NEW YEAR ALL OVER AGAIN

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Yes, Yogi, you were right. It is like “deja vu all over again” .

In the waning moments of 2011, Sweetwater Union High School District officials past and present had their homes raided by the District Attorney’s office. Perhaps the only people not stunned by news that investigators were rummaging through the personal belongings of board member Pearl Quiñones or knocking on the front door of Arlie Ricasa —to name but two people facing corruption charges against them—were those in the inner circles of law enforcement and the school district.

SUHSD isn’t Las Vegas. What happens in the district doesn’t stay in the district. If you want to know who is in line for a promotion, who is on their way out or who is going to have to lawyer up chances are most of that information can be heard at the district board meetings. You just need to know which people to sit next to.

But if you’re a district employee there is an unspoken penalty for speaking out of turn or even being seen with the wrong people. At least, that’s the message outsiders hear time and again when they drop in and start asking questions.

As one individual wrote in an email.

Thank you again for covering this story.  Many teachers have not been able to speak out for years due to the culture of retribution in our district.  I would like to remain anonymous as a result of this.

The sentiment was prompted by yet another legal blast in the ongoing Sweetwater corruption saga. The grand jury on Dec. 28 announced it was indicting its own set of suspects connected to the the school district.

Whether the timing of the announcement was intended to be symbolic or merely coincidental doesn’t make much difference to weary employees who are sick of learning about leadership’s alleged corruption at press conferences, or of parents who, really, just want their kids to get the best education minus the drama. Is that too much to ask? A reasonable person would say no. But if you watch what happens at the district on a daily basis and speak up in hope righting wrongs, speaking out could get you in trouble.

The corruption trial involving former Superintendent Jesus Gandara, Quiñones, Ricasa and others is supposed to begin in February. On Jan.7 the figures in the grand jury action will be in court for arraignment. High profile cases like these generally get tongues wagging. Of course, for those who choose to be mute for fear of losing their jobs or being retaliated against, there are other ways of getting a message across.

“I have been present at numerous SUHSD board meetings to listen to the antics and folly of these inept, corrupt figureheads.  I have created three visuals for your use.”

To see a related video, click here.

 

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CHECKING IN

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Throughout the year law enforcement agencies in Chula Vista, National City and the rest of the county set up DUI checkpoints to catch motorists driving under the influence of a mind altering substance, be it drugs or alcohol.

Many of the police departments use their personnel to man these outposts with overtime pay funded by state and federal coffers, so the money isn’t being tapped from general funds.

But how effective are DUI checkpoints at catching drunk/drugged drivers? Consider that in September when Chula Vista police set up a checkpoint, 1,229 vehicles drove through the area which ultimately led to five people being arrested for driving under the influence. But the department did impound 15 vehicles that night for various offenses as well as issuing a number of citations.As anyone who has ever had their car impounded will tell you, reclaiming your vehicle ain’t cheap. Court fees, impound fees, fines…the penalty could get close to $1,000 before all is said and done. That’s good news for the agencies who rely on those sources of revenue for part of their budget. What’s unclear is how much safer DUI checkpoints make the streets.

So the question then, is what are you thoughts on DUI checkpoints? Click here to vote.

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Sail away on our Bay

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The famed tall ship Lady Washington is harbored in Chula Vista for a short time. The ship, which has been used in movies and television, is moored at the California Yacht Marina, 640 Marina Parkway in Chula Vista through Dec. 18. Take the opportunity to tour this wooden ship or, better yet, join the crew when they set sail next weekend. Below is the ship’s schedule:

12/11-14: Walk-on tours, 4-5 p.m. No reservation required, but $3 donation requested.

12/15-16: Walk-on tours, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. No reservation required, but $3 donation requested.

12/15-16: Adventure Sail, 2-5 p.m. $39 all ages.

12/18: Walk-on tours, 4-5 p.m. No reservation required, but $3 donation requested

For more information log  onto www.historicalseaport.org or call 1-800-200-5239.

 

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The holiday story returns

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The annual holiday tale, “La Pastorella” is set to begin its run  in just a couple of weeks at the Lyceum Theater in Horton Plaza.

“La Pastorela de Creencia” is a contemporary twist on the traditional story of the shepherds’ journey to Bethlehem to witness the first Christmas.  Called to action by Archangels Michael and Gabriel, the shepherds face temptation and danger from evil Lucifer and his nasty minions.  The bilingual script is primarily in English with beautiful Christmas carols sung in Spanish.

The critically acclaimed play is written by Southwestern College professor Max Branscomb.

“La Pastorela de Creencia” runs Dec. 13-16 and 19-22 at 7:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. Dec. 15, 16, 22 and 23 .  Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students, military and groups and $7 for children under 12 or groups of 10 or more.  For reservations call (619) 544-1000.

