February 2, 2001
By: D.L. Muñoz Sr.
The candidates for the vacant District 8 City Council seat are awake and eager to engage in political combat to see who among them will win the voters support. This week La Prensa's Political Chargé de Affaires des politicos engaged Joe Ortega in a ranging discussion on why he wanted to be a City Councilman.
L/P - Tell me a little bit about your background.
"I am a local boy born in Logan Heights. My parents Natalia Sanchez and John Ortega actually met in Little Italy where they lived. Shortly thereafter they moved to Logan Heights where I was born on April 8, 1951. I was their 4th child out of 11. In those days they believed in having large families. My Dad nicknamed me `Kiki,' I supposed because I was left handed. And, to this day, I have been known as Joe "Kiki" Ortega," he said.
L/P - Were your parents migrants at the time your were born?
"Both of my parents were American citizens. My dad's mother was an American Citizen. She, however, married a Mexican citizen. Half of my aunts and uncles live in Mexico and the other half live in the U.S.! I and my brothers and sisters are 3rd generation Norte Americanos," related Ortega.
LP - You were educated in the local San Diego schools?
"Yes, I attended Lowell Elementary School. From there I went to Memorial Junior High School. I went on to San Diego High School where I graduated with class of `69. I lettered in wrestling, and gymnastics. While at SDHS, I developed an interest in drafting classes.
"I was encouraged to go to Mesa College, where they had good courses in the field of architecture. In 1978 I went to San Diego State College where I majored in Public Administration but I only went as far as my senior year and didn't earn my degree. I had gotten married in 1977 and supporting my family was putting a lot of pressure on me," he said.
L/P - Tell me about your life in the Barrio.
"I was born into poor circumstances and had to work at a very early age. It was a necessity of life in order to survive. At age seven I went to work selling newspapers on the streets of Barrio Logan. In those days there few laws protecting children from being exploited and we ended up working long hours for little pay hawking the Tribune. I worked until age 13 selling papers. When I turned 15 I got my very first hourly job washing cars at a gas station on 16th and Market. I was paid $1.00 an hour. At the same time I worked as a Janitor helper at San Diego High. There I received $1.65 hour! The money we brought in help buy food, pay the gas bills, and buy clothes for us to go to school. Working or not, my folks made sure all of us went to school. They knew that the only way for us to escape from the poverty of the barrios was to go to school and get an education.
"At age 17, I was hired by the Thom McCann shoe store. I went to school all day then went to work from 5:00 p.m. till 9:00 p.m. It was hard but finally, I could buy my own clothes. When I graduated from San Diego High School I applied to attend Mesa Junior College. I wanted to study architecture. As a High School student I had developed a strong interest in drafting. Two hours of every school day I spent perfecting my architectural skills," related Joe Ortega.
During the summer of 1978, Kiki Ortega became interested in the field of plumbing and signed up in the California Plumbers Apprenticeship program. He spent 10 weeks in special training at the San Diego Gas & Electric facilities. In 1979 The Plumbers & Pipe Fitters Union Local 230 offered him a California State 4-year Plumbing Apprenticeship program. He was on his way to what was going to be his eventual effort to be District 8 Councilman.
"In 1986 I was hired by the City of San Diego as a Plumber. My Supervisor soon promoted me to Building Inspector 1 in 1988 and then to Building Inspector II in 1992. My education at San Diego State College in Public Administration was brought into play. I was soon appointed, by Local 230, to the Apprentice Council where I represented over 500 apprentices. My administrative skills where recognized and I soon was transferred to the San Diego City Development Services Department and to the Neighborhood Code Compliance Department," stated Joe Ortega.
L/P - What motivated you to run for office?
"I had been working with City for the over 15 years mostly within the communities situated within the 8th council district. It was in the interactions with the elected officials that I soon recognized how poorly served the people of District 8 had been represented, in particular by Councilman Juan Vargas and his Assistant Ralph Inzunza," said Mr. Ortega.
"I took note of the fact that there was no accountability to the people of the district. In the past 10-12 years the entire district had received was window dressing. I tried to work with Councilman Vargas and his assistant Ralph Inzunza to resolve the many problems that afflicted District Eight. But they didn't care about the conditions that the people had to live under because of their neglect. They didn't care about us. When I tried to bring attention to the many unserved needs of the community, which it was my duty to do as a representative of the City, neither Councilman Vargas nor his Assistant Inzunza would talk with me. They instituted a close-door policy against me. They closed their door in my face. I saw and felt their arrogance. They just didn't care about the residents of District 8!
"Many of the economic development issues for our communities were ignored while they dealt with the more pressing matters of funding the PADRE Stadium, I suppose. Barrio Logan, in particular suffered a 7 million dollar loss in tax revenues when the City, without any comment from Vargas, decided to remove certain structures in the community. They destroyed the properties and now all we have are vacant lands on the corners of Crosby, National, and Main streets. Every time the residents went to Councilman Vargas or his Assistant Inzunza they were always too busy to talk with the community.
"District 8, has been the most ignored and abused community of the City. After seeing what was happening I decided that I couldn't wait or depend on someone else to come and bring leadership and accountability to the District. I told myself that that was enough (Ya Basta)! I would run for the seat," Joe Ortega exclaimed.
"As the next City Councilman of District 8, I will bring leadership and accountability to the citizens of the District. It is my opinion that there has been a failure of leadership in the Vargas administration of the District. It is time that someone who has a vested interest in the District is elected as the next City Councilman of the District. We have had enough of `Carpet Bagger `representation,'" concluded Mr. Ortega.