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National City and IB Election Races Are Unique

National City and IB Election Races Are Unique
In National City, the race for mayor features incumbent Ron Morrison vs. three other candidates, including councilmember Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, trading charges over a $4 million deficit and lack of access to the bayfront. The Imperial Beach City Council race features the son of a current Congressman and debates over revenue.

In Chula Vista, the mayor's race is over. In National City, the race for mayor features incumbent Ron Morrison vs. three other candidates, including councilmember Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, trading charges over a $4 million deficit and lack of access to the bayfront. The Imperial Beach City Council race features the son of a current Congressman and debates over revenue.

GUEST: Janine Zuniga, South Bay reporter, Union Tribune

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The city of San Diego gets a lot of attention when wee talking about elections, some people think too much attention. So as part of continuing election coverage on KPBS, we've been surveying many of the most interesting races and key issues on the ballot in the north and east counties and today we focus on the south bay. Joining me to talk about the south bay elections is my guest, Janine Zuniga, reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune. Welcome.



MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Would you give us a description of the south bay and the cities it includes?

JANINE ZUNIGA: Sure, it's a largely Hispanic community. I'd say from a lower to middle income, the median income ranged from 33000 a year to 90000. It includes the cities of Imperial Beach, national city, Chula Vista, and then south San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you. That's in a nutshell. Thanks very much. Now, the largest city in the south bay, Chula Vista, that contest for mayor was won out right during the primary by Cheryl Cox, but just to the north, mayor includes Ron Morrison. Is he in any trouble?

JANINE ZUNIGA: He is, he served three terms as a counsel member, so he's being challenge midterm by counsel woman Alejandra Soliz. She was appointed by mayor her first day on the council when she was elected in 2008. So she's moving forward, she's a bit of a challenge, but some people feel that Ron Morrison, she's got the experience, and if she loses in race, she'll go back to the city council.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What are some of the main issues that people are concerned about and these candidates are talking about.

JANINE ZUNIGA: A coup of major issues are the city's budget, they face a $4 million deficit this year. It expires in 2016, so the city has to figure out how they're going to meet some projected deficits down the road. And then the other big issue that's much discussed in national city is making improvements to a long neglected west side neighborhood. It is sort of a dangerous mix of industrial and single family homes that people have been working to change to get those polluting businesses out of the neighborhood.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Have the come up with any interesting ideas about what to do about that?

JANINE ZUNIGA: I think they all want to work to do that, so I just think everybody wants the same thing in that neighborhood.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Janine Zuniga, she is south bay reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune, and we're talking about some of the issues and candidates in San Diego's south bay, national city, we know, made a move to get the Chargers stadium at one time. Was that ever a serious move as that come up during the election discussion at all?

JANINE ZUNIGA: It hasn't. I think it's on hold with this economy. There is still a space over near the port. The city's base front area that could be carved out for a sports arena, and the mayor talked about that as recently as a few months ago with me, but again, it's off in the distance.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There's also a city council race where a councilman who resigned wants back on the council.

JANINE ZUNIGA: Lui Natividad, he stepped down midterm to take a U.S. census, and his seat was fill bide a former councilman, and now that seat is up, and he wants to reclaim that seat. So he faces three people, and Mona Alvarado Rio, Frank Lopez, and Gina Diamani have all run for council seats before. And I don't know, he's -- he bes the community well, and he's very well liked in the community so --

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So lots of familiar names running for that. Speaking of familiar names, this are two council seats up for election in Imperial Beach, one is a full term council seat, the other is an election to fill out the term of a councilman who died recently. Tell us about the two candidates for the short term council seat 'cause that's where we'll find the familiar name.

JANINE ZUNIGA: Right. That is Congressman Brian Bilbray's son, so he's running to fill that seat after councilman Fred McClane died last year. The former mayor, Diane rose, filled it temporarily, but now it's up for grabs, Bilbray doesn't have any political experience, and he phases Paul Brown, he's a career coordinator at a local college. But there was a last minute candidate for the seat. But I wanted to make sure that there's two seats open.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, I see. Thank you. Okay. Heart, then, and the Imperial Beach mayor is also UP for reelection; is that right?


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us about the incumbent, Jim Janney. And his challengers.

JANINE ZUNIGA: Jim Janney is seeking a second term. He's served four years on the city council before that. And he faces challengers, including Jack Fisher and artist Jennifer Well, and a sea shell shop owner in town, Mike Bibbey. So that's a race with -- there's so many seats up for election, that it's -- you know, it hasn't changed the whole governing body of Imperial Beach.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I love that, sea shell shop owner of that's so Imperial Beach. What are the issues in Imperial Beach.

JANINE ZUNIGA: They also are a tiny city with little revenue generators. They are always looking to balance a budget, they're stretched thin, they weathered this economic downfall well, they were already so lean. But it's hard to reach, they have water issues, sand issues, development, they're doing a commercial zoning review right now. They hope to attract more developers with more enticing development, you know, zoning codes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sure. Now, I don't want to leave this discussion without talking about a rather strange development in the sweet water election. It has something to do about a mugging. Tell us about that story.

JANINE ZUNIGA: Right. They broke that story Sunday morning, a reporter, Wendy fry heard late Saturday night that Andrew Valencia, who's running for a seat on the sweet water School Board was assaulted in Imperial Beach; you know, very early Sunday morning. He was out, making campaign posters when he decided to go get something to eat and he went to a restaurant, a fast food restaurant that was closed so he walked up to the drive through, ordered his food, and was attacked. He says he believes it was politically motivated, and the School Board president, his opponent, called the accusation absurd.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Does I see, so he's basically blaming his opponent for the mugging.

JANINE ZUNIGA: That's what he's saying.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's hard core. I'm wondering, Janine, what all the research you've done and from all you know about these candidates and these issues, how much are people engaged in these midterm elections?

JANINE ZUNIGA: It's hard to say. You know, the people that are always engaged, you hear from them a lot. You don't really hear from people who may or may not vote. But it seems like the regular play ares are involved and we're hearing a lot from them. And we'll see what happens.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are you seeing a lot of ads in the south bay?

JANINE ZUNIGA: Not too many. More so probably in Chula Vista. There haven't been outrageous amounts of money raised, not so far in any of the races.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And how about attendance at things like debates? Do you have any sense of the amount of interest from can people who are showing up and participating in those forums.

JANINE ZUNIGA: I know for instance in national city, they have a very good out reach program, they have a number of community -- they're like small districts. And they hold presentations and forums and they're pretty well attended. And in Chula Vista, there's a proposition H on the ballot, and the city is also dealing with a $12.5 million deficit next year, and they're working to address that. And they're getting the word out. So people are attending these presentations and they're hearing about what's going on. I don't know how that's gonna translate into votes but they're quite involved in Chula Vista and national city.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Can you tell us briefly about that proposition H 1234.

JANINE ZUNIGA: Sure. It's a measure that the city says would update the utility users' tax. Proponents say that it would affect only a small number of residents, but opponents say it's a tax hike that could affect a large number of people, because it's expanding the definition of telecommunications services to include newer devices bike cellphones of it's currently charged to land line telephone users. The city says other cities have similarly included language to include these devices which weren't in existence in 1970. But opponents say it's a new tax that disguised as an old tax. City officials say if it does not tax, the city faces six million more dollars in cuts.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I tell you, you've given us a really good over view of the elections in the south bay. Thank you so much.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Janine Zuniga, she is south bay reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune, just reminding everything that election day is next Tuesday.