Assemblymember Shirley Weber holds Budget Town Hall in Chula Vista

Panelists present budget possibilities and concerns for the 79th district

Shirley Weber, assembly member for the 79th district, hosted a town hall meeting in Chula Vista June 8. Although the meeting was organized around the question "What are your priorities for San Diego?", the format concentrated on panel presentations rather than community input.

The majority of the panelists expressed guarded optimism for the California budget that will be voted on in the next few days.

Dr. Brian Sala, Acting Director for the California Research Bureau, presented the overview. Sala indicated that money from Proposition 30 "offered new flexibility," but he also said that there were real concerns about the new money that was coming in because the state "was highly reliant on high-income earners."

The K-12 Education Panel consisted of Matt Yagyagan, Project Manager for Alliance San Diego and Albert Alt, CFO, for Sweetwater Union High School District. Alt said the May revise budget will "result in $5 million to restore programs and services that have been cut."

The district, according to Alt, is enthused about the governor's new local control funding concept, which will allow some categorical funds to be spent in a more discretionary way by districts. Alt said local control enables Sweetwater to spend funding on "their own unique priorities."

The local funding proposal, aside from loosening control of some categorical funding, will give additional money to districts with students struggling with language acquisition and students who receive free or reduced lunches.

The additional money is geared toward closing the achievement gap for students in the California school system. Sala said there will be checks and balances to make sure districts target student needs appropriately. County boards of education will provide one of those checks.

Along with Sala, Southwestern college trustee Norma Hernandez represented higher education on the next panel. Hernandez reported "good news" for the district. She said the college will be receiving additional revenue and is offering a robust summer program and able to restore some of the 5% salary cut employees suffered in 2011. Additionally, the district will hire 8 full-time professors in the fall.

Hernandez also said that educational access will be increased for all community college online students in the state through a common portal that will enable them to take any courses offered by community colleges.

Sala emphasized that in terms of higher education "CTE [Career Technical Education/Regional Ocupation Program] is critical in the state of California."

A Health and Human Services panel was presented by Barbara Jimenez, from the San Diego County Health and Human Services and Sara Steinhoffer, Vice President of Governmental Affairs for Sharp Hospital. Both panelists reflected a host of concerns in the face of potential cuts in the new budget.

Jimenez discussed the possibility of having to close Edgemoor, a facility that houses vulnerable adults. She also discussed the difficult of managing tuberculosis with decreased funding, and the possibility of having to close public health centers, including one in the South Bay.

Steinhoffer addressed the need for re-introducing dental benefits for vulnerable populations. she also highlighted the need for more investment in mental health care. She cited data from the Center for Disease Control to support her concern. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States--the second leading cause is suicide.

The last panelists were Maria Kachadoorian, Director of Finance in Chula Vista and Cindy Gomper-Graves, President and CEO of the South County Economic Development Council.

Kachadoorian said the city's finances have improved so much that their bond rating has been favorably upgraded. She also mentioned that the city is building "another small city in the eastern area."

And finally, Gomper-Graves articulated the connection between enterprise zones and the creation of employment.

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I voted for Assembly member Shirley Weber and appreciate that she held a budget town hall in CV. However, I'm concerned the public had no input and that Mr. Alt, CFO, for Sweetwater Union High School District was asked to represent education in the South Bay. Could it be that the assembly member is not aware what's going on in the district? Mr. Alt talks about restoring programs that were cut, but all we hear about are cuts to ROP and Adult Education. And what, pray tell, are those "unique priorities" that the district will now be able to fund.

Assembly member Shirley Weber will hold a Community Coffee on Saturday, June 15, 2013 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Bonita Public Library "Community Coffee Chats provide an opportunity for you to meet me in person, learn about the legislative process and voice your concerns."

OK, let's go and voice our concerns.

What's disconcerting is the thought of the present Sweetwater school board having discretionary power over spending more taxpayers' money.

While I do not hold Alt responsible for the alleged corruption at Sweetwater, it is disconcerting that Ms. Weber would have a representative from SUHSD - a district that has been named in one of the largest corruption scandals San Diego has ever seen - as a member of the panel. Perhaps a better choice would have been Chula Elementary, they are financially sound and seen as an district that values integrity.

Has she not been reading the paper, just how tuned in is she regarding those she represents?

Disturbing having Sweetwater in this role. The distrct jus got hit by the state and Feds on their shoddy bookkeeping and misuse of funds. The Catagorical funding just finished their audit. Take a look at the findings. The dist was given a time frame to show receipts I believe it was for lunches by parents and staff. The district didn't do well yet they believe they will be able to spend catorical funds else where?

Al Alt, no stranger to controversy on the job or in the resume, is a brave man to front for Fast Eddy and the Loyal Voting Block.

Looking the part, playing the part, being the part--but what is the part? Spokesperson for the Great Oz, the man behind the curtain...and all the wild schemes? Let me guess, 'unique priorities' being schemes for CIF section 11 (which the students and the coaches DO NOT WANT), "Sweetwater U" alignments with questionable institutions that also are expensive, and real estate deals that appeal to Fast Eddy's vastly overblown ego.

Talk about your flim-flam man. If this were a comedy, it would remind me of that great Mel Brooks movie, "The Pruducers", starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. So many similarities...except this is real life, and these are students' educations we are dealing with. The future of this community.

Do we really want the future of this community in the hands of those who continue to scheme, scam and shill for their own benefit, leaving the community with big piles of dirt, district employees who stole for years and were not prosecuted, contractors who were not paid for work that was done, secret partners who WERE paid--in the millions--for sitting on land that shouldn't have been bought in the first place, board members who enjoyed lavish meals, tickets to shows and ball games and all sorts of payments that remain highly questionable...?

Why should these people be in a position to spend ONE MORE DIME that belongs to the public? Have they ever shown good judgment? Have they ever shown respect to the taxpayers, the students and the teachers? Have they ever evidenced one iota of intellectual wherewithal in determining any of their decisions?

Not that I have seen.

Ed Brand should be removed from his position, and the board's responsibilities should be handed over to an oversight authority until it has been determined that decision-making is no longer being compromised by people who clearly are ethically impaired.

The possible defunding of these health and services is of great concern to me.

Unfortunately, Assemblymember Weber has had to postpone the Community Chat, originally scheduled for June 15, because she is Sacramento this coming weekend for last-minute budget deliberations. The budget is moving along quickly and we are hoping it will be on time this year.

Thanks for the update. Please keep us informed, as we know how important it is to have good, open lines of communication with our representatives. I, for one, hope Dr. Weber is fully aware of all the problems at Sweetwater, and the "runaway train" mentality that has lead to the vast and massive problems in the district. For any of you out there who still do not know, the U-T has PDF files available for downloading which can be found in the Watchdog portion online. Thousands of pages documenting all sorts of pay-to-play, fraud, scams and the destruction of a school district. Fascinating reading, and a sad state of affairs.

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