January 2, 2009

Year End Review of 2008

By Daniel Muñoz

When we look back at the year 2008 we can sum up the year as an ‘Economic meltdown.’ The economy dominated the news from the start of the year to the end as every day passed a new story came out about the deteriorating economy.

While the economy dominated the news it wasn’t the only major story of the year. Barack Obama made history as the first black American elected President of the United States. The theme for the Obama campaign was a message of “change,” that was accompanied with the chant “Si Se puede.” Obama enthralled the voters and inspired millions around the world.

The quest for Latino votes put the candidates in front of a population that’s disillusioned about federal polices, untrusting, hungry for explanations, and more results. Laura Araujo, right, and Isabel Olivieri take photographs of themselves with a cut out figure of presumed presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, Barack Obama at the NCLR confernce. Both are from Tijuana, Mexico. Photo - David Maung.

Obama carries the hope and the future of the United States on his shoulders as the country looks to him to bring about the promise of change. In the meantime the Presidency of George W. Bush is being characterized as possibly the worst in the history as the failures of his administration continue to mount and he will be remembered for a shoe throwing incident by a member of the Iraqi media.

The other stories of 2008 included immigration while still relevant; more importantly, had diminished as a divisive issue and no longer dominated the conversation when it came to Hispanics. The topic of the year was about the Hispanic vote. The drug war across our border was another prominent story line, along with the local issues and politics. All these stories and more were covered by La Prensa San Diego but as always we saw the stories through our Brown Eyes - from a Hispanic perspective. With that said we take a look at the year 2008 through word and pictures as it was seen through the pages of La Prensa San Diego.

“The Little Engine That Could” – the Hilltop Middle School Science Olympiad Team!: The Hilltop Middle School Science Olympiad team was pumped and ready to go when they arrived at Rancho Bernardo High School! Four months of training, studying, and preparing this team of 15 students, led by head coach Jerry Woodward, ready for this special day and ready to show off their science knowledge – and they did not disappoint.

Unfortunately, not every student nor every team can go home with a trophy or a medal around his or her neck. For many students, it is disappointing to learn that while he is one of the brightest students in his school, there are other students who have worked harder than he has, and other schools that have aimed their science curriculum to win such competitions as the Science Olympiad. What they have learned not only builds their character, but can never be taken away from them. We hope to see all of the students who competed in this year’s event return next year with a strong desire to learn and (hopefully) win some of those coveted Science Olympiad medals and trophies. Watch out next year….Hilltop Middle is coming back to the Science Olympiad to Win. Go Falcons!

The 2008 year started out on a sour note. The economy was in a recession but the economist weren’t calling it a recession just yet that would come later in the year. While we had hoped that 2007 would be as bad as it could get, that the economy had bottomed out, we would soon find out that we had no clue to how bad it was going to become. As a community we were looking for relief from all the negative news that would propel us into the year 2008 which the San Diego Charges did as they completed a successful regular season and were headed toward the playoffs.

The race for the Presidency was coming to a conclusion as the state Primaries were getting underway. On the Democratic side Hillary Rodham Clinton was still the front runner. First term Senator Barack Obama was making his move to become the Party’s nominee borrowing the “Si Se Puede” rallying cry as his campaign gathered steam. Hispanic Bill Richardson was still in the race but his campaign never really did catch on, but it was significant that Richardson was in the race for Democratic nomination.

Primaries had been moved up with the States jockeying to be major players in this year’s election. California had moved their Primary up to February 5, which was to be called super Tuesday with 22 states moving their Primary to that same date. As the California Primary got closer there would be much courting for the Hispanic vote and endorsements. The irony with all the States moving up their Primary date proved to be self defeating and it was the States with the later Primary dates who enjoyed the spotlight of a close campaign between Clinton and Obama.

Special forces were depolyed to the border cities by Mexican President Felipe Caldaron. The federal troops were a welcome site but they did little to curb the violence and killings that escalated throughout the year.

