadership skills. Because of family influence he gets into the pilot training program ahead of more deserving young men. He does poorly, crashes one plane and still graduates. He crashes two more planes, (probably pilot error) and still gets promoted ahead of others in his Annapolis class.

One of the candidates has been married and faithful to the same woman since they first walked down the aisle; the other admits to many affairs and divorced an ailing wife to marry another woman. The winner of this election will have a chance to take America into the 21st century; through logic and reason. If the evangelical right manage to elect the pampered Navy retiree; we can expect our education system to fall behind the rest of the world. Logic and reason can move us ahead.

The evangelicals cannot see beyond their faith. FAITH and TRUTH are not compatible. The advances in science in the next four years is going to be truly amazing. I can only see our country leading the way if we elect the young man who worked for everything; to get to where he is today.

Larry J. Kluth (Lt.Col. USAF Ret.)
via email

War on Drugs no longer makes sense

The Pew Center released a disturbing report that 1 in 100 adult U.S. citizens are behind bars, with the burden borne primarily by nonviolent, drug-addicted minorities from lower income communities. Our nation’s “War on Drugs” reduced once-rising crime rates but has passed the point of common sense and diminishing returns.  Facing prison overcrowding and budget deficits, states have little choice but to find safe and effective alternatives to incarceration.

Drug Courts strike the proper balance between protecting public safety and improving public health. Participants receive the treatment they need, are regularly tested for drug use, appear frequently before a judge to review their progress, and receive rewards for doing well and sanctions for not living up to their obligations. Detention is a last resort but one available to the court when it is necessary. 

The scientific community put Drug Courts under its microscope and concluded they reduce drug abuse and crime and do so considerably cheaper than the alternatives. According to the Urban Institute, Drug Courts reap $2.21 in benefits for every $1.00 invested, totaling about $624 million in net savings per year. But they treat only a fraction of the people who need them. Making Drug Courts available to all drug-abusing offenders was projected to return $46 billion in benefits to our nation and avert millions of crimes. It is time to take Drug Courts to scale by increasing their numbers and spreading their philosophy of combining treatment with accountability for all drug-abusing offenders.

Thomas Alexander, Board Member
National Association of Drug Court Professionals

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