Steve Castaneda, Former Chula Vista City Council member
Related Story: Gonzalez, Castaneda Ramp Up Campaigns
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: testing another special election in San Diego, two Democrats vie for the 80th assembly District. This is KPBS Midday Edition. We will hear from candidates Lorena Gonzalez and Steve Castaneda on the issues of the 80th district and why they want to represent San Diego at the state capital. Gov. Jerry Brown is warning Californians that climate change will make wildfires more frequent and dangerous. We will assess what the governor means about adapting to this new reality. And a new app created by a San Diegan helps people with bipolar illness get more control of their condition by tracking their moods. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. KPBS Midday Edition is next. First the news. Candidates for San Diego's vacant 80th District assembly seat. Tell us why they are running and what adaptations such San Diego consider invasive increasing wildfire danger. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Monday, May 13. Here are some of the San Diego stories we're following in the KPBS newsroom. A trial date has been confirmed for Richard Tuit. He's the man whose conviction in the killing of 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe was reversed by a federal appeals court. Tuit faces a retrial on a charge of voluntary manslaughter. County health officials are warning campers and hikers to take precautions after a ground squirrel at Palomar Mountain tested positive for plague. Officials say campers and hikers should avoid all contact with squirrels, set up their tents away from squirrel burrows. This week the San Diego city Council will vote on a measure that will allow large craft beer measures to add larger full-service restaurants to the beer making facilities. Listen through the day for news here on KPBS. The top story on Midday Edition is an election in San Diego's 80th district. When the 80th assembly District seat became vacant is a story of clinical musical chairs. First, Bob Filner retired from his congressional district to become San Diego mayor then Juan Vargas won and left his seat in the Senate earlier this year BennHueso won the seat and left the 80th assembly District seat vacant. Now two Democrats are vying to represent the district, which includes Chula Vista, National City and the San Diego neighborhoods of Barrio Logan, City Heights and San Ysidro. The two candidates join me today. Lorena Gonzalez, secretary treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties labor Council. Lorena, welcome to the show.
LORENA GONZALEZ: Thank you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Steve Castaneda is former Chula Vista city Council member. Steve, welcome.
STEVE CASTANEDA: Thank you very much.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now let's start off with why you want to represent 80th district and we will start in alphabetical order, so Steve Castaneda, why are you running for the seat?
STEVE CASTANEDA: Maureen, first of all thank you for having us. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to the voters. We just have a little bit more than a week left and I want to do this, I want to send out a happy birthday to my two-year-old son Rocco. It is his two-year-old birthday today so it's kind of been put on hold while the campaign moves forward and I think we will celebrate next week. I'm running because I want to give voters a choice. I think while we are both Democrats, we supported each other at times, but, there is a clear fundamental choice in terms of time spent in the district, track records, backgrounds and things accomplished. As a two-term city councilmember, I've had a lot of opportunity to make decisions and subsidy San Diego that I'm proud of. In fact I was watching him walking and subsidy San Diego urinary I've never presented before. Just this week and and I knocked on a resident store and he talked about wanting to vote for me because he followed Chula Vista and he thought we did a good job with the administration and making sure we did the things for the citizens and he'd like to see me do that for him and his neighbors in Sacramento.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you Steve. And Lorena, why are you running for the District seat?
LORENA GONZALEZ: I've been working for my entire professional life and 80th district. It started right out of UCLA Law school and was working for the lieutenant governor and city and state land commission by ensuring that the South Bay wildlife refuge one was preserved. I advocated on behalf of the environment to the South Bay decommissioning the Chula Vista powerplant and then of course came back home and advocated for workers throughout the South Bay and throughout San Diego County, but particularly the workers who come from working-class backgrounds who need just a living wage, one healthcare, I've been doing that my entire adult life and I want to advocate for more jobs. I think 80th assembly District more than other places in the state but California in general need good, quality jobs that provide healthcare, that provide people with a self-sustaining region I think I can do that by becoming the first assemblywoman in a while.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Lorena, you may have touched on this big issue question I'm going to ask you, but I will ask you both, first, Lorena, what is the biggest issue or some of the biggest issues you see for they 80th district, is a jobs?
LORENA GONZALEZ: I think jobs is the biggest issue for the state of California, but definitely they 80th district. We have some of the last prime industrial is zoned land. That's not developed that could provide tens of thousands of jobs for people who live in 80th assembly District area now type. What we need is a broad look at the tax code and ways of reforming the tax code to incentivize and really ensure that there is infrastructure, to ensure that the roads, pipes, electricity in an area that private development could go in and create the kind of jobs that we want. So one of the reasons I'm excited and hope to go to Sacramento is to look at the tax code, look at the incentive structure that we've been given away often to the type of jobs that we don't need or want to create and instead direct that toward an ability to grow. The middle-class in an area that definitely needs it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Steve Castaneda, what you see the biggest issues for the 80th district?