Meanwhile locally the City of Chula Vista was starting to experience troubles with the Gaylord project on this city’s bay front. Competing interest were pulling at the fabric of the deal that would eventually lead to the demise of the project. A coalition of local trade associations, builders, contractors, and workers, were pushing the Chula Vista City Council to adopt an ordinance that the coalition said will “promote competition and equal opportunity” in the construction of a hotel and convention center at the bay front. This was the beginning of the end to this project with Gaylord pulling out of the project all together at the end of the year.

In the first month of 2008 we also reported on the continued violence in Tijuana with the drug cartels and the escalating violence within that city. This would be an ongoing theme throughout the year as the killings in Tijuana would only get worse.

That was how the year started. The top news stories were about the elections. The first Tuesday in February was all about Super Tuesday. With the early Primary making it a long season of campaigning.

We have heard about it, we have talked about it, we have waited for it and on Super Tuesday it finally showed up. In February the Hispanic voter came out as never before. The Hispanic community turned out in mass making up 29 percent of the California Democratic electorate. Three in 10 of those who voted in the Democratic primary were Latino. These electoral numbers will change the way politicians look at the Hispanic community and will empower this community in the future.

During the first few weeks of the year the economy had taken a back seat to the elections but in February it raised its ugly head once again when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made his budget proposal to address the State’s $14 billion dollar deficit calling for a 10 percent across the board spending cuts. Local school district immediately started preparing for the worst case scenario and announced that pink slips will be sent out.

The drug wars in Mexico are getting out of hand and the police are overwhelmed. In response to the escalating violence Mexican President Calderon sent a special military unit to Tijuana to combat the drug cartels. This special unit did little to turn back the drug cartels and stop the killings

Gracia Molina Enriquez de Pick, an activist in the international feminist movement and lifelong proponent of educational reform—especially for Latinos and Chicanos—once said, “Your individual life only has meaning if you unselfishly engage as sisters and brothers in the fight for equality, justice and peace.” Molina de Pick, who sacrificed and struggled for social, economic and political justice throughout her life was honored at the UC San Diego Cesar Chavez celebration. She was recognized for her recent $125,000 challenge gift that will endow The Gracia Molina de Pick Endowed Fund for Chicano/a Studies to support the Chicano/a~Latino/a Arts and Humanities minor program in the Division of Arts and Humanities at the University of California, San Diego.

The Presidential candidate to represent the Democratic Party it was presumed would be Hillary Clinton, it was hers’ to lose. Barack Obama who wasn’t considered a serious contender at the outset not only had become a serious contender but was winning key primary races. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was temporarily saved in March with a big victory in Texas with the Hispanic vote coming to her rescue. But this would prove to be Clinton’s last hurrah as Obamania continued to sweep over the country.

On the Republican side of the Presidential campaign John McCain came back from the dead when in 2007 he was cutting staff trying to save money and he had to ditch flying airplanes and take up bus trips, to 2008 when he became the frontrunner for the Republican Party. Much of his rise to success could be attributed to his middle of the road, common sense approach to immigration. Immigration did not develop into the wedge issue that the right wing segment of the Party had hoped for and all the Republican candidates, with the exception of McCain, had taken a hard line stance on immigration. This strategy backfired and McCain came out ahead because of it.

An off-duty San Diego Police Officer, Frank White, in what appeared to be a fit of road rage got out of his car at an Oceanside shopping center and fired five shots into a car hitting the driver and her young son who was in the back seat strapped into his car seat. There were many questions that came out of this shooting in particular why Frank White received special treatment from the Oceanside Police and the wounded driver was treated like a criminal. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis had a record of justifying police shootings but this one would prove even too much for Dumanis. Frank White would eventually be charged with a crime.

Gracia Molina de Pick was honored by UCSD during Cesar Chavez week long celebration. In fact Molina de Pick could be considered the woman of the year. The recognition by UCSD was just one of many news stories during the year for this wonderful woman.

