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It's playoff time Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Sep 08 2012 12:00 PM

It may be early September but we’re already in playoff mode.

At 6 p.m. on Monday the final four candidates for Chula Vista City Council will participate in a public forum at the Civic Center library.

The event, obviously, won't decide who replaces outgoing Councilman Steve Castaneda (Linda Wagner or Mary Salas) nor will it determine if Councilwoman Pamela Bensoussan keeps her seat on the dais or if “second-time’s-a-charm” candidate Larry Breitfelder replaces her.

In all likelihood the political exchanges will pale in comparison to the presidential debates when they take place, but Monday night’s forum should still be as informative. And perhaps even more important.

Whoever wins in November will play a major role in the shaping of Chula Vista’s future. Certainly we’ve heard that claim from candidates past, but this time abstract platitudes will be tangible.

Now that the path for development has nearly cleared all hurdles, Chula Vista’s bayfront will take center stage. And it’ll be the next group of council members who will direct.

While the bayfront master plan dictates what goes where along the harbor, it will be the council that, presumably, scours over little details like financing. How much the city is willing to give in exchange for a shot at relevance in the tourism industry and economic growth will be decided by five people (and perhaps their political backers, but that’s a cynical story for another day).

The election also has the potential to shake up alliances at City Hall.

Fans and close observers of City Hall will tell you that when votes are cast it’s usually council members Rudy Ramirez, Pat Aguilar and Castaneda on one side and Mayor Cheryl Cox and Bensoussan on the other.

Given that Bensoussan has endorsed Salas over Wagner (and Republican Cox has thrown her support behind Democrat Bensoussan rather than Breitfelder), it’s not unreasonable to expect that Cox, Salas and Bensoussan (should she win re-election) would become the new power threesome.

But if Wagner and Bensoussan win then it might be a push, whereas if Wagner and Breitfelder both take the cake then it might be a lonely two years for Cox as she serves out her final term.

But in politics, like football, anything can happen and there’s no telling who the real winner is until the final whistle blows or the final ballot is counted.

Monday’s forum will provide a  sneak peek at what the future holds. You may not want to miss it.

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