Firefighters hope two new Chula Vista City Councilmen help staffing levels

Posted at 6:31 PM, Dec 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-13 21:44:39-05

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Two new Chula Vista City Council members -- Mike Diaz and Steve Padilla -- took the oath of office Tuesday night.

Diaz and Padilla join Mayor Mary Salas, Councilman John McCann and Councilwoman Patricia Aguilar on the council representing San Diego County's second-largest city.

"It has to be infrastructure," said Diaz when asked about his highest priority. "When there's money in the pockets, we can do some great things, but my goal is to make sure we spend that money wisely."

Diaz and Padilla won their November races thanks in part to an endorsement from the Chula Vista firefighters union.

"Our Chula Vista firefighters are extremely frustrated," said union president Darrell Roberts, who added the Chula Vista Fire Department is woefully understaffed.

"It's ultimately impacting the safety of our residents," said Roberts.

The union president said cities that are Chula Vista's size should have at least 100 firefighters on duty every day.

Chula Vista is budgeted for only 38.

The firefighters union endorsed Diaz and Padilla after interviewing all the candidates about their views on public safety and funding.

"At the end of the day, there's only one responsibility for local government or government and that's public safety," said Diaz, a retired firefighter.

Diaz said the increased sales tax revenue from Measure P, which voters also passed at the same time he was elected, should be a good starting point.

In the meantime, Chula Vista firefighters took to social media to state their case directly to residents. Roberts said they use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to warn residents about their staffing levels and response time goals, which have not been met in seven years.

"We wanted to make sure that we're telling our story," said Roberts. "Thirty-eight firefighters a day to cover nearly 275,000 people is just not enough."