February 20, 2004

La Prensa Holds Candidate Forum

By Raymond Beltran

Candidates running for the Chula Vista City Council Seat 4 and candidates running to be representative of the San Diego Assembly District 78 met together at a community forum Wednesday evening to discuss their campaign and current political issues with Chula Vista residents. The event took place at the Chula Vista Library and was organized by La Prensa San Diego.

La Prensa Editor Daniel H. Muñoz says that the purpose of the event was to begin opening up means of communication and working with community leaders and organizations to address issues directly to local politicians.

With the absence of John L. Nezozzi, Chula Vista City Council candidates Steve Castañeda, Dan Hom, Rudy Ramirez and Robert Solomon attended the forum. Topics discussed varied from the developmental plans for Chula Vista to the incident at JC Penny, where two members of the Noyola family were detained by National City Police Officer Steve Shepard for suspicion of theft and deported to Mexico shortly after.

Responding to questions (from left to right) are Steve Castañeda, Dan Hom, Rudy Ramirez, Robert Solomon, candidates for Chula Vista City Council.

“The state does not empower our police to enforce immigration laws,” said Chula Vista City Council candidate Steve Castañeda. “If in fact there’s reason to believe the individual has committed a crime, and has no valid form of identification, obviously the police need to notify the authorities.”

The three remaining candidates followed suit pertaining to the JC Penny incident and all agreed that the National City Police Department had made a mistake in notifying the U.S. Border Patrol without evidence of criminal activity. Rudy Ramirez leaned on the City of Chula Vista’s police policies, which he says leave no room for stereotyping individuals, and Dan Hom said plainly, “National City did it wrong.”

When questioned about the development of Chula Vista, Robert Solomon says he would push for a city that reaps the benefits of San Diego being a tourist town. “As long as it doesn’t get political, we could spice it up. People could go to nice restaurants, go shopping on Main Street,” said Solomon. “San Diego is a tourist town, and Chula Vista needs to get a share of that.”

Because Chula Vista is said to be growing exponentially and business developers seem to be scanning its landscape with council support, Ramirez, who lives on the border of West and East Chula Vista, has previously contested the disregard of residents’ opinion on the west side and stated that he would initiate a more community oriented decision-making process when discussing developmental plans. “I would provide the citizen’s who live in the area with a [process] and structure that would reflect the voice of the community when making decisions.”

Assembly District 78 candidates Maxine Sherard, Arlie Ricasa and Patty Davis attended the forum and discussed various issues pertaining to U.S. President George W. Bush’s new immigration initiative and California’s possible taxation of Native American casinos to help bury its financial holes.

“I do not support [Bush’s immigration initiative] because it only recognizes immigrants as labor usage only,” said Assembly District 78 candidate Arlie Ricasa. “And we are a nation of immigrants.”

All candidates opposed the president’s policy, which would grant undocumented workers temporary citizenship for three years with the ability to re-apply for an additional three years. Temporary citizenship grants would not exceed a period of more than six years, leaving the individual no choice but to return to their native country.

Patty Davis’s only dispute with the initiative is that the country would be granting an undocumented immigrant the right to work when there are citizens who aren’t able to find jobs in the U.S., while Maxine Sherard had approached the issue in a historical framework when she highlighted the1940s Bracero Program and the loss of funds that were allocated from migrant workers’ wages back then, which were supposed to be held for retirement purposes. She indicated that Bush’s new immigration idea leaves too many questions unanswered and without a dependable structure, would most likely lead to a repeat of what has happened previously.

On the issue of taxing Native American casinos, all candidates recognized the need for more tax dollars. Although, it was agreed that the reservations should be recognized as sovereign nations, and if the state wants to depend on casino funds, it should be a decision based on agreements between state officials and leaders of the Native American communities.

“We do need taxes, but because of their sovereignty, it needs to be worked out cooperatively, and we have to make sure we don’t overstep our [boundaries],” said candidate Maxine Sherard. She also believes that if tax dollars are collected from casinos, there should be a balance of benefits, where the casinos could possibly attain more gambling machines than the standard limitations allow.

Arlie Ricasa said as an Assemblywoman for District 78, she would concentrate on issues pertaining to education and affordable housing, which she said are both “critical issues.” Patty Davis’ efforts would be concentrated on providing a “steady stream of income” to improve the city’s safety infrastructure (police and fire departments) and the quality of life based on basic needs: food, clothing and shelter. Maxine Sherard highlighted the need for everyone to have access to affordable health care as well as housing and quality education.

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