Vista del Mar (“View of the Ocean”) is a condominium project being developed on the corner of Third Avenue and K Street on the west side of Chula Vista. The project will consist of about 70 condominiums with a very small retail area. While there has been strong opposition from its neighbors, this development is being touted as the “catalyst” needed for the area. There is just one tiny, wincy, little problem with the project and why it should be the poster child for bad planning by the city of Chula Vista: The project will convert 20,000 square feet of commercial space to 600 square feet of commercial space with the rest being residential. Losing that much commercial space in exchange for residential means is exactly why the city is facing a gargantuan infrastructure deficit.
Pokémon GO is this year’s Angry Birds with a HUGE twist – the difference is that players have to play the game in the real world. To say that this game is popular is a bit of an understatement. What video game has ever had this reaction?:
This November, the city of Chula Vista will be putting a measure on the ballot to impose an additional half-cent sales tax for ten years. With a 4-1 vote (Councilmember John McCann voted in opposition), the measure will head to the ballot:
Tax increase headed for November vote
The reason for this is simple – the city has fallen woefully behind on its infrastructure upkeep (to the tune of over half a billion dollars). That means that roads are falling apart, fire and police stations are behind schedule in getting remodeled, and critical systems are in dire need of repair. The city hopes to gather an additional $15 million a year from the new tax, but more importantly, to use the future tax as collateral to float a city bond for larger projects.
Imposing this new tax will merely add a bandaid to a fiscal hemorrhage. While this additional money would help a little, it’s the wrong approach to an ongoing endemic problem. The real problem is the huge imbalance in costs and revenue. First, the costs: about sixty percent of the city’s budget goes to fire and safety. The rest of the money must be divided by the rest of the city needs including park maintenance, road repair, graffiti removal, city lights, libraries, sewers, etc.
(See Part 1)
What Are Bonds?
Pure and simple, bonds are loans that government entities (like cities and school districts) take out that taxpayers pay via their property taxes. These loans are usually needed because the entity would like to have new construction or remodel old infrastructure. Once the bonds have been approved by voters, residents pay for these bonds (with added interest) for decades to come.
Think of bonds as second mortgages or home lines of credit. Bonds will continue to be a monkey on the residents’ backs years way after the money borrowed has been spent. For example, take a look at a school district in San Diego that is paying $1 billion in interest for $100 million in borrowing:
Where Borrowing $105 Million Will Cost $1 Billion: Poway Schools
Do you smell that? Do you smell something that smells like fertilizer? You should. It’s the smell that bonds put out and the city of Chula Vista, Sweetwater Union High School District (“SUHSD”) and Southwestern College (“SWC”) are all testing the water to see if the time is right to issue new bonds:
Voters may be asked to decide how to spend money
Chula Vista’s Taxes May Skyrocket To Fund Bond Measures For Infrastructure, Schools
School board considering another bond
Cities and school districts have been waiting for years to propose new bonds. They couldn’t propose them while we were in a recession but as the economy improves so do the chances for bonds to be approved by voters.
Bonds are basically huge loans which are advertised as needed to repair crucial infrastructure or build new construction but are, unfortunately, often misspent. Some misspending comes from gold-plated projects, and/or contractors who are able to change the costs easily after they get the contract. Regrettably, there is no accountability for the misspending after the money has already been spent and the elected officials have already moved on.
When you think of your local library, you normally think books, right? How about a museum? Or, how about a high-tech lab for students? These are things you normally don’t expect to find at a library but you will soon find them at the Chula Vista Library Civic Center branch.
Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab
Coming soon to the Chula Vista library is a Qualcomm “Thinkabit Lab.” Qualcomm created these “labs” to stimulate interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers. A Thinkabit Lab is a hands-on classroom for middle school age kids to learn about high tech and foster interest of STEM concepts. By actually working on projects, they remove the mystery of technology and learn that a lot of creativity goes into engineering. Part of the aim is to expand the horizons of the middle school kids and to inspire those who might want to follow this career path. According to the Thinkabit website:
“Open government” is a fundamental democratic principle in this nation and something that separates us from lesser democratic ones. One of the ways to show that government is “open” is by showing with whom the elected official is meeting. As former San Diego Council Member Donna Frye noted, “The public has a right to know who is meeting with their elected officials and why.” Without transparency on meetings, a culture of secrecy emerges making it easier to have the cliche “back-room” deals.