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The race for Chula Vista Mayor

 May 19, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, May 19th>>>>

The race to be the next Chula Vista Mayor

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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Record high prices and mortgage rates are finally slowing down California’s housing market.
That’s according to a new report from the California Association of Realtors.
Sales dropped more than eight percent in April compared with the same time last year.

California’s median priced single-family home was 885 thousand dollars in April. That’s up from the previous record set in March. In San Diego, the median home price was 975-thousand dollars in April.

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San Diego’s new ambulance provider is being fined more than 400-thousand dollars for not meeting response times in February and March.

Falck’s response times improved in April, according to the company’s data. But in a city council committee meeting Wednesday, city officials said it’s not enough.

Here’s Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell.

“We have about the same service level that we had a year ago. That is not what we expected in this contract, we expected more and that’s what we’re holding them accountable for.”

Falck says covid surges and staffing shortages have complicated their operations.

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National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis says she wants lowrider cruising events to continue in the city.

Event organizers said they might not be able to put on future events, because the city’s police department is recommending charging organizers nearly EIGHT-THOUSAND DOLLARS in fees.

The city will meet with the organizers next week to go over fees and other recommendations. The next cruising event is set for June THIRD.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.

Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Chula Vista will have a new mayor for the first time since 2014. Whoever is elected will have to address the city’s structural budget deficit and try to bring a four-year university to the South Bay. KPBS reporter Gustavo Solis talked to four of the six candidates in the race.

Chula Vista’s structural budget deficit is projected to grow to $12 million dollars in less than a decade.

The next mayor will have to address the city’s finances. Every candidate agrees that Chula Vista needs to do a better job of attracting businesses and growing its tax base.

But how they plan to go about it is very different.

City Councilmember Jill Galvez says the city simply needs to watch how much it spends.

“Going forward you always have to be mindful that things can happen and you don’t spend money that you don’t have. Right now what we are facing is high inflation so what we are seeing is the cost of energy go up significantly, we’ve seen the cost of gas which impacts our over 700 vehicle fleet.”

Zaneta Encarnacion is a first-time candidate. She wants to take a more proactive approach when it comes to business development.

“We can really be targeting to and be much more proactive than we’ve ever been at identifying who are the likely work centers or employers to come down to Chula Vista, let’s go talk to them and find out what they need to make that decision and we need to be doing it two years out from when we know their lease is going to be up. We need to be so much more proactive than we’ve ever been.”

Ammar Campa-Najjar ran for Congress twice in the East County. He says the current Mayor and City Council have left a lot of money on the table. Particularly from the state and federal government.

“I’ve heard our current mayor has gone to meetings and asked for earmarks past the deadline. And it is just unnerving to hear that. That’s millions of dollars on the table. And instead of getting those earmarks, we have to raise local taxes or just live with the deficit.”

Rudy Ramirez was on the City Council from 2006 to 2015. He also says the city needs to do more to attract businesses.

“I would invest in getting this land more ready. Readily available for an employer. Right now, if an employer wants to come to Chula Vista, they are telling them that they’re four years out before they can start operating. They don’t want to hear that, they want to go somewhere else.”

The other big campaign issue is a decades-long plan to bring a four-year university to Chula Vista.

The city set aside 400-acres of land and even offered leases for as little as $1. But no one has taken their offer.

Campa-Najjar says there is just no confidence in Chula Vista’s current political leadership to get anything done.

“I think it’s a lack of confidence in our city. I mean, we have a city where our leadership has not been able to deal with our deficits, has not been able to take out the trash. So investors look at our city and say you can’t take out the trash, how are you going to build a university or a bayfront?”

Encarnacion has university experience. She currently works at Southwestern College where she helped San Diego State University bring four-year degree programs.

Chula Vista took too long to bring this service to the South Bay, she says.

“With all due respect to the city, we kind of saw that we had to take the reins of academic program planning because we are the experts and our students here in south county can’t wait for the city to find a university to come and do it.”

Ramirez also thinks that Chula Vista’s approach has been all wrong. He thinks they should bring research companies to the South Bay first.

“I think they’ve been approaching it in the wrong way. First hoping that they could – that a UC system or a state system would decide to come down and decide to settle in Chula Vista. I think early on we knew that wasn’t likely to happen.

He says research companies in biotech and aerospace are investing millions in the North County. The city should try to bring them south.

Galvez says the city needs to explore private funding options to help lure universities to Chula Vista.

She’d like to start an endowment and build relationships with donors.

“Past councils have invested millions of dollars on studies studying what people want. But it’s getting from there to the place of what people will donate to build is another matter. When you go on any university campus you will see that the buildings are named for philanthropists.”

Election Day is June 7 and you can already drop off your ballots.

The top two vote-getters will face off in November.

Gustavo Solis, KPBS News

TAG: There are six candidates in the race. Councilman John McCann was not available for a recorded interview. Retired Army Major Spencer Cash declined to answer questions about city finances.

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After more than five hours of emotional public comments… no decision was made on two proposals for eviction moratorium protections in the City of Chula Vista. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado has more.

Renters in Chula Vista showed up in force to Tuesday’s city council meeting to urge elected officials to pass stronger eviction protection ordinances. Dozens spoke during public comment about the need to extend the eviction moratorium and close renovation loopholes, saying landlords abuse current laws to evict lower paying tenants and only make minor improvements. Renter Dora Parra broke down in tears when she shared her plight.

Doria Parra

Chula Vista renter being evicted

Where are we going to go I’ve go two weeks … I’ve been at this residence 17 years…and we’re being evicted, they want to renovate. we’re here asking for help.

But landlords like Michael Campbell spoke out too, saying creating unnecessary laws to punish a few bad actors is not the solution.

I think that this is an overreach in trying to solve a problem that is not really significant,

Councilmember Jill Galvez says that after hours of testimony it was clear that not only did they not have enough council members to take a vote

It’s very confusing I think that we need to have a better mapped out plan and really address how many staff people we’ll need how many attorneys we’ll need to hire in the city to enforce our own ordinance

Kitty Alvarado, KPBS News

TAG: The Chula Vista City Council postponed voting on the ordinances until July 12.

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Amidst a nationwide baby formula shortage, there are still places for some of San Diego’s most vulnerable families to find their preferred brand.

KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere says it comes as the FDA has reached an agreement that could reopen a crucial baby formula plant to help ease supply issues.

The nation is facing an unprecedented baby formula shortage that’s left grocery aisles empty and caused an increase in prices.

But the effects are not the same everywhere, says Rosalia Zamora. She’s the marketing manager at Mother’s Nutritional Center, a company that specializes in products for infants and toddlers … and has four stores in San Diego.

“We had a customer who just recently came in and we were very touched because they couldn't find Pediasure anywhere. And this child is being fed via G-tube. So for them to find it here made us feel so, so happy.”

Mother’s Nutritional Center sells to individuals that are part of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC, as well as the general public. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.

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In a stunning reversal, the San Diego District Attorney this week said it would not retry Jane Dorotik. She was convicted of murdering her husband in their Valley Center home and dumping his body on the road a short distance away.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser has more on what her freedom means.

Now 75 years old, Dorotik is truly free after two decades in prison. She always maintained she was innocent.

After DNA evidence pointed to a male suspect, and an audit found sloppy work by a San Diego crime lab, her conviction was thrown out.

Dorotik told KPBS Midday Edition the problems at the crime lab could impact other cases, because the DA has had to send out something called a Brady Letter.

A Brady letter basically tells the criminal justice community that this person's reliability of their results, perhaps their integrity and testifying is no longer to be relied upon.

Dorotik was represented by a team of lawyers at the Loyola Project for the Innocent, which took on her case in 2015.

CT KPBS News

TAG: The District Attorney’s Office sent a statement saying quote “We have concluded we can no longer ethically proceed with the prosecution of this defendant because the evidence is now insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Coming up.... San Diego’s Bike to work day is back.

"Not only is biking to work a really healthy way to start your day, but it's also a great way to address environmental concerns, traffic congestion and provide people with a great alternative to driving to work."

We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.

San Diego’s first ever climate report card gave mostly good grades to the city and county’s top elected officials.

Three local environmental advocacy groups put together the report.

KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has details.

It is the first time elected officials have been evaluated by their votes on climate related issues. The news was good for San Diego County supervisors. Nora Vargas, Terra Lawson Remer and Nathan Fletcher all got A’s. Jim Desmond earned a B and Joel Anderson a C. Vargas says the environment is a critical issue and she is proud of actions the supervisors have taken.

Nora Vargas, San Diego County Supervisor

“I think this is a reflection of who we are in San Diego and as a region. For us environmental justice, climate justice is a priority.”

On the city council Joe La Cava, Monica Montgomery Steppe and Vivian Moreno earned A’s. Chris Cate got the only F on the report card. Mayor Todd Gloria got a C.

Erik Anderson KPBS News

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Today is Bike to Work Day across San Diego County. The annual event returns after being canceled the last two years because of the pandemic. It's organized by the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG.

KPBS Midday Edition host Jade Hindmon spoke with SANDAG's Antoinette Meier about the goals of the event.

"Mud Row" is a work by playwright Dominique Morrisseau about two different generations of sisters, one set in the 1960s, and another in the present day. They both live in the same house, and are struggling with embracing or rejecting their legacy.

Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg and actor Marti Gobel joined KPBS/Arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans to discuss the production.

Here's their conversation.

That was actor Marti Gobel and director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg speaking with KPBS/Arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans.

"Mud Row" opens at Cygnet Theatre with low-cost previews starting tonight, Opening Night is this Saturday. It's on stage through June 19th.
That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Chula Vista will have a new mayor for the first time since 2014. KPBS introduces you to some of the candidates. Meanwhile, there’s still some available means to find baby formula in San Diego amidst a nationwide shortage. Plus, bike to work day returns to San Diego County.