STEVE CASTANEDA: I couldn't agree more. I think jobs are an area that we need, good jobs and access to quality education as well. That's why I'm proud of the fact that surfing and Chula Vista, this is just not a Chula Vista project I think the South San Diego project. It affects San Diego and national city. We put together enough land to zone a regional technology Park, which we hope will become the next sort of innovative center for South San Diego, the first one one so time is is kind of completely absorbed and there is no land there, also created for a future University that will provide for education services to all students in South County. That is something I'm particularly proud of the fact that I spent most of the time that I was there at city Council working on the bayfront master plan. We went through a number of different plans, we saw developers come and go, but I think we finally have a plan that will ultimately be developed and actually mean positive things for people of South County.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is a question just for you, Lorena, you've been active in San Diego politics for some time as a voice for labor unions. Some say that labor is more than adequately represented in Sacramento so I'm wondering if elected will your major emphasis be working for unions?
LORENA GONZALEZ: I would argue that my voice has been for all workers. If you look at the major, Schmitz of the labor Council in fact it's not for unionized workers. The expansion for example of the living wage ordinance affects nonunion workers. Increasing minimum wage standards, increasing healthcare availability for people who do not have that at the workplace, that's affecting nonunion workers, so yes absolutely I will go to Sacramento and do my best to educate for all workers. That is always going to be might priority return by creating good middle-class jobs, by ensuring that the schools are well-funded, that they are sound and every kid has the opportunity to develop a better than their parents. The way I was able to. So I think that to suggest that I will somehow just be a voice for labor unions would be dismissing the kind of support I've gotten, I've got a broad base of support away from the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce to question his businessman, Republicans like Cheryl Cox and Greg Cox in the South Bay, Democrats of course like our mayor, Juan Vargas and independents like Ron Morrison is the mayor of National City and I think the broad base of my support reflects the fact that people are confident, people have worked with me know that I'm going to put everything aside and do what is best for the entire region, union or nonunion, business and labor, education and the environment, and I think we can do that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Steve, you told us you served as the chief city Council room from 2004 two 2012 how do you think your experience as a city councilman in Chula Vista has prepared you for a job in Sacramento.
STEVE CASTANEDA: First of all those of us who have served and work and local government that local government is ground zero for what happens. It's a quality-of-life issues. We have the most control over. The ability whether or not the local government wants to be business friendly orgies business away or whether or not local government can go to places like Sacramento and Washington, DC, and advocate for the neighborhoods and residents. So we are the people that residents come to when they have a problem. A lot of times they come on issues that are not city issues, but we try to help them. We try to help them get satisfaction and benefit. So, you know that is an important I think piece of background that I think most folks in Sacramento should have. Serving eight years, before that I served eight years working in the city of San Diego for local government. We know the kind of distraction that some bad state law can have on local government. Let's look at prison realignment.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's do that. I'm going to ask you both about some certain specific issues in state government, let me go to you then, first, Steve, just recently the federal government told California it has to do more when it comes to reducing the population in the state prisons. You think that prison realignment is working and what about its effects here in San Diego?
STEVE CASTANEDA: I think Maureen, it has been devastating and dangerous for our communities. It seems like the solutions that Sacramento comes with to try to solve their problems is letting prisoners out of jail and raising our taxes. That seems to be the only way they see to solve problems. I'm going to try to fix that. So when 2000 people are released into the community that means police officers, local jail, that means the public safety system has to bear the brunt of that and frankly we are woefully, you know, prepared to do that. Over five years of economic down turn we have had to reduce the size of our public safety services because of budget constraints. And now these individuals are being let off. And unfortunately, it seems like weekly. We are reading about tragic stories where these individuals have been sort of talked about being nonviolent offenders are just the opposite of that and I'd like to turn that around.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Lorena, the same question to you, do you think prison realignment is working? What about its effects on San Diego?
LORENA GONZALEZ: It's not working, in particular when we look at people who have been paroled and now I guess probation for sexual offenses. We had a 15% increase in the number of fugitives who fall into that category who once served time for sexual offenses. That is a devastating increase. Since realignment, and one I think we can all relate to that. We do not want a bunch of sex offenders running around violating their parole investment knowing where they are. That's just one example of what's going wrong. I think the fact that I have the supportive of the police organizations, state police organizations. Every public organization that endorsed him in the race endorsement because they note that I'm serious about getting to the root issue of separating what is a violent criminal versus a nonviolent criminal in making sure that you can go up to Sacramento and form a coalition and getting other people to agree including the governor, who has been very stringent on this but get them to agree that we have to address this problem. We have to address the fact that those of us who live in a local area. That is, everybody in California, are going to be affected by the criminals who have been let out it can be tracked in the same way.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Another issue for both of you. The governor has put forward a major change in education funding for the state. He wants to overhaul education funding and give more money to districts with the majority of high needs students. Would you, Lorena, support the Gov.'s education reforms?
