TR Robertson –A mid-day crowd of around 100 citizens of Vista filled the conference room at the Vista Civic Center on Thursday to listen to the candidates for Mayor and the two City Council districts up for election in November. The Candidate Forum was presented by the Vista Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee as their monthly meeting, giving candidates an additional chance to present their positions on issues significant to the City of Vista. The format for this presentation, led by Government Affairs chairperson Steve Harrington, allowed the candidates to give a short introduction about themselves followed by questions for them to respond to designed by the Vista Chamber of Commerce, then quick Yes-No Paddle selections of statements where candidates could show their personal support of an issue.
In attendance for the Candidate Forum was, for Mayor of Vista, Dominic D’Agostini, Joe Green and Judy Ritter; for City Council member of District 1, John Aguilera and Corinna Contreras; for City Council member of District 4, John Franklin and Tazheen Nizam. James Stuckrad, also running for City Council member of District 4, was not in attendance.
Part II – Continuing the Chamber questions from the Candidates Forum the candidates each fielded questions from the chamber.
The second Chamber question dealt with the candidate’s positions on single and multi-family housing developments for the city.
Corinna Contreras – we can handle more homes and a dense Vista as long as it is affordable housing for citizens and the proper infrastructure is followed.
Dominic D’Agostini – Cost is a key issue and streamlining the building permit process is needed. Investment in the community by developers must be part of the development process.
Joe Green – Growth is inevitable, we need to stay ahead of State and Federal restrictions, improving intersections and traffic flow must be taken into account.
Judy Ritter – Mayor Ritter pointed out the number of single family homes, condos, affordable housing projects that were approved last year and reminded the audience that if continued building did not continue in Vista they would be forced to accept guidelines established by the state that would not be appropriate for Vista’s future.
John Franklin – stated that the desire for single family homes would bring in long term residents with families that would be good for Vista’s economy by increasing the tax base. Also said the building of these homes would require the developers to help improve the roadway systems around the projects.
Tazheen Nizam – pointed out that traffic management would be key to the growth of any housing developments. She indicated it would be wise to look into parking structures for some projects and reassessing the traffic times at intersections.
John Aguilera – served on the Planning Commission in 2004 establishing a relationship with many of the developers building projects in Vista which helps when discussing the needs of Vista in respect to the project. He also said building homes and other housing developments near business parks helps control some of the traffic concerns for those that work in the business parks.
The third Chamber question was a “hot topic” and some in the audience reacted to some of the candidate’s responses with scattered applause.
Mr. Harrington asked each candidate to discuss their opinion on two of the propositions on the ballots that could have a long last effect on the Vista business community. The two propositions are Prop Z – Citizen’s Medical Cannabis Business Initiative of 2017 which would authorize commercial storefront retail sales and possibly allowing up to 11 dispensaries to be established and Prop BB – city Council Cannabis Business Ordinance which would authorize commercial delivery of medicinal cannabis to homes in Vista using 3 retailers outside of the Vista community. There is an additional proposition – Prop AA – city Council Cannabis Business Tax which would establish a city tax to tax cultivation of cannabis at a rate of $14 a square foot and 8% tax on gross receipts.
Dominic D’Agostini – supports Prop Z and reminded the audience that the sale of cannabis is coming one way or another and establish our own policies and procedures would be more beneficial.
Joe Green – Supports Prop Z saying he feels there would not be 11 dispensaries relating that there are only 9 Starbucks in the Vista area when some felt there might be more. He also said we should take advantage of the money the dispensaries would generate tax dollars.
Judy Ritter – Supports BB as she feels the dispensaries target our children and disagreed with the comparison of Starbucks numbers to possible dispensary numbers. She also felt the increased use of marijuana will eventually end up as problems on our roadways.
John Franklin – Supports BB as he feels there is no established control on where these dispensaries might be established and fears they could be in areas near schools, churches, parks or other city areas the public might not want such a business.
Tazheen Nizam – Supports Z only if we could ensure the safe control of dispensaries, where they should go and how much they could really help the city financially.
John Aguilera – Supports BB stating “money is not everything, especially when it comes to an issue like this”.
Corinna Contreras – Supports Z saying only if we have control of the steps to bring this type of business into the city. We need to start thinking forward and control our own future.
The fourth chamber question dealt with how we should deal with the Homeless Issues facing our city.
Joe Green – Felt we have a number of services that could and do assist where they can with the homeless problem. He also felt the Sheriff’s Task Force does the best they can when called on.
Judy Ritter – She agreed with Mr. Green and said the Council has agreed to add another Deputy Sheriff. Mayor Ritter also reminded the audience that there are a number of homeless who refuse assistance, choosing the life they live. Mayor Ritter also said the Council is hiring someone on staff who will assist with dealing with issues that arise with homeless in Vista.
John Franklin – Also said he has personally seen homeless camps in the city and many of those in the camps would rather be there than in some county or state facility. He said many of the state ordinances have not helped ease the problem.
Tazheen Nizam – she has worked with Operation Hope to help many of the homeless in our community. She also mentioned problems with many of the people arrested and released from the jail who have nowhere to go when released and then become part of the homeless problem. The other issue is the closing of the mental health services facilities taking away a component that could assist many of the homeless.
John Aguilera – this is a National and a State problem. We should do a better job of helping those that need help and use groups like Solutions for Change. We also need to make areas in our community safe for our citizens.
Corinna Contreras – we need to develop strategies to arrive at solutions to the homeless problem. The jail issues are a problem. We need to develop a better housing model to assist the homeless.
Dominic D’Agostini – programs do exist in our area to help with the homeless issue, but more are needed. We need to research what other towns like ours are doing to help with their homeless problem. Rehabilitation is needed and housing is needed.
The final Chamber question asked the candidates to state what they felt is the biggest issue facing Vista over the next 5 years.
Judy Ritter – the marijuana issue if it passes, traffic and housing
John Franklin – the marijuana issue, traffic, public safety, blight in the community
Tazheen Nizam – downtown reinvestment, increasing art in the community, housing development, traffic flow, increasing business
Corinna Contreras – issues of economic opportunity for the young people, education opportunities for young people and planning a city for the future.
Dominic D’Agostini – traffic flow, working with the County, promoting and protecting our growing tourism industry, making areas safe around our city.
Joe Green – growth management, housing, proper infrastructure.
The final part of the Chamber Candidate Forum involved reading statements which candidates would raise a Yes or No paddle showing their rejection or approval. Several of the statements first read concerned issues the Mayor and Council people could not respond to as they dealt with pending issues for the City Council.
Some of the questions the candidates did respond to dealt with a Trader Joe’s request to have the city pay for underground utilities if they were to open a store in Vista, the establishment of a parking structure in Vista, Community Choice Energy programs, and all responded Yes to establishing more dog parks in Vista. One unusual questions brought out a bit of discussion. The question was – Is it the cities role to make sure everyone is economically equal? Some of the responses dealt with economics and some dealt with equality and opportunity.
Each candidate ended the Forum thanking everyone for attending, encouraging everyone to vote in November and stating a reason people should support and vote for them.
Many important decisions coming up in November. Educate yourselves, read the information provided, read the Propositions carefully and Vote Wisely.
Information available in the article entitled – 2018 Election Information – Candidates & Ballot Measures