The Star-News


Plate overflowing with drama

Sat, Jan 25 2014 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos R. Davalos

That warm breeze you felt earlier this week wasn’t a Santa Ana wind rushing through your backyard to whisper in your ear. It was the collective sigh of South County residents who track all things political north and south of Highway 54.

Undoubtedly they were relieved to learn the latest imbroglio reflected on the region only in the most peripheral of ways.

When court documents outlining an illegal campaign donations scheme were published Tuesday, you couldn’t blame anyone with a Latino sounding surname or who lives in South County if they momentarily held their breath. Given the number of high profile investigations, indictments and court proceedings that originate here, it’s understandable if residents and political junkies are sensitive to bad press.

But as the U.S. attorney’s complaint against two men who allegedly funneled illegal contributions into various political campaigns revealed, so far all the major players live or do business elsewhere.

Sure, former Chula Vista congressman Bob Filner is said to have accepted illegal contributions for his San Diego mayoral campaign, but many South County residents gave up their allegiance to him when last year he was accused of sexual harassment.

His replacement in Congress, Juan Vargas, also accepted money from the same illegal source but he has since given it back; furthermore the money was donated through a PAC, something over which candidates have no control.

Another tenuous South County link to the scandal involves the arrest Tuesday of Marco Polo Cortes, a one-time Chula Vista planning commissioner turned lobbyist.

Cortes, who does business on behalf of towing companies in National City and Chula Vista, does most of his work in San Diego, where he also resides.

It seems, for now anyway, the South County political landscape has escaped significant shelling.

While the latest campaign financing dust-up has given everyone something new to fuss over, Chula Vista and National City still have to contend with the festering mess that is the Sweetwater Union High School District.

In a few weeks a trial with current and former school board members accused of corruption is scheduled to start. Barring any delays, the beginning of the end of a disastrous time in South County history would be in sight. But that cause for celebration and hope is tempered by the clumsy way in which the school board is handling the replacement of a member who quit after pleading guilty in that same corruption case. No one can decide if it should be done via election or appointment.

As you can see, South County’s plate is already stuffed with political drama. Any more servings just might make a person throw up.


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