Same hardships face city

Mayor Cheryl Cox addressed a capacity crowd during her State of the City address.

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox recounted what she considered the victories and challenges of 2009 in her annual State of the City address Tuesday, touching on many of the same issues she did in last year’s address.

Citing progress on bayfront development, an education and business center in the eastern part of the city, and the winding down of operations at the South Bay Power Plant, Cox sounded a positive note about the past year’s events, while acknowledging economic realities.

“Right now, we are recovering from some of the most economically painful years we’ve known … certainly, what we do today will make a difference tomorrow,” said Cox.

The mayor gave a good deal of credit to volunteers in the community, who she said helped fill the gap left by deep cuts to the city’s payroll. She also commended employee unions for their concessions, including deferred raises, and offered her thanks to colleagues on the dais.

Cox outlined ongoing plans for a university and technology center, part of a vision that would see the establishment of the first four-year university in the South Bay. The university is seen as an anchor for investment by the science and technology industry, hopefully providing high paying jobs in the city’s eastern core.

“Residents should not have to travel north for good jobs or a high-quality education,” said Cox, and she said preliminary negotiations for obtaining property in the area are under way.

In last year’s address, Cox devoted almost a third of her time to a pitch for Proposition A, a measure that would have created a temporary one-cent increase in the city’s sales tax. At that time, officials were trying to stave off a further reduction in services after having cut “to the bone,” in Cox’s words.

The measure was ultimately defeated by a large margin and cuts went ahead anyway.

Cox hinted this year at what may be the city’s next divisive issue, the proposed expansion of redevelopment areas into residential zones. Opponents of the plan, which is still in informal stages, have already begun campaigning against it. Cox spoke in support of the idea, at least in broad terms, but acknowledged the opposition when she said some in the city “believe redevelopment is a negative word.”

Many of the initiatives and projects Cox touched on in her speech Tuesday are the same ones she discussed last year, although there has been progress on a few of them. In March of 2009, Cox urged the Unified Port of San Diego to approve a land swap with developer Pacifica, something that was accomplished earlier this year. Cox also lamented last year that progress on removing the

South Bay Power Plant “inches forward too slowly,” while this year has seen significant progress in that arena. Two of the plant’s four generators have been shuttered and regulatory challenges to the plant’s operations are ongoing.

Scott Vinson, president- elect of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce, said he thought Cox’s speech hit on some positive developments in the city, and that she struck a more optimistic tone than in years past.

“I thought that in comparison to other years she was on a more positive flow. And rightfully so … she’s got more (good news) to work with,” he said.

Same hardships face city