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Election 2020: Vista City Council

VISTA — Some are presenting big, bold ideas. Others look into the weeds to see how to address some of the more long-term, pressing issues such as homelessness.

On Nov. 3, Vista residents in Districts 2 and 3 will choose among a quartet of candidates to represent them for the next four years. District 2 features challenger Katie Melendez and Amanda Rigby, who was first elected in 2012, while District 4 features Joe Green, running for re-election, and challenger Elizabeth Perez.

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all aspects of life, but the candidates also looked at economic recovery and future possibilities for the city once the pandemic subsides.

City budget, economy

Since the pandemic hit, the city has balanced its budget and done other things such as suspending permitting fees, easing signage restrictions and opening up some public areas to allow businesses to cope with capacity restrictions.

The city has been able to balance its budget, but each candidate said keeping close tabs on the budget is a priority. Perez said looking at state and federal grants for infrastructure and emergency response services, while also leveraging partnerships and funding to improve parks and roads is a priority.

Melendez said medicinal marijuana revenue has been a benefit, while it is important to encourage growth so the city can do more. She wants to use surplus funds to benefit the community through various programs or enhanced services.

Rigby, meanwhile, said it is important for the government to get out of the way and allow businesses the easiest path to success. Also, she said leveraging new policies due to the pandemic can help change the city’s course and spur growth and revitalize downtrodden areas.

Green said he wants to continue to “unpack” to make decisions, especially with public safety. He said with limited capacity, even into next year, the city has to remain creative and forward-thinking to ensure those businesses can survive and even flourish.

Sunroad Plaza, economic recovery

The Sunroad Plaza development project in District 3 is one neither Rigby nor Melendez supports. Rigby voted against the project, which will construct at least four drive-through restaurants at the intersection of Hacienda and Vista Village drives just south of State Route 78.

Neither see the upside and discussed how the city is looking forward and drawing in higher-paying jobs in various industries.

Melendez said it starts with connecting with civic engagement and said COVID-19 is forcing the city and residents to innovate to secure more higher-paying jobs. She, along with the other candidates, said keeping or expanding some of the new policies relating to outdoor dining, signage and others, will benefit the local economy in the future.

Rigby said she also supports fewer restrictions, but at the same time is cautious about access to public parking. Still, she said the idea of looking to spread fewer restrictions post-COVID across the city can help drive the recovery.

Rigby said there is vacant space across from the Vista Superior Court, so those areas are a target for the city as well.

5 Big Moves

As the pandemic rages on, one regional proposal has been causing controversy for more than a year. The San Diego Association of Governments’ “5 Big Moves” is just that, as the plan is calling for a $177 billion transit project to include more trains, buses, transit hubs and technology to get drivers off the highways.

Rigby is one of the biggest skeptics, recalling a meeting she attended with SANDAG officials who were laughing at the Sprinter, the train running from Oceanside to Escondido. She said it was referred to as a “boondoggle” and now SANDAG wants to double-track the lines.

She also railed against the proposal eliminating lanes on SR78 and to add a managed lane, or toll lane, like on Interstate 15.

Green, meanwhile, also has reservations about the plan, saying it should be revisited as the pandemic has changed the workplace environment. He said North County is trying to come up with a compromise, noting SANDAG’s ridership projections are coming up short.

“There’s a lot of things they’ve promised,” he said, “where they said they are allocating money and now going back on. We have to provide adequate infrastructure. Spending all that money on trains and buses doesn’t make sense to me.”

Perez said she is in favor of the plan, noting she also supports electrifying the city’s fleet of vehicles. She said SANDAG’s plan is a step in the right direction to fight climate change, meet climate goals and if nothing is done, it’s a missed opportunity to create a robust clean energy economy.

Melendez said it is important to invest to grow ridership and connect working people with jobs. She said with no connected transportation, the ability for economic progress cannot succeed, especially with lower-income residents.

About the candidates

Rigby is currently the Deputy Mayor who was first elected in 2012 and is a former paralegal, who stepped down from her job to focus on the council. Green, elected in 2016, owns his own real estate business, Green Team Realty, and sits on several boards in his role as a councilman.

Melendez is a social worker and formerly served in Americorp. Perez owns GC Green, Inc., which she started in 2010 and also worked as Deputy Secretary at the California Department of Veteran Affairs in 2018.