Life at the Border: Mario Chavez visits with his wife Lizeth Chavez through the border fence at Playas de Tijuana during a Saturday family visit. Mario Chavez, a U.S. citizen, cannot not leave the U.S. because of parole restrictions and his wife, a Mexican citizen, does not have a visa to go to the United States. The couple, who have two children, have been meeting every Saturday since December 2007. Family visits and picnics held on the beach at the border wall are common for people with family on both sides of the border, but who cannot cross the border freely.

Super Delegates became the buzz word during the Democratic Presidential campaign. For a while it looked like Obama and Clinton would go the Democratic nominating convention virtually or nearly tied in delegate votes and it would be the Super Delegates, those special selected Democrats who could select the Party’s nominee based on their personal preference. Super Delegates is a term rarely if ever heard but this election it became a household term and for the first time we got to meet who these Delegates were. As it turns out the Super Delegate vote became moot point when Obama won over-whelming support for the nomination.

In April the economy was in the dumps and President Bush’s plan was to create an economic stimulus, the President gave $1200 to married couples, $300 for per child and $800 to single folks. The money was nice but did absolutely nothing in stimulating the economy, most folks used to money to pay bills.

Local elections were underway and Steve Francis was challenging San Diego mayoral incumbent Jerry Sanders. Francis made inroads with the Hispanic voter as he worked to expand his base. It turned out to be an interesting race but the voters were happy with the status quo.

Five years and 4000 American soldiers killed in Iraq and the situation hadn’t improved. The President has put his faith into a “surge” in Iraq which meant an additional 30,000 troops added to the war. Bush and the Generals declared it a success, but they were not able to identify what a success would look like when General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker gave their report before Congress in April on the state of the Iraq war or when the troops could be pulled out of Iraq.

The price of gas had started its climb to $5 per gallon. Every day the price of gas would climb a penny or two. There was no real logic to the price increase except that speculators on Wall Street were driving the price increase. This was, figuratively, the final straw. People just stopped driving and car sales came to a screeching halt, SUVs, trucks, Humvees, sales of these types of cars were to end. This would lead to the big three GMC, Ford, and Chrysler to seek a bail out in order to save the companies. Now we were longing for the good old days of ’07.

Students of Lincoln Acres Recipients of iVIE Award: At the 7th Annual 2008 Innovative Video in Education Awards Ceremony (iVIE) a group of sixth grade students from Lincoln Acres Elementary School from National School District completed a couple of Firsts. This was the First time the students have ever entered this event and this was the First time that students from the South County have won First Place, in the 6-12 Unity in Action category demonstrating their use of technology in the classroom. Principal: Debbie Costa Hernandez, Brianna Uriarte, Pricila Gudino, Marco Rivera, Yesenia Lopez, and Class Teacher: Hernan Baeza.

In Chula Vista the perjury case against city councilperson Steve Castaneda, after nearly two years, comes to an end. It was a case that was baffling as to why it was even brought before a court to begin with. Castaneda was investigated in a quid pro quo issue and no wronging doing was found. But he was charged for lying about his thoughts. As the case was laid out he thought about buying condo and because he thought about it and for not telling a grand jury that the thought about it indicated he lied to the grand jury so he was charged for lying to the grand jury. It took almost two years but he was finally acquitted they couldn’t prove he was thinking about buy a condo. The case was an embarrasement for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and her supposedly integrity investigation unit. Dumanis’ integrity investigation unit was later to be quietly dismantled.

Castaneda was running for re-election in Chula Vista. Pamela Bensoussan was a first time candidate also running for Chula Vista City council. Both won. Other interesting issues on the ballot in Chula Vista was Prop. E height limitation on Third Avenue issue. It was interesting in how the opposition turned this issue into a referendum against one of its sponors Earl Jentz. Jose Preciado takes his first stab at public office and runs for the County Board of Education. Mike Aguirre is running for re-election as San Diego City Attorney.

The State Budget talks were well underway in May and the talk shifted from a 10% across the board cut in all programs to sell lottery bonds and the prospect of a tax increase. San Diego’s State Senator Denise Ducheny chaired the budget committee which didn’t deliver their budget proposal until well after the constitutional mandated deadline, in fact they set the record for not delivering their budget and when they did it was DOA (dead on arrival) the Republican Party was not going to approve the proposed tax increase.

