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Four Men Compete To Represent Chula Vista’s District 4

Four Men Compete To Represent Chula Vista's District 4

GUEST:

Jean Guerrero, reporter, KPBS

Four men are competing to represent Southwest Chula Vista, or District 4, in the city’s first-ever district elections.

Four men are competing to represent Southwest Chula Vista, or District 4, in the city’s first-ever district elections.

The candidates – Mike Diaz, Rudy Ramirez, Eduardo Reyes and Emmanuel Soto – all say they are familiar with the district’s unique problems because they live there.

Residents say it’s the most neglected part of Chula Vista, and hope district elections will help bring solutions to rising homelessness, crumbling sidewalks and other aging infrastructure.

“It looks like City Hall is paying more attention to Eastlake and Otay Ranch,” said Mike Diaz, one of the candidates. “I’m going to do something about it.”

Photo credit: Mike Diaz

Mike Diaz is shown in this undated photo.

Mike Diaz

Age: 57

Family: Married 34 years to Debbie Diaz with two children, Shelly and Amy, and four grandchildren

Education: No degree

Career: Currently an instructor in Sweetwater High School’s Health and Fire Academy; retired firefighter

Other interests: Loves to build things, golf and mountain bike

Diaz ran for City Council in 2000, but was defeated by Jerry Rindone. He’s a retired Escondido firefighter who has lived in Chula Vista most of his life.

“I was out there serving my community for over 30 years, putting my life on the line every day, and I want to continue that service to the Chula Vista community as a City Council member,” he said.

Diaz, who teaches at Sweetwater High School’s Health and Fire Academy, said he plans to make public safety his priority. He said he would create partnerships between local businesses and other players to identify public safety vulnerabilities and prevent crime before it happens.

“Government’s number one role is to make sure that the public is safe, and I have a public safety background,” he said.

He also said he wants to build more parks in Southwest Chula Vista and reduce bureaucratic red tape for local businesses.

Another candidate for the District 4 seat is Rudy Ramirez, who served on the Chula Vista City Council for two consecutive terms between 2006 and 2015.

Ramirez, an entrepreneur who works in metal fabrication, said his years of activism for the community make him the best candidate, citing significant improvements to sidewalks in Southwest Chula Vista when he was a councilman.

He said he wants to return to the City Council so he can focus on advocating for District 4.

“This is my home, this is where I raised my family,” he said. “I’ve also had the experience of being on the Council and understanding how municipal government works.”

Ramirez said he plans to appoint a full-time administrator accountable to the city manager to address homelessness, which he said is “de-stabilizing” the neighborhood.

“We need to have a more systematic approach to dealing with this problem and managing it,” he said.

Photo credit: Rudy Ramirez

Rudy Ramirez is shown in this undated photo.

Rudy Ramirez

Age: 55

Family: Divorced and in a long-term relationship with Arlene Gonzalez, one 15-year-old daughter, Raquel Ramirez, whom he has 50 percent custody of

Education: Bachelor's degree in international relations, with a minor in economics from Chico State. Also has professional certificates from: USD in international trade and commerce, UCSD in world class manufacturing and quality management, Harvard University in mastering negotiation, creating collaborative solutions, and innovation for economic development.

Career: Small business owner, San Diego Architectural Metal (27 years), international business consultant

Other Interests: Likes to run and travel, but most passionate about civic engagement and community work

Ramirez said he also wants to fix the city’s fiscal problems. He opposes a recent proposal by Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas to put a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot to address aging infrastructure.

“We need to be able to capture more sales tax revenue to pay for services our residents demand without creating more taxes,” he said.

Diaz, the retired firefighter, said he would support a sales tax increase if it were earmarked for specific purposes and included a sunset clause, so long as it did not supplant the current budget.

Ramirez emphasized that he wants to promote cross-border investments and attract international capital to Chula Vista because of its location in the San Diego-Tijuana region.

“When you look at the mega-region, Chula Vista is right smack in the middle of it,” he said. “I think it’s just a fact of our geography that we’re blessed with, and we ought to use it to our advantage.”

Some of his supporters recently met outside Chula Vista City Hall to protest the campaign of another candidate, Eduardo Reyes, who moved here from Eastlake about nine months ago.

Forty-year-old resident Justino Martinez, who was among the crowd of more than 20 people, said he is worried district elections won’t have their intended effect if Reyes wins the seat.

