The Coast News Group

Vista Council candidates John Aguilera and Steve Gronke

VISTA — Planning commissioner John Aguilera is throwing his hat in the ring for the first time. His goal is to utilize his nearly 20 years of experience as a financial adviser to help the city weather the present economic downturn.
“I see what’s coming down the road,” Aguilera said. “Given the people that are running, I think I can do a better job.”
As planning commissioner and one-time head of that commission, Aguilera has had a role in Vista’s redevelopment and growth. He said he now wants to serve on the council so he can shape these policies more directly.
“Whatever we do, whatever we build, it’s going to be there for the next 50 years,” he said.
In particular, he said he wanted to make sure all of the projects funded by the 2006 Proposition L sales tax get built. He worried that the new sports park might never get built, particularly when placed in competition with the two new fire stations and a city hall whose construction is already over budget.
“The sports complex is just kind of hanging out there right now,” he said. “It’s on the bottom of the list … We don’t have enough parks in this city. We need to start making those types of projects a priority.”
Commercial growth is also a hot issue for Aguilera.
“I do want to improve the look of Vista,” he said. “I want to clean it up. I’m in favor of redevelopment.” Aguilera pointed out that while the downtown area has gotten the lion’s share of attention, many other commercial areas are in dire need of improvement.
“No one feels comfortable walking down South Santa Fe (Avenue) right now … and there’s nothing to walk to anyways,” he said. “We need to develop it like we developed the Krikorian corridor.”
At the same time, Aguilera cautioned, Vista needs to steer away from an all-retail commercial sector. “We need to bring in high tech businesses — the businesses which really bring in big money,” he said.
Aguilera is married and has three children. He is endorsed by Mayor Morris Vance, Councilman Robert Campbell, and as of Aug. 25, the Republican Party of San Diego County.
Teacher and two-term councilman Steve Gronke has made youth issues a priority in his last eight years in office.
Gronke was a strong proponent of the unique new North County Trade Tech High School in Vista, which offers a construction-oriented vocational curriculum. The councilman said that children in Vista need an alternative to traditional, college-focused education. Though the construction market is slow at the moment, Gronke thinks this won’t be an issue for the freshman starting this fall.
“Their jobs are five years out, and by then the economy will turn around so I really think it’s a great opportunity,” he said.
He also pointed to his involvement in pursuing the current gang injunction, which restricts the congregation of known gang members in several public areas of the city. Gronke said the injunction was a big factor in reducing crime and keeping kids off the streets over the last three years.
“I think the gang injunction was helpful … because it gave people within the community some security they never had before,” Gronke said. “It gave confidence that the city and government could have some control.”
Gronke has been a proponent of Vista’s renovation and redevelopment but along specific guidelines. He said he wants to preserve the city’s semi-rural nature while updating the downtown to take advantage of the Sprinter corridor.
“Vista is kind of that hometown homespun area,” he said. “You can still go to parts of Vista with the nice winding roads and the eucalyptus-lined streets that really have some character to them. … There is no reason you shouldn’t put the condos and the downtown right by the Sprinter station. I see no reason to put the densities in the back country.”
Gronke was a strong advocate for the Proposition L sales tax.
“Obviously Prop. L is a wonderful thing for Vista,” he said. “I like the idea of the new fire stations that expanded our department by a quarter. I’d like to think that when this economic downturn turns around we can do the same for the Sheriff’s Department.”
“City Hall was kind of a hard sell, but I think people are going to realize that. Vista really is on the move,” he added.
Gronke said that he and the current council have accomplished a lot together and that he would be happy to see the current lineup continue into the near future.
“I like working with my peers,” he said. “I think everybody on that council is there to help out the city.”
Gronke is married with two children and is endorsed by the Vista Firefighters Association, the San Diego County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and fellow Councilman Robert Campbell.