The killings in Baja California were to have a profound affect on the tourism industry. The stories of mass killings and beheadings did little to encourage Americans to cross the border. Added on to this problem is the cottage industry kidnapping that has grown in Mexico and is become more and more of a problem in Tijuana and in South San Diego. Responding to the kidnappings doctors in Tijuana went on strike to draw attention to their plight, over 600 doctors had been kidnapped over the past two years.

In June the talk was about the upcoming conference hosted by National Council of La Raza. Hillary Clinton concedes the Democratic nomination to Obama and the talk then turned to Clinton as vice-president? A nice thought but it never did get off the ground. Joe Biden was Obama’s selection for VP.

Clairemont students showcase culture through Dia de los Muertos exhibition: When it was time to decide what activity she wanted to do in order to meet the senior project requirement at Clairemont High School, Dayeli Diaz said she chose the Dia de los Muertos exhibition because it was a cultural event.

Mr. Ramón Torres, Spanish teacher, with a group of senior students that decided to focus their required senior project on Día de los Muertos. Pictured left to right: Erika Robles, Christian Rodriguez, Luz Robles, Jacqueline Hernandez, and Dayeli Diaz.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) accelerated their raids on US businesses to drive out illegal immigrants. The raids were a success and a failure. They are successful in their mission of rounding up immigrants without proper papers, but they are a failure in that they are driving business toward bankruptcy, turning towns in ghost towns, and separating children from their parents. Postville, Iowa meatpacking plant was just one example of this ICE policy. Agriprocessors, Inc. of Postville would later file for bankruptcy unable to find workers to fill the vacancy left by the immigrant workers. Agriprocessors, Inc. was the major kosher supplier of meats for the Jewish community and now many restaurants, delis, and stores would run short of kosher meats for the Jewish community.

In July the talk was all about the Presidential race, the NCLR conference was in San Diego and all political eyes were on San Diego as both Obama and McCain came into town to reach out to the Hispanic voter. McCain received polite applause while Obama was greeted like a rock star. The biggest disappointment was that Obama never did address Hispanic issues per se. In fact throughout his whole campaign he downplayed the immigration issue and was accused of stonewalling the Hispanic press.

July 25th and still no state budget, over a month over due! Gas prices are still on the rise, organizing the Latino vote, and the summer Olympics are the stories of the summer.

Via Obama clubs are springing up across California and in San Diego it is no different. The get out the vote effort is unprecedented. Obama releases $20 million to support the effort to outreach to Hispanic voters and it is working. Hispanics are turned on by Obama and they are getting involved with the campaign.

The state budget presented by Denise Ducheny and the Democratic majority relies heavily on a tax increase which requires a 2/3rds vote. This isn’t going to happen with the Republicans dead set against a tax increase so the two sides sit and wait for the other to crack. Meanwhile the state is in chaos as teachers receive pink slips and health care centers are preparing to shut down due to a lack of State funds. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The original budget proposal is scrapped and the Ducheny committee presents a water downed proposal that accomplishes nothing. The State is back to square one and as the year comes to an end the Governor and the State Legislatures are once again trying to come up with a budget to solve the economic crises. By the way taxes are back on the table.

It was an ugly chapter in the Centro Cultural de la Raza’ history but finally in 2007 the seven year boycott came to an end In August 2008 the Centro and the community are coming together to talk about the current state of el Centro, meet with Centro administrators and representatives, and propose ideas for the development of new programs. “The purpose of the Centro community forum is to inform the community about opportunities for participation at the Centro and to receive input about the kinds of programs, issues and events the Centro needs to be addressing in the coming year,” stated Victor Payan, Centro Community Advisory Council Member.

In August the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) came up with a plan to offer a self deportation program where illegal migrant could turn themselves in to be deported back to their country of origin. After a couple of months about three people took advantage of the program and ICE shut it down. Were not sure what made ICE think that this would ever work.