“We formed a boundary – what we failed to do was put a lock in that boundary to not allow outsiders to come in that boundary,” he said.

Last summer, the Chula Vista City Council voted unanimously to divide the city into four council districts. The seats will be filled in two phases.

The first phase included District 4 and District 3. Because only two candidates qualified for the District 3 seat, those elections were postponed until November.

Chula Vista doesn’t require candidates to have lived in the district for a certain amount of time – they just have to be registered voters when they file their nomination papers. In the city of San Diego, candidates must have registered to vote in their district only 30 days before filing nomination papers.

Forty-seven-year-old Aurora Murillo Clark, a longtime resident of Chula Vista's District 4, said she is worried about the lack of a minimum residence requirement.

Photo credit: Eduardo Reyes

Eduardo Reyes is pictured in this undated photo.

Eduardo Reyes

Age: 49

Family: Married, 4 daughters

Education: Doctorate degree in education from San Diego State University

Career: Financial analyst, small business owner, teacher, assistant principal, principal (current)

Other interests: Reading, sports, travel

"When you've just been somewhere for the first couple of days, you're not going to be aware of what's happening in that community, you're not going to represent that community's best interest," she said. "You're still going to be thinking of where you're coming from."

Reyes denied those allegations. He said he moved to this part of town after separating from his wife because he lived and worked here for about 15 years and feels most comfortable here.

Moreover, he saw it as the community with the most need and where he could have the greatest impact.

“The bottom line is I’m not interested in dirty politics. I’m not interested in gossip. I’m not interested in defending false accusations – I’m interested in serving this community,” he said.

He said he thinks his opponent Ramirez is less interested in serving the community.

“He had a chance. He had a chance to serve the community, to make changes, to make a difference, and he didn’t do it,” Reyes said. “We continue to see the same problems over and over.”

Reyes is the principal of Bonita Vista Middle and the president of the Chula Vista Elementary School Board.

He said his background in education makes him the best candidate because he knows the needs of young people and their families.

“If you don’t solve issues when kids are growing up, they become generational,” he said. “My goal truly is not just to help the individual, but to make a difference in future generations.”

Reyes said he wants to build a tech university in the district and attract a research and development company to work with students there.

He added that he plans to address homelessness by partnering with nonprofits and other organizations that can help provide them with services.

Like the other candidates, Reyes also wants to push for the construction of more public spaces in Southwest Chula Vista and neighborhood activities such as movie nights.

“There’s a sense of community that builds upon that,” he said.

Unlike Ramirez, Reyes said he would support a sales tax increase, citing the “dire need” for new police and fire equipment, road infrastructure and more.

Photo credit: Emmanuel Soto

Emmanuel Soto is pictured in this undated photo.

Emmanuel Soto

Age: 28

Family: Declined to provide

Education: Bachelor's degree in music and music education from San Diego State University

Career: Teacher in the Chula Vista Elementary School District and Sweetwater Union High School District, program coordinator at the San Diego Youth Symphony

Other interests: Playing double bass, rugby, soccer, nonfiction books and spending time with family

A third candidate for the District 4 seat, Emmanuel Soto, also has an education background. He teaches music in the Chula Vista Elementary School District and is a parks and recreation commissioner.

“I think investing in education, investing in our children, is investing in the future of the city,” he said.

Like Ramirez and unlike Reyes, Soto opposes a sales tax increase to fund infrastructure improvements. Instead, he said he would implement economic growth policies that would boost revenue for the city’s general fund.

He said the city needs to support local businesses so residents don’t have to go to San Diego and elsewhere for jobs.

“Every morning, you look at the freeways, and everybody’s traveling north,” he said. “I think it’s a missed opportunity.”

But Soto agreed that aging sidewalks, streets and other infrastructure should be a priority for multiple reasons.

“It’s by having a good infrastructure that we could ensure our community has accessibility across the city, and makes it a more attractive place for visitors as well,” he said.

He said schools need more arts in their curricula, as well as after-school activities, to keep young people engaged in healthy pastimes.

He also called for more coordination among faith-based organizations and other existing community groups to help the homeless.

“It’s important to be pragmatic, but it’s also important to be caring,” he said.

The two men with the most votes on June 7 will proceed to the November election.

Photo by Susana Tsutsumi

The District 4 seat represents Southwest Chula Vista.

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