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The City of Chula Vista’s centennial celebration is off to a rough start after, only, the second meeting

Created: 05 February, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
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7 min read

Above is the website designed in part by Timothy Barnes, an interactive site, and below the City of Chula Vista website.

The City of Chula Vista is the early stages of planning for the celebration of the 100 year existence of the city. The first meeting was held September 21, 2009 when the official planning committee, the Committee of 100, co-chaired by the Mayor Cheryl Cox and city councilperson Pamela Bensoussan, kicked off the centennial planning with the collaboration of the community. Out of this first meeting 57 ideas for the year-long celebration were documented.

The second centennial meeting was held January 21, 2010 sadly this is when the brouhaha over the establishment and contribution of a web site has community members upset and calling for the removal of Bensoussan as co-chair.

Centennial planning started out with the best intentions from citizens and elected officials. But somewhere between the first meeting in September and the meeting in January things seemed to have gone awry.

Planning and putting together a centennial celebration is an enormous task. A wide range of community members will be counted on to participate and volunteer. A community-based centennial celebration is intended to instill civic pride, while at the same time defray cost through the community’s support and willingness to contribute to this major undertaking.

According to Mayor Cox, one of her top 10 goals for the year is “… leading up to the City’s Centennial celebration in 2011, will provide more opportunities for community interaction.” But when it came to the web site design and implementation, the call for community interaction got lost in political gamesmanship.

Of the original 57 ideas, there was no mention of a Centennial website for the city. Ed Herrera who is president of the Chula Vista Civic Association and who has been a critic of the performance of Chula Vista’s elected officials, wanted to be involved with the centennial planning and felt that he could contribute by coming up with a website that would show off the city.

Wanting to get involved in the centennial planning and feeling that it could contribute by providing a viral marketing campaign which would include a website that would highlight the city to the world, the Chula Vista Civic Association, represented by Boardmembers Timothy Barnes, George Little, and President Ed Herrera, became a member of the Committee of 100.

In the meantime, in November, the city council passed a resolution that an official website be designated. According to Mayor Cox the resolution was necessary due to city rules that prohibit the city from linking to outside web sites. This rational seems to fly in the face of all the links within the City website to other outside sources such as Knott’s Soak City or UltraStar Cinemas for example. The resolution did not indicate who or how this website would be created, only that an official website be designated.

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At the January 21 meeting, Timothy Barnes and Ed Her-rera attended the meeting to show their version of what the Centennial web site could look like and offered to provide all the design, including all the bells and whistles, as well as hosting the site at no cost to the city.

According to Barnes and several members of the community, they were treated rudely by Bensoussan and told that there was already an official website and that their website was not needed. There was no prior public participation or discussion on the web-site design. City staff, primarily Bensoussan’s aide Susan Johnson, had developed the “official” website without public comment or input by the Committee of 100.

Barnes also learned that every conceivable domain name had already been reserved by Bensoussan’s aide, Johnson, who purchased somewhere in the vicinity of 21 domain names so that, according to Herrera and Barnes, the marketing team, comprised of members of the Chula Vista Civic Association and San Diego South Chamber of Commerce, could not post its domain with any association with the centennial.

In a letter addressed to Mayor Cox, one resident described the meeting and leadership of Bensoussan as, “arrogant and demeaning.” The letter continued with, “Although she claimed to keep trying to keep the meeting moving, she was actually just not willing to listen, respect, or consider other views.” This description of Bensoussan’s actions in this letter was endorsed by several others that attended the meeting.

We sat down with Timothy Barnes and Ed Herrera and asked them what happened at the meeting.

Board member George Little and I attended the first meeting where the Mayor stressed that the committee had no money. It was then that Mayor Cox circulated a waste bin in which to collect donations. It became clear at that point that the City needed help. It could not afford the resources needed to highlight its precious gems in a manner worthy of the beauty of our City. Finally, when the Mayor said that this was the community’s centennial and that it should take charge of its own celebration, I offered to assist and brought the idea to the Chula Vista Civic Association, where fellow Boardmembers where very excited to donate its expertise for a good cause. .—Timothy Barnes

Q: Can you describe the site and what makes it stand out?

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We started with one concept that looked too much like a template. Our second revision was nice but did not convey the beauty of our city. So we came up with one last final revision in which we were determined to capture the essence of our city’s rich history, while highlighting interesting and exciting landmarks and attractions in an interactive and resourceful manner. Visitors are invited to explore Chula Vista by clicking on various landmarks and attractions, each with its own descriptive profile and ability to find directions to that landmark or attraction. —Timothy Barnes

The continued development of the website represents only the first step in an overarching marketing campaign to spur economic vitality in Chula Vista by a partnership between Chula Vista Civic Association and the San Diego South County Chamber of Commerce. —Ed Herrera

Q: How were you treated at the meeting?

The members of the public where very, kind, enthusiastic, and supportive. It did not appear that Ms. Bensoussan was interested in hearing our proposal. —Timothy Barnes

Q: I understand they were going to close the meeting without even hearing from you?

Yes.

Q: What was the reaction from audience?

The audience was very supportive during our presentation and became visibly upset when it became clear that Ms. Bensoussan was not interested in entertaining the proposal we offered as an option that the committee as a whole can discuss and decide on. —Timothy Barnes.

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Q: Was this about the website or about your politics?

We hope it was that Ms. Bensoussan simply did not like our proposed website. We are all here to work together. We all want what’s best for Chula Vista so that the world can see how beautiful our city is just as we do. It would be a shame if it would be anything else because now more than ever before, our local economy depends on the good people of our city to come together and lend a hand wherever we are lacking. —Ed Herrera

The next meeting for the first Chula Vista Centennial Workshop will be held on Tuesday, February 16, at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

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