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As you know, I’ve been rather obsessed with the fiscal health of the city of Chula Vista for some time now.

Every time I’ve had the chance to talk about it with Mayor Cheryl Cox, she has said that the main hope for the city’s future was the prospect that Gaylord Entertainment would follow through and build this big beautiful convention center and hotel on the bay front. Despite its cost, the project would generate sales and hotel-room taxes that, she said, would do as much to save the town as anything for which they could hope.

Today, we learned, Gaylord is now gone— dumping Chula Vista as if it were an overeager high school kid too desperate to be attractive, and too psycho to be sexy. Or maybe the poor kid just couldn’t find the gas money to drive to the dance.

These must be stressful nights for Mayor Cox. She went to war with City Councilman Steve Castaneda, helping to raise money to crush his re-election hopes and sparring with him in public at every turn. She appears to have lost. Castaneda won re-election and will be running for mayor no doubt. The other Chula Vista City Council seat up for grabs has a Democrat — another potentially hostile colleague of Cox — up in the count tonight by a mere six votes. Six votes. Even if Cox’s ally overcomes this meager margin, it may take a legal battle the city can hardly digest.

So the mayor’s top political enemy is stronger than ever. The mayor is weaker than ever and her signature project — this convention center — has just been taken off life support. The city manager she stuck with before cutting loose is gone. People are going to be laid off. Services are going to be cut. And even that won’t make the financial problems go away.

If the mayor still has allies in Chula Vista, she needs them to rally. She’s drowning.

SCOTT LEWIS

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