In this era of sharp political difference over almost every issue, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Labor Council, and the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce all oppose Proposition C. Why such bipartisan agreement? It’s simple. Proposition Cis a bad idea, placed on the ballot in a cloud of secrecy and funded by a wealthy property owner with a private agenda.
Proposition C is an attempt to undermine independence of the elected City Attorney, a position created just four years ago by an ove1whelming vote of the people. Less than two years into the first elected City Attorney’s term, a small vocal group that promoted the idea of an elected City Attorney, but opposed now City Attorney Googins’ candidacy, want to change the terms of what they first proposed. Their so called “reform” is not just bad politics; it’s also bad policy.
Proposition C, in creating the office of Legislative Council in effect allows the City Council to
create its own legal department. What Prop C really does is give the City Council a blank check to buy its own legal opinion anytime it doesn’t like the advice of the elected City Attorney.
If Prop C passes, the City would be plagued with competing legal opinions. Residents and taxpayers trying to get city services or pennits would be caught in the middle, with substantial delays and uncertainty in trying to get things done. Prop C will substantially increase costs for legal services and undermine the stability and effectiveness of City government.
The City Attorney is a professional position whose salary was set when the initial Charter Amendment was voted on. It is based on the medium salary of City Attorneys in six comparatively sized cities. Qualifications to serve as the City Attorney are specific and require the services of an educated and qualified professional. Prop C’s provision to significantly reduce the City Attorney’s salary below what comparable City Attorneys are paid is a prescription for poorly qualified candidates.
While term limits may be appropriate for politicians whose qualifications often consist of getting an their opponent, when you get a good City Attorney in office, it would be counter productive to see him or her leave after two terms. As noted by “La Prensa” in its opposition, “accumulated wisdom is a good thing for a City Attorney”.
Proposition C was put on the ballot with no input from the Charter Review Commission or Board of Ethics, with no fiscal impact analysis by the City Manager’s office and with little opportunity for public scrutiny. When the councilmember who offered it was asked by a member of the public who drafted this and where did it come? he refused to answer. Only after Prop C was put on the ballot did it surface that it was yet another attempt by a wealthy property owner to promote his private agenda.
This wealthy property owner and his wife have spent over a million dollars since 2006 in elections in Chula Vista. He has sued the City on several occasions costing the tax payers over $700,000 in legal fees and staff time defending against his failed lawsuits. This same wealthy land owner paid lawyers to draft the initial amendment that provided the elected City Attorney did not have to live in Chula Vista! The candidate he financially supported, who did not live in Chula Vista, lost. Now a small group who initially supported the elected City Attorney Amendment wants to change it without fixing its most obvious flaw - that you should have to live in the City to be the elected City Attorney.
It has only been four years since the voters decided they wanted an elected City Attorney and two years since they made their choice. Fixing something that hasn’t yet proven to be broken doesn’t make sense. Proposition C doesn’t project any costs for the new office it creates, nor does it identify where the money will come from to pay for salaries and staffing. No wonder the Tax Payers Association also joins in the bipartisan opposition to this flawed Proposition.
Moot is a former councilman.