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XOLOS!

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Fans gather inside the stadium waiting for kickoff.

 

 

In the stadium most everyone was seated. Marshaled in the south, a band of men and women stood with flags the same color as their black and red painted faces squinting into the sun.

Drummers descended first, punctuating each step down the concrete stairs in a unified rhythm. The trumpets followed and both vanguards spread out over the plastic seats no one would use.

Thousands chanted, propelling the flag bearers down and over the bleachers and heralding wave after wave of believers closer to the field.

“Xolos! Xolos! Xolos!”

Fidel Martinez heard them. Saw them. Felt them. The Ecuadorian forward relentlessly pursued the ball and forced his will onto the men of Leon. If his runs were occasionally aimless or his passes misdirected, he was no less determined to carry the Xolos onto victory.

"Xolos! Xolos! Xolos!"

That moment arrived when Duvier Riascos —the forward whose dazzling step-overs and genteel pirouettes with the ball were stifled by vindictive opponents—drew a defender and casually back heeled a pass to Martinez. With one left-footed touch, the 22-year-old blasted the ball into the right side of the net and hoisted the hopes of 23,000 people onto his shoulders.

But it was Riascos’s score in the second half that pushed the assembled crowd to the brink of euphoria and Richard Ruiz’s clinching goal near the end that unleashed the screams and shouts of ecstasy. The Xolos had won. They had earned the right to play in the final. They had lifted Tijuana and carried it through.

The flags waved through the night.

For a related video click here.

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La Celebration

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It is Sunday. Outside the stadium those left behind linger, listening, the rhythm that had floated among them in the dirt lot having drifted into the stands.

Young boys weave through gaps between men and women, cup after cup of beer rising above their darting heads on the concourse. A father, surrounded by women in tight clothes emblazoned with the name of soft drink, hoists his daughter upon the shoulders of a plastic and heroic xolo. Nearby another woman entices a security guard into moving with her as she rocks her hips gently in time with the music. Boom, boom, boom, boom.

The players arrive on the field now. The opposition is introduced. And harassed. They are men in anatomy only.

No one is seated.

Quickly the boys of Tijuana press their advantage, imposing themselves on the striped shirts from Monterrey. Despite their initial miscues and confused runs, the Xoloitzcuntles overwhelm their opponents in the midfield. Challenges for the ball are sloppy. But won.

Ruiz streaks down the right unmarked, unabated. Unseen by Riascos and the attack must start over. But they are moving the ball. Possessing the field. The crowd roars its approval.

For 90 minutes members of La Masakr3 sing, willing their team to victory.

Again a hard challenge is won and the ball is sent up the field. La Masacre waits. Anticipates. Everyone behind the goal stands on their seats relentlessly singing and willing the ball toward them.

Riascos finds it. Makes contact with it. Strikes the ball with the force of a small blast and watches it move in a straight line at the top of the crossbar. And over. And into the stands.

But the people love it and their singing grows louder and their commitment deepens.

It is their evening. They and their team belong here tonight. Destiny has escorted them to this stage, two rounds removed from the championship match.

Outside the stadium they listen and linger.

 

To see a related video, click here.

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What’s up with turkey in 2012?

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My sister-in-law grew up in Texas and by all accounts, deep fried turkey is the way to go.

My Californian native brother and I were not convinced, however. Last year we gave it a shot. It was quite the adventure!

Large devices with really hot boiling oil and children running rampant have all the makings of a call to 911. Luckily, amid the screams and cheers, came laughter when the only real calamity was a plastic ladle —used without forethought— melted .

Thanksgiving Day carries a true immediate thought of turkey and for many non-vegans is a must . But, do you really know anything about turkey’s? The tradition itself was self preservation and a bond between the America’s founding ancestors and an effort to live in a new nation harmoniously.

I had an experience of somewhat owning a turkey once, on my property in Ohio…it didn’t last long…they like to wander. It’s not to say they are one bulb shy, but turkey’s have no sense of their surroundings. They cling to the closest object and make their bond by literally latching onto your side.

I don’t know what we would have done if he, the turkey that remains nameless, hung around, but it is pretty clear he wanted no part of it. That short lived event didn’t change my mind. Personally, let me say for the record, a stuffed roasted turkey on Thanksgiving , begins the winter celebration of holidays.

However you enjoy yours and wherever you rest yourself on Thanksgiving, let us all remember the meaning of giving true “thanks “ on this day for the blessings we do have and look forward to a bountiful future.

Warmest Regards,
Margo G. Caffrey

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Have you ever deep fried a Turkey?

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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.

 

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Patience a foreign concept

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What have we learned in the six months Juergen Klinsmann has coached the U.S. Mens National Team?

Patience.

It’s not a virtue that comes easy to Americans. We’re the land of two-minute rice and instant pudding. A country that thrives on the promises of instant winners and quick fixes. To us the notion of waiting your turn is as foreign as patientia est virtus.

And yet we now have a foreigner telling us “Hold on. Not so fast.” What sort of un-American activity is that? If all goes as planned, it’s the sort that will bring improvement and international prominence to the U.S. soccer program.

Klinsmann’s tenure marks the end of a 16 year period in which the national team was led by an American coach. Using appearances in the World Cup as a barometer of success, the results weren’t abysmal but neither were they particularly noteworthy. Since ’98, when the team finished last under Steve Sampson, the Yanks have made it to the quarterfinals only once while dying in the group stage twice and Round of 16 once.

But using a different metric—some might call it an abstract one—the team has languished in the shadow of mediocrity. The team just has never been that good.

To be specific, it’s the U.S style of play that has been lacking. For nearly two decades, if not longer, the U.S. squad has been characterized as a scrappy bunch with a never-quit attitude (well, OK, there was ’98 but let’s leave that wound alone for now). Grit and determination are what pushed them forward. Rarely were the words skilled, talented or exceptional used as adjectives for the red, white and blue.

Of course there were individuals who could play the game with sweetness and precision, but on the whole Team USA was like the good looking executive who willed his way into the corner office rather than earning it with his ability to do a superior job. While they were not an afterthought, elite technical skills just weren’t in the U.S. repertoire.

U.S. coaches and their supporters argued the American futbol player is different than his global counterpart:  There’s something about their mentality that only another American could understand and relate to as coach.

True. Americans aren’t born to eat, breathe and live the game. But where coaches like Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena seemed resigned to live with that truism and work within its confines, Klinsmann—short of going on a nationwide impregnating tour– is intent on changing it.

The former German national team player and coach brings not only his success but his perspective to U.S. Soccer. Since taking over last summer Klinsmann has observed time and again that we are not a soccer culture. Our kids grow up with dreams of NFL and NBA stardom, spurred on by vociferous Pop Warner dads married to soccer moms who believe playing soccer is a good way for the kids to spend an afternoon, not make a living. It’s a way of thinking and living that’s as American as Apple Pie.

If the U.S. ever wants to raise its own championship trophy it must change its attitude toward the game. Photo: K.B. Binkowski

Klinsmann’s long term goal is to change that approach. He has to alter the way players and fans think about futbol and do so in a culture that wants everything done now. But as anyone else in the rest of the world might tell you, revolution and change don’t happen overnight.

That’s why the last six months seemed to have painfully dragged on. Outwardly, little appears to have changed with U.S. soccer. Despite their recent victories against Panama and Venezuela, their games have been characterized by long bouts of mediocrity peppered with moments of ineptitude or promise.

But just below the surface there are near intangible differences; subtle changes that over time should make a positive impact on the way soccer is played at the highest level in this country. On the whole, passes seem crisper and directed with more purpose. Klinssman has counseled his players—whether they be on the A, B, or C squad—to develop the ability to see not just where the game is, but where it will go. Developing that sixth sense, he has said, requires their immersion in the game throughout the year. They must eat, live and breathe futbol 24/7 and that’s why he has urged players in the domestic league to train overseas during the offseason. That notion—working harder with no guarantee of an immediate payoff— is but one example of how he is working to change the approach to the game.

Dynasties are not built in months or even years. The futbol dominance of Brazil, Italy, Germany or Argentina, for example, emerge as a result of those countries doing what seems to come naturally to them. The reality, however, is that those programs work hard at developing and sustaining those skills. But when you love, live and breathe what you do, it can hardly be thought of as work so much as passion.

That passion for the game hasn’t  landed stateside yet. But Klinsmann is working on it. He’s nurturing it in his players, from the ones who are on the senior squad all the way down to the youths strapping on their first set of boots. It’s just going to take time. And patience.

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And justicia for todos

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Marchers take to Avenida Independencia in Buenos Aires to pay their respects to Evita Peron.

Marchers take to Avenida Independencia in Buenos Aires to pay their respects to Evita Peron.

It’s an idea that resonates with everyone: Justice for everyone.

The theme is trotted out nearly every election cycle, be it in the United States or Argentina. It’s an effective, ear-catching platform. After all who would argue against people being treated fairly? Equally?

Perhaps no other political figure (accidental or not) embodied that sentiment more than Maria Eva Duarte de Peron: Evita. Well, maybe Argentina’s revolutionary export Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

But, unlike Evita, Che doesn’t have thousands of people crowding Buenos Aires streets to commemorate his death.

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