Politics in Paradise, a sneak preview of local elections
Hopeful candidates gathered at the Water Conservation Garden on June 30 to get an early start for the upcoming November elections. With the many open seats for city officials, county and state offices, this was the sole purpose of this year’s Politics in Paradise, creating a casual networking that included the entire East County region.
San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce General Manager Eric Lund said the event was a group effort with the Lakeside Chamber, Santee Chamber, Alpine Mountain Empire Chamber and the San Diego East county Economic Development council to bring potential elected officials for the November election all together to give people an opportunity to meet them early on and start to develop some opinions about them.
“It is a nice, mixer style format where you can walk up and meet and greet with your different candidates and then invite the candidates on stage to tell us a little bit about themselves,” he said. “In the past we’ve invited current sitting elected officials in a panel discussion and giving the public the opportunity to ask questions. We are not doing this at this time, we are inviting all of the candidates.”
The garden was filled with networking stations that had no order by city or office creating a freedom to casually walk around, with a few breaks as Barry Jantz, chair of the SDECCOC’s Government Affairs Committee randomly gave a few candidates one minute to tell everyone know who they were, what office they are running for, and why.
Paul Circo, running for El Cajon City Council seat said he is on the El Cajon Planning Commission. He served on the Commission with El Cajon Councilmember Star Bales and said he would like the opportunity to work with her again on the City Council. He said the values and systems of the current City Council members Council members is something that he supports and wants to continue the trend of sound business practices. He said the good things about El Cajon is that it has been “in the black” for the past three years by significant margins to the point where the city no longer borrows to make capital improvement projects.
“There’s nothing wrong with our policies, I want to make sure they remain,” he said. “There are a couple of things I do want to change if we can. We don’t focus enough on our homeless issue. And that is evidenced by the number of homeless people living in El Cajon opposed to Lemon Grove, Spring Valley or even Santee. We are in the 740 range. I’ve worked on the streets and spoken with the homeless people.”
He said most of them do not want a free place to sleep. They want a job or they do not want anything to do with civilization but to be close enough that they can subsist. He said we need to rethink the approach to the homeless, look at our inadequate shelters.
Circo said human trafficking is something else that the city needs to look at closely.
“It no longer looks like a woman with a pimp or a woman captive,” he said. “It’s going down to our high schools and junior high schools and the boyfriend will rent out his girlfriend. We have a very serious moral problem where the parents think if she’s sleeping with her boyfriend, why not someone else? Education needs to take place to convince the parents that this is an issue.”
On the other side of the venue, Lemon Grove Councilmember Racquel Vasques is running for the open Lemon Grove mayoral race. She said people in the community have asked her to run for mayor, and it was the same when she ran for City Council in 2012. Vasques said it is an honor to be part of the process.
“I think that Lemon Grove is prime for change,” she said. “Lemon Grove voters care about education, safety, environment, jobs and equality for all. I’m really running for mayor because I care about these things too. It’s really the basics. It’s all quality of life.”
Vasques said she is excited about the changes that are coming to Lemon Grove and when the votes start rolling in, hopefully they are rolling in her name. She said her visions for the city were shaped by the people of Lemon Grove.
“I want Lemon Grove to be a financially secure, safe and business friendly city with small town feeling with good paying jobs, arts, culture and recreation for all to enjoy,” she said. “And it’s coming from the people.”
Moving over to Santee, Steven Houlahan is running for a position on the Santee City Council. He has lived in Santee for 40 years, graduate of West Hills High School. He said from elementary school he is Santee School District educated, went to Grossmont College, then SDSU and earned his degree in nursing, then earned his MBA at USD.
“I am the president of Save Mission Trails, for which we