The Lopez Kids Go to the Olympics: The Lopez siblings say they hope to model for other young Latino kids. When Steve, Mark and Diana Lopez throw their first kicks in the Tae Kwon Do competitions at the Beijing Olympic games, they will be making history. But in the Lopez family, just making to the Olympics is not enough. For these children of Nicaraguan immigrants, the goal is to return from the games steeped in gold.

The MMC peaker power plant near Main St. in southwest Chula Vista is a hotly contested issue in Chula Vista. It pits the local residents against the corporate community. It wasn’t a proud day for Southwestern College Trustee David Agosto when he found himself embroiled with an agenda slight of hand in trying to get Greg Sandavol’s resignation date moved to the end of the year so that he could receive lifetime health insurance. Sandoval had retired from his position at the college when he was implicated in a sexual harassment suit.

Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, is picked out of obscurity to become John McCain’s running mate this was as exciting selection that propelled the McCain campaign into a virtual tie with Obama only to come unraveled as we learned about and watched Palin operate.

Gracia Molina de Pick is back from the Democratic National Convention held in Denver and she writes about the lack of Hispanic representation on the main stage at the convention and lack of substance in regards to the issues relevant to Hispanics. Hers wasn’t the only voice regarding the Hispanic community being taken for granted.

Rudy Acuña observed the Republican National Convention and he thought he had gone snow blind, the convention floor was so white with Anglo delegates as he described it that it matched the home state of Shara Palin, Alaska. Once again no Hispanic representation within the Republican Party!

It is September and still no State budget. For three months now we have talked about the lack of movement on the State budget. This says more about our political leadership or lack of leadership. Que lastima.

Tijuana Prison Massacre: 25 people are dead after two days riots at the Tijuana State Penitentiary. Two days of rioting was horrific due to violence and the appalling conditions of the prisoners.

The border fence which is scheduled to be completed in 2008 is comprised of a triple fence that stretches from Texas to California that its supports say will stop illegal immigration. Opponents call it a wall of death, an affront to the Hispanic community, a disaster to ecological balance of area. One of the key areas that is facing great resistance is the Friendship Park in San Ysidro which will be destroyed when the fence is completed. Friendship Park is where the two countries come together and celebrates the coexistence to the two countries where family and friends are able to reconnect.

Pearl Quiñones ran for Sweetwater High School District school board as did Bertha Lopez. David Agosto ran as an incumbent for the Southwestern College school board against Nick Aguilar. Russell Coronado runs for Chula Vista Elementary School Board. Mona Rios ran for National City city council. Hispanics across the board were running for office. Change is coming and with it the Hispanic community is maturing into a political force in San Diego County.

The whole year has been dominated by two issues. In November one of those issues is finally resolved. On November voters went to the polls and selected their next President, Barack Obama. For Hispanics the significance was the new voters that went to the polls for the first time contributing 10 million votes in this election.

Locally Hispanics won and won often. Olga Díaz is the first Hispanic woman elected to the Escondido City Council in their 150 year history, the most controversial city in North County. Latinos Achieve New Political Milestones in Congress and State Houses. Hispanic voters will no longer be taken for granted. Without the Hispanic vote your chances of winning are very slim.

With the elections over the scramble begins to see who will reap the benefits of the Obama victory. Hispanics are looking a new precedent in appointments in the new administration and Obama doesn’t disappoint selecting a record number of Hispanics, but there are no top tiered appointments. Bill Richardson becomes the highest ranking Hispanic in the administration when he was appointed Secretary of Commerce.

The year concludes on a note of bad news about the economy. America is sitting and waiting for the Obama Presidency to see what changes he brings that can get American back on its feet and headed toward prosperity. Much like last year when we concluded the year on back of bad news regarding the economy and searching for that bit of positive news to finish the year on, the San Diego Chargers come to our rescue once again and salvage their season with a victory over the Denver Broncos. Four weeks ago the Chargers appeared all but done with a 4-8 record and no hope of reaching the playoffs. Today the Chargers finish the season with an 8-8 record and league champions headed to the playoffs.

Let us hope that next year we don’t have to depend on the Chargers for that bit of good news to end our year.

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