LORENA GONZALEZ: I absolutely support his reforms pretty think I have. When you have students coming here English-language learners who come from poorer or low class backgrounds. They need more funding in the early years. The one thing that I differ with him on is the mandatory expenditures for vocational education. I'd like to increase the mandatory expenditures for vocational education. As we move forward. We've got to get kids to stay in school and that's often done by giving them choices to work with their hands, to work toward a future career. So that is one issue that I'm hoping in his May revise tomorrow that the governor will have some changes to that but overall I like his ideas.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Steve Castaneda, do you agree with the governor's idea to give more money with statistics with a number of high need students?
STEVE CASTANEDA: I certainly agree that we need to provide greater resources to districts are struggling because the students have special needs, but we should not do that at the expense of other school districts because really what the governor has proposed is to give more money to the special needs schools at the expense of schools that maybe do not have the numbers of special needs. Have a friend who's a school board member in a school district in North County, and they're going to drop about 40% of the per student funding in the school district. To them that is devastating and it frankly is something that is far too often happening. People that have some success and everything, they seem to be picked on a little bit and that's not the way I would do it. I think that the school districts have to work to ensure that they have quality education for all their students. Case in point, Sweetwater there's an article in the paper today about how they spent 30 million or $40 million on a piece of property that is now worth a fraction of that. Those are the kinds of investments and uses of public money that I can't stand. We have to make sure the dollars go to students and not for public infrastructure projects that do not make sense.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Steve, you and Lorena have been described as former political allies she's endorsed you in the past, what influenced your decision to enter this race and make it a two Democrat race for the 80th district?
STEVE CASTANEDA: First of all I have no personal issues. I consider Lorena as a friend, and she has supported me in a few of my campaigns. But when I started thinking and talking about running in this race Lorena Gonzalez was not even a resident of the 80th district and I have represented the people in my community. I have worked as a planning Commissioner in my community. I have worked as a Little League coach. In my community and as a volunteer. I think we all have an opportunity to run and I think the voters at the end of the day will decide whether or not somebody that's delivered for them at the local street-level versus somebody that has a lot of political support and got a lot of campaign contributions from special interests is going to represent and that's a decision for the taxpayers.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me get your response, Lorena
LORENA GONZALEZ: It's amazing I'm not sure how you can start taking better campaign before there's a seat open. Lived in the district. It long before there was a Senate seat open congressional seat or even Assembly seat, opened but I will tell you this is clear from the people we've gone in front of including people like the Union Tribune editorial board, a board that for years has done nothing but complain about the work that I've done in this region. After interviewing both of us, listening to our plans, they said I think what everybody has said I have a true and passionate commitment toward creating private-sector jobs. It is what I am implored to do, is what I want to do and I have the ability to work with local, state, and even national officials and governments to bring money back to the 80th assembly District. Steve was talking earlier about the effect of Brown's education plan on North County. I have to be really honest. I don't care what the effect is going to be on North County. What I talk about are the schools 80th assembly District a district at the very bottom of the state has been ignored for far too long. The district economic, professional work in and when I'm excited totally represented the future.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me give you an extra 30 seconds. Both of you to round out your plea to the voters and just breathe bring it home. If you will, Steve Castaneda, why should someone 80th district vote for you?
STEVE CASTANEDA: Maureen first of all, thank you very much. And as we've talked about a little bit. We've got some… Being passionate another person who has also been passionate like myself and has delivered for the voters the biggest city in South County. Actually, and I think mine track record is a good one. I think it's one that people have followed over time and they have responded positively. I'm very happy where we are in this campaign. I haven't gone out and try to get, you always try to get endorsements and everything, but I want to talk to people in their homes, in their neighborhoods and those are the folks that are responding and the most important people in the election.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: 30 seconds goes fast. Lorena, your answer
LORENA GONZALEZ: When I graduated from Stanford and law school. What I knew what I wanted to do was serve the people in San Diego and Sandy Cook County and state government. I worked in state government set up let's commission. That's why started my work and Chula Vista. I have a history of bringing together Democrats and Republicans, business and labor, environmentalist employers together in one room to make sure that progress happens and it is because of that I've been able to keep 1200 schoolteachers and classes last year because we held a strike at Sweetwater that I have the support of so many people from the right, left and middle, thank you, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with 80th state district assembly candidates Steve Castaneda and Lorena Gonzalez, thank you both very much.
BOTH: Thank you.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The 80th district special Election takes place Tuesday May 21 happens to be the same day a special election for voters in San Diego city Council District 4.