How long to develop character?

Former Chula Vista councilman Mitch Thompson said he was on the City Council for about as long as it takes to carry a baby to term.

While pregnant mothers might argue that’s a lifetime, others might say that nine months in public office is insignificant. What could one possibly accomplish in such a short amount of time?

In this case, maybe the observations are as significant as the accomplishments.

In addressing his former colleagues and fellow residents Thompson said that equal and fair representation still hasn’t found it’s way to Chula Vista.

“Our city has great diversity, we still have a ways to go at City Hall. Not enough people of color are participating in city government,” he said.

Refreshing candor coming from a one-time – albeit short-lived – insider.

The observation is perhaps more remarkable because it comes from a middle-aged white male and can’t be dismissed as mere whining by disaffected Latinos or blacks, or any other member of a minority group.

Thompson’s call for greater diversity comes just a few weeks after he and council members Pamela Bensoussan and Steve Castaneda voted to publicly oppose Arizona’s immigration law.

There are those who’d argue that using public time or spending public money on social issues outside city limits is wasteful political pandering.

Those same people are unwilling or unable to take a long, introspective look at the larger picture.

Cities are more than a collection of buildings and master-planned communities. They are more than what developers and business leaders have decided is a business-friendly environment.

In abstract terms, cities – the great ones anyway – are entities that pulse and hum with promise, excitement, maybe even hope. They reflect the character and values of the people who live there.

Publicly supporting or opposing another state’s immigration law is not a waste of time. Given that half the people in Chula Vista identify themselves Latino, it’s not unreasonable to expect the council to speak up.

Taking a public stand helps define and shape this city’s character. As does calling for greater diversity in local government.

In making these two gestures, in addressing these social issues, Thompson has done what some elected officials have failed to do during their time in office: he has helped shape this city’s character.

As we all know, character leaves a far more long-lasting legacy than just about anything else.