Where you from?

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Bob Castaneda couldn’t call Chula Vista home until last year.

Linda Wagner didn’t move to the city until November.

For some voters, that might be enough reason to dismiss the city council hopefuls. The notion of electing someone to City Hall who wasn’t born or bred in this city is as appealing as voting for somebody other than Jessica Sanchez on American Idol. After all, there’s no hero like a hometown hero.

It’s a parochial way of thinking.

The notion that someone is a better leader based on where they were born or what grade school they attended is as silly as believing Philip Rivers isn’t an effective Chargers quarterback because he was born in Alabama. Skills and talent matter more than birthplace and zip code.

Of course, having lived in a city or neighborhood for a significant period has its advantages. Stay somewhere long enough and you develop a feel for a place’s personality. You start to see what works, what doesn’t work and what needs improving.  That’s harder to do if you’ve only lived somewhere for a short while. Harder but not impossible. Just ask Mayor Cheryl Cox.

Cox has lived in this city for decades. She’s seen this city when it’s east side was just a collection of rolling hills covered with grass and the west side was where all the action was.

Opposed to district elections in Chula Vista, Cox says she is no less an effective leader simply because she has not lived in some of the city’s older, rundown neighborhoods. Ask her and she’ll probably tell you that not being from a particular barrio does not immediately disqualify her from being this city’s mayor.

While her effectiveness may be up for debate, Cox does have a point: You don’t necessarily have to be from Castle Park, for example, to do what’s best for that neighborhood (though again, being from there does have its advantages).

The same reasoning can be applied to Castaneda and Wagner, who are running for seats 3 and 4 respectively.  Just because they were not born or didn’t go to school in Chula Vista doesn’t mean they are not qualified to sit on the city council.

Not even the city’s charter stipulates that Chula Vista must be a representative’s birthplace or that a certain period of residency makes one qualified to serve on the council. Former mayor Steve Padilla lived a long time in Chula Vista before becoming mayor. So did former councilman and current Sweetwater Union High School Board member John McCann. How’d that work out for voters?

And while it’s fair to question the timing of their moves to the city, it shouldn’t be the sole reason for dismissing them as candidates. That’s what political campaigns and platforms are for. You hear candidates’ ideas, you listen to their pitches, and evaluate their skill. Combine that with your own ideas of what qualities a leader should have and maybe then you develop a fuller profile of the person you want representing you on the council. But to dismiss them solely because they are not born and bred on your block? That’s just dumb.

Wagner and Castaneda aren’t from Chula Vista. So what? They live here now.


2 Responses to “Where you from?”

  1. David Danciu Says:

    While it is true that both of these candidates have moved to Chula Vista to qualify to be a council representative, Linda has worked at city hall for 8 years and both her and Bob C. have close ties to the community. Thanks for the essay, Carlos

  2. John Parker Says:

    Love Chula Vista, lived out here for 20 years.