Looking back at your time as a council member, what is one thing you could have done differently?
Jerry Rindone: When I was first elected to the Chula Vista City Council in 1990, one of our foremost responsibilities was to plan for the infrastructure for three new major areas (Rancho Del Rey, Eastlake, and the Otay Ranch Town Center) that would nearly double the size of Chula Vista. By implementing a “smart planning” model we were quite successful in ensuring that the major roads, public parks, libraries, schools, fire stations, police facilities, and recreational facilities were included in that infrastructure. However, I believe our success would have been greater if we had completed the Eastlake Public Library as the first task of the new infrastructure instead of the last.
Since I strongly believe that a vibrant city should provide a world class education to its children, enabling them to become lifelong residents employed at high paying jobs within the city, then the Eastlake public library must be a priority in the near future.
Mary Salas: The good intentions, goals, projects, and initiatives the city adopts can be stopped or dismissed simply because the mayor and city council are not working as a team for the good of the city. In 2004 we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SDG&E that all new power lines would be undergrounded on the bayfront, along with other community benefits.
Unfortunately, the new SDG&E application and proposal for moving the substation ignores the provision to underground some of the larger power lines. Had I anticipated that the current council would not be united in its insistence to hold SDG&E to its promises, I would have asked our city attorney at the time to craft a more ironclad agreement to make sure that the new substation be the most state of the art, low profile possible.
Pamela Bensoussan: I feel pretty good about my time on the council and have no regrets.
I focused on big issues. My priorities were getting the Bayfront master plan through the regulatory hurdles, accomplishing the decommissioning and demolition of the old polluting power plant, and completing the land acquisition and studies for our future University and Innovation Center.
What can you do as a mayor that you cannot do as a council member?
Rindone: As mayor, I would have the opportunity to serve as the designated elected representative for our entire city. Entrusted to serve honorably and transparently in this highly visible and influential office, I would courageously and consciously collaborate with various stakeholders both inside and outside Chula Vista toward the continued betterment and economic progress of our city, the safety of our residents, and the enhancement of our quality of life. Throughout my career, I have set a high standard for personal and political ethics that I would continue so that I might set a high standard for the way business is conducted in the city. Through this key position of influence, I would persistently and relentlessly advocate for the advancement of the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan, ensure that the Port of San Diego would be an equal partner in finding a developer that finances the Bayfront, promote the Third Avenue business corridor, continue our tradition of good environmental stewardship, and support job growth and business opportunities.
Salas: As mayor, I plan to serve as the public face of the city and project the professional and energetic leadership needed to move everyone forward. I will strengthen longstanding relationships with present residents that I have developed as a member of council and build new ones with residents who are making Chula Vista their new home. We will have tens of thousands of new residents in the coming years, and they need to be valued and engaged with so that we can all work to have our city reach its full potential. As mayor, I also intend to devote my time to nurture and sustain relationships throughout the city with business groups, community groups, and with representatives of other levels of government that serve Chula Vista. We need to continue to implement our public transportation plans and increase our representation on MTS. As mayor, I also intend to fully embrace the economic and cultural benefits derived from the international border we share with Mexico and our closest neighbor-- the Municipality of Tijuana. Moreover, I plan to be a unity mayor and honor the special responsibility of working with council colleagues. I intend to listen, respect, and support all four of my council colleagues to represent the residents of our great city.
Bensoussan: Give 100 percent of my time. The role of mayor is a full time position and as mayor I would take a hiatus from my professional appraisal practice. My current challenge is that while city issues are my greatest interest and concern, I still must continue my professional practice. As mayor I can concentrate totally on city business. When elected to office one’s time belongs to constituents. Total dedication to performing all of the tasks associated with leading a city this size is critical to the success on the job.
As spokesperson for the council, the mayor must be available 24 hours a day at a moments notice to address any issue that presents itself. This role also affords an opportunity and responsibility to spotlight the many good news stories that are constantly taking place in our city. Another important task of the mayor is to represent the city council on a regional level as a member of the SANDAG Board and to advocate and build support for getting a fair share of regional funding for our major transportation and infrastructure projects.
How do you go about changing the image of Chula Vista?
Rindone: Advertise! Advertise! Advertise! Chula Vista is the home of two of the last five Little League National Champions, the American Idol Jessica Sanchez, the television icon Mario Lopez, and the Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. We already have major tourism attractions including the Olympic Training Center, the SeaWorld Water Park-Aquatica, and the Sleep Train Amphitheatre. Through the use of print, television, radio, and social media formats, I will work tirelessly to herald the dynamism that already exists in our city as well as focus our attention on our vision to bring the creation of the Bayfront, the construction of the Millennium Project, and the building of a four year university into fruition. I will determinedly promote tourism and tenaciously expand our jobs based economy, ensuring that they are top priorities. As a lifelong resident of Chula Vista, I truly care for our city. It is a great place to live, play and work. As more high paying jobs, generated by our present and future businesses, become available, our economy will expand and our community’s image as the second largest city in San Diego County will be enhanced.
Salas: As mayor, I want to dedicate time to supporting the image and perceptions our own residents have of our city. We have a lot of promise and talent; we are poised to do great things because of our diverse and vibrant communities. As I encounter old friends and meet new constituents who have just moved here, I realize we are a strong city, full of families with hopes and dreams, providing for their loved ones, and taking steps to prosper and have a good future. This is a wonderful image to have and continue to build on for the future.
On the other hand, we have work to do with our neighbors outside the city. A recent study showed how residents from throughout San Diego County perceive the city of Chula Vista. I certainly want to work to improve our City’s image in all the areas that were identified for improvement in the study. A specific area of concern is the perception that we are not a safe place to visit. In fact, we are one of the safest cities for our size, according to national data. We are proud of our public safety employees and their efforts and we need to do a better job of making that known throughout the county. Additionally, we need to measure the perceptions of our City by our neighbors in Baja California and Tijuana in particular. These neighbors contribute significantly to our tax base and we need to make sure we understand how they perceive our city too.
Bensoussan: We have a great story to tell and keep telling. We have everything going for us – from our diversity as a community, to our natural resources including waterfront, open spaces, regional parks, Olympic Training Center, to our potential for job growth at the epicenter of the Cali-Baja mega region, and as the home of a future major university and innovation center providing a work force for new emerging industries.
We must position ourselves to implement our vision for a vibrant waterfront and continue working with our regional partners like the Unified Port of San Diego and economic development advocacy groups such as South County EDC. We have much to offer as a destination for eco-tourism; we have excellent schools, parks, libraries, and great potential for growth in the international sports sector, and we are one of the safest cities in California. As mayor, I will continue working with our regional partners to attract attention to our city and encourage more resources be directed to implementing our recently adopted marketing plan. I will continue to promote our city through events like HarborFest that last year attracted over 10,000 people region-wide.
What separates you from the other two candidates?
Rindone: I am an experienced leader who strives to make a significant and lasting difference by envisioning possibilities, creating partnerships, and working with others with different views and backgrounds. For example, during the 10 years when I served as principal of Hilltop High School, teachers were applauded for their high test scores, our academic decathlon team won the championship three times, our robotics team was the first one ever formed south of Highway 8, and my school earned the prestigious recognition of being a California Distinguished High School. Moreover, my ability to form partnerships positively impacts all of the involved organizations. For instance, when I served as the Vice-Chairman of the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and as Assistant Superintendent of Adult Education, I was in a pivotal position that allowed me to create a three-way partnership to establish the National City Adult School at the MTS trolley station at 24th Street in National City. The three entities that benefitted from this project included National City, MTS, and the adult school system. I employed these same skill sets to create partnerships between Hilltop High’s FLAGS (Foreign Language and Global Studies) program and sister cities in China, Italy, France, and other countries. Envisioning the future, working collaboratively with diverse individuals and organizations worldwide, and actualizing plans are skillsets that will prove to be valuable in the role of mayor.
Salas: My campaign for mayor demonstrates that I can bring Chula Vista together to meet its goals. I have support from every sector in the community. I am supported by Chula Vistans from every neighborhood and from every walk of life. This is my 20th year in public service and I think I have garnered the community’s trust as a fair, engaged representative, who can work with everyone to move Chula Vista forward.
Bensoussan: Since elected in 2008 I helped our city become more fiscally responsible. Through necessity while facing budget deficits of between $10 and $20 million annually, we shrank the organization by an incredible 30 percent. We were the first city statewide to implement pension reform – in a manner fair to both workers and taxpayers. In contrast to previous city councils that my opponents served on, we focused on becoming leaner and more efficient. We excelled in fiscal management enabling us to refinance debt left over from previous councils’ large capital expenditures.
Through my strong advocacy and support for cutting edge conservation and energy efficiency I helped provide the political support for city-wide programs and solar installations, resulting in millions of dollars of savings as we implemented award winning environmental policies.
I am not a career politician, have no interest in seeking state office, and always put the city first – ahead of the state. I will continue to defend our right to home rule as a Charter City in the face of excessive efforts by the state to take away funding and impose policies that weaken the rights of cities.
How will your leadership style be similar or different from the current mayor?
Rindone: Known as a “problem solver,” I strive to effectively collaborate with people who have different views and talents to ascertain win-win solutions. For example, in situations that involve union negotiations, building partnerships, or bringing businesses to our community, I have learned that it is best to follow Stephen Covey’s admonition of “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I have learned that as the stakeholders gain a clearer understanding of the totality of the issues involved, win-win solutions arise. Moreover, by focusing on the answer to the ultimate question, “What is in the long-term best interest of the residents of Chula Vista?” I am convinced that we will find solutions that are acceptable, or an effective compromise, to all involved. My many years of leadership experience in education and in city government have given me ample opportunities to demonstrate my skill set to bring about win-win results through collaboration, principle based decision making, high ethical standards, and moral courage.
Salas: Mayor Cox has been our leader now for almost eight years. We should thank her for her service. My goal as mayor will be to distinguish myself in building consensus for all the work that is important to Chula Vistans. I commit myself to serving as facilitator among allies and opponents to serve the public. We have much to get done and no time to focus on our differences. I am committed to our shared future and we should build it together.
Bensoussan: I will continue Mayor Cox’s strong fiscal leadership. Even though we are turning the corner economically, we are still projecting deficits for the next five years. The projections are not as severe as we’ve seen since 2008, but we must be vigilant to assure we maintain quality services to our residents and that our growth is sustainable.
Like Mayor Cox, I will be a strong advocate for the city on SANDAG regional policy committees. I will continue cultivating relationships that will insure support for the lowering and eventual removal of tolls on Route 125. There is no magic wand—these tasks require hard work. I will make sure we implement our big vision projects like the Bayfront and University that will provide quality job growth and economic development. But I will also be very engaged on advancing revitalization of our older neighborhoods. It is also essential that we encourage growth as healthy communities. This means focusing on mobility, access to health and education, recreation, arts and culture. While working on the never-ending task of keeping us on track and well functioning, I will continue to seek opportunities and support becoming a healthy and sustainable city.
Looking back at your time as a council member, what is one thing you could have done differently?