Pat Murphy….I was shocked to see how few Vistans attended the last City Council meeting. I counted only 56 people in the audience, plus two Sheriff Deputies. At the conclusion of the meeting I was able to discern that 4 observers were actually students attending the Vista City Council meeting for a grade.
Over the past year many important issues have filled the Assembly room at the Vista Civic Center. I personally have attended 2 such meetings where attendees could not find seats and students were asked to move to the lobby to watch the proceeding.
The meeting just held on March 28 had an unusual assortment of Discussion items on the agenda. One of these Discussion items resulted in the Vista City Council approving 2 resolutions that will forever change the political face of Vista. Yet very few Vistans were on hand to see or to comment on this historic moment.
Per a unanimous vote by Mayor Judy Ritter and the four seated Council Members, John Aguilera, Amanda Young Rigby, John Franklin and Joe Green, the city of Vista will proceed to create 4 Council Districts. Two City Council members will be elected by District voting starting in 2018. Two more Council seats will be decided in 2020 and that will end forever the at-large elections for City Council in the City of Vista.
All four current City Council members expressed their opposition to this change. Joe Green adamantly opposed it saying he believed this would be bad for his city. He pointed out that he grew up in North Vista where he still has friend and relatives. He asserted that the current City Council takes care of ALL parts of the city. Green also said “Districting will divide the city”. If you know Joe and how passionate he can be, then you will believe it when I tell you he ranted for a full two minutes.
Following behind Joe Green, an equally unhappy John Franklin said, “Council Member Green said most of the things I was thinking and then some!”. Amanda Rigby stated “The system is rigged against us!”. She was referring to the legislation enacted by the State of California. John Aguilera strongly expressed his feelings as he said, “The way it is now 5 people fight for projects all over the city. We don’t see color in Vista! It’s better to think of the city as a whole”
Why then, when all of our elected officials dislike this change, did they vote unanimously to approve it? It turns out that many small cities in California have felt the same way our city feels. Many cities have stood up to fight the imposition of California Election Code 10010(e)(3)(A). Several cities have held elections and felt they were following the wishes of their citizens by refusing to give up electing their City Council members conducting city wide elections. They all lost and thanks to a law firm that is capitalizing on this “awful” State mandate, they lost millions of tax payer’s money.
Essentially the Vista City Council felt like a gun had been placed to their heads. They had no choice but to vote approval if they were going to act in the best interests of Vista residents. This evening’s City Council approval vote started a 90 day clock ticking. It started a process of 4 community meetings. Tonight’s meeting was the initial meeting. At the next regular scheduled Council meeting a consulting firm (NDC) will present a map of 4 Districts. Each district will contain approximately 23,459 residents. The third meeting will be for presenting adjustments to those district maps based on feedback and /or new maps offered for consideration by the public. The last meeting will be for the approval of the four new City Council districts.
Dr. Justin Levin, the Vice President of NDC (National Demographics Corporation), was asked to explain what his services would bring to the 90 day process. NDC has served clients as varied as community service districts, water districts, school districts, cities, counties, and states for over 29 years. NDC has been responsible for successfully districting and redistricting more local governments than any other agency.
Dr. Levin is aware that Vista’s Latino population (around 48%) is similar to the State of California which has an overall Latino population of almost 40%. It was noted that if you look only at registered voters the Latino percentage in Vista drops to around 30%. However, Dr. Levin told us that his determinations are not based on just ethnicity. Ethnicity is just one factor that can be used. Other factors include income, age, vacancy rates, natural borders, areas of common interest, and rental vs ownership. Dr. Levin went on to say that the District areas need to be compact, contiguous, and respect voter’s wishes. It sounds like a complicated formula and I look forward to seeing what the results are.
Earlier in my article I mentioned that the Discussion issues at this City Council meeting were very diverse. Also on the agenda were a “Resident Reward Coin” and a “Dog Memorial at South Buena Vista Park”. Council Member Joe Green was suggesting that a coin be designed for use by the Mayor and City Council members to recognize Vista residents who have made a significant contribution to the City of Vista and their fellow residents. They all agreed and are going to work with local artists to come up with a design for such a coin. The design will be presented at a future meeting for approval.
The memorial “Rainbow Bridge” at South Buena Vista Park was unanimously approved. This was the brain child of a Mr. Brian Syr and the memorial design and construction has been preliminarily done pending city approval. It is slated to become an Eagle Scout project for Life Scout Bradley Creasy from BSA Troop 747. Young Mr. Creasy and his father were there to support the project. If you have never before heard of the Rainbow Bridge I suggest you look up this poem on-line or at the Vista Library. It is a beautiful poem and has been used by thousands to help their young children deal with the loss of a beloved family pet.
Not an agenda Discussion item but still an important issue, a community concern, was brought before the City Council by Nancy B. Jones, President of the Woman’s Club of Vista. Jones was accompanied by her two fellow “Caped Community Crusaders”, the two leaders of a Vista movement, Sarah Spinks and Alexis Panchèvre. Go read my earlier story about this group called “ONLY LOSERS LITTER Strikes Again”. Nancy B. Jones informed the City Council of the efforts by the Only Losers Litter campaign. She also urged the City Council to establish a new program to deal with the ugly mess in the downtown area with cigarette butts. Patrons of downtown breweries and eateries are leaving their butts in the city flower beds. They do this even at the one establishment that has provided butt cans.
So, dear readers, I will leave you with these questions;
Will four City Districts divide Vista?
Will new leadership be found in all four Districts?
Will Four Districts be GOOD or BAD for Vista’s future?
Will Immigration Attorney, Erubey Lopez, finally get a seat on the City Council?
Will City leaders be able to stop Vista Downtown from looking like a butt can?
If you have answers to these questions or if you have questions of your own about these changes to our city government, you can send them to www.theVistapress.com.