While potential voters munched on really good Hungry Bear Deli sandwiches, candidates gave introductions and then answered pre-set questions from the Vista Chamber of Commerce yesterday.
Bret Schanzenbach, chief executive officer for the Vista Chamber, spoke to me before the candidate forum held inside the Morris Vance Community Room in the Vista Civic Center and stated that with seven candidates running for three positions this year, they saw an opportunity to help the public get to know the local-level candidates.
“The main reason we’re here is to help the public get to know those who are running for office. So, they can hear things that are important to them, hear things they stand for, hear issues they believe in and support and get themselves educated before they go to the polls.”
He also added:
“We do this each year when elections come up. Each election cycle we just look at which races are actually competitive. “
Q & A
Candidates were asked questions about various topics, here are just several: the 6 AM question, border drop, and marijuana.
Q: What were you doing at 6 am this morning?
Mayor Judy Ritter: answering emails and texts
Councilman Cody Campbell: sleeping
Councilman Dave Cowles: getting ready to go to a “Regional Solid Waste” meeting.
Chrystal Coleman: making breakfast for her children
Councilman John Aguilera: cleaning house
John Franklin: reading the daily news
Erubey Lopez: getting ready to go to court. (He is an attorney)
Q: “Border-drop” agreement (sharing of municipal resources across boundaries in emergencies with Carlsbad and Oceanside) Would you continue it?
Councilman John Aguilera: Yes. “I think this is a great program,” he said. “In addition to that I think we have an agreement with the county. If your family is in danger, you’re going to want [the quickest] response time which is going to be the closest ambulance or fire service that’s available, and I will continue to support this.” He would also like to get San Marcos and other cities involved.
John Franklin: Yes, he supports the concept, but he wants an annual report made to the city council by the fire chief, where they can then discuss response times based on historical data to decide whether or not it’s still in Vista’s best interests. “Based on what our firefighters have told me, this is the fastest way … for our citizens to get response. So, whatever creates fastest response, I support.”
Erubey Lopez: Yes. “Fires and earthquakes don’t stop at boundaries, so I support [it] very much, and I would work really hard to make sure San Marcos comes up on board.”
Mayor Judy Ritter: Yes. “I absolutely agree. I support the border drop.” It has the best response in an emergency. I know Jim Desmond [Mayor of San Marcos], but they have not agreed to come along with us right now. But maybe one day they will change their mind.”
Councilman Cody Campbell: Yes. “I support border drop, but I think we need to make some changes to it. One of those being that we need to make sure that under the current system that our Vista residents have the resources here in Vista when they need it. You know, we need to add back our ambulance that was mothballed years ago, that the council took out of service. We need another ambulance in service in Vista. We need to make sure that we have the best response times possible.” He did later add this: “But I’m going to take it one step further and say that I really want to push the regional consolidation of our fire departments so that we can potentially save millions of dollars in duplicative administrative costs and put those dollars to work in the field working to put more firefighters in the community, not behind desks doing administration.”
Councilman Dave Cowles: Yes. “I agree with the border drop, it was one of the smartest things to happen several years ago when the three cities combined their resources to provide the best possible emergency services to our residents. Again we should try to recruit other cities like San Marcos to be a part of it. The more we can regionalize these services, the better off our population will be.” Cowles believes that since “our borders are very close” an effort should be made to take care of people in any of the cities in harm’s way, and further stated the idea for regionalization should be revived to benefit the area as well.
Chrystal Coleman: Yes. “I also support the border drop, but one issue that I see with it is that there may be instances where Vista residents may get … inadequate response times because ambulances may be serving other communities. I would love to see our ambulance brought back. I think that’s something we need to focus on, and we need to invest in, for our community and public safety.”
Q: What about medical marijuana, plants, businesses?
Erubey Lopez: Yes. “I think that the decision about your health needs to be left between your doctor and yourself. If you’re going to say ‘free market,’ if you’re going to say ‘no government,’ then we have to be consistent. I see a lot of inconsistency [among] the pro-government, free market people in this room, and so I think … with medicinal marijuana if it cures your cancer … if it helps somebody who is dying, the city, the government has absolutely no right to get inbetween that.”
John Franklin: No. “I am a free market conservative, but you have a right to demand the maintenance of moral standards in your community, and I am not a libertarian.” Later he added: “I’m glad that we’re not selling medical marijuana. When a doctor prescribes it and you can buy it at Walgreen’s, knock yourself out. I don’t have any problem … with a legitimate drug being prescribed by a doctor and being dispensed by a recognized pharmacy. And when that’s the case with medical marijuana, I won’t stand in its way.”
Mayor Judy Ritter: No. “Actually, I agree. We don’t have any zoning in Vista for it. It’s not zoned, it’s against the federal law, so I don’t approve of that. My sister had cancer and couldn’t keep any food down, and I actually lost her. But she had medical marijuana pills, and so I think there is an option for people rather than smoking…. I am not for medical marijuana; I’m against it.”
Councilman Cody Campbell: No. “In Vista we’ve had a lot of problems with the medical marijuana dispensaries that are the kind of fly-by-night operations that we’ve had here in the city. We’ve had over a dozen of them pop up in the community, and we don’t have the zoning for it in Vista. But at the same time we have to look at a balanced approach since the voters in the state of California did put a statewide ballot initiative that passed. So, we’re balancing … the goals of Vista and state law and federal law — and right now it’s a big mess.” Campbell went on to say that each level of government needs to work together to develop a comprehensive solution that tackles the issue to develop safe access for medical purposes. “We have to find a comprehensive solution, but right now our zoning says we don’t allow it, so we don’t allow it.”
Councilman Dave Cowles: No. “Yes, it is a complex conflict between state and federal government, but in Vista we’re pretty clear we do not allow medical marijuana dispensaries, and I favor keeping that in place for as long as we can. When you look at other areas where either recreational marijuana or [medical] marijuana dispensaries are in place, there are a lot of social implications and law enforcement implications that have resulted. And I don’t want to see that happen here in Vista.
Chrystal Coleman: Yes. “I do support medical marijuana, and I support the decriminalization of medical marijuana. There’s been a lot of evidence that’s proven medical marijuana is for a number of ailments, not just cancer but also epilepsy, for treating seizures. I think that it is a decision that should be made between you and your doctor. I think that it is in the future, more and more states are legalizing it. It would reduce our prison populations, … the government actually holds a patent on it for people who have cancer. So that will tell you something right there. It’s something that has been criminalized over the years to make it sound worse than it actually is, and so I do support it.”
Councilman John Aguilera: No. “I do not support it. We don’t have a zone for that here in the City of Vista, and I will continue to support that. These medical dispensaries, whatever they’re called, you know it’s just a charade really. If you really look at the people that are going in and out of these places a lot of our young people are going in there.” Later in his remarks he added: “I do support free market, but I don’t support anarchy … to just let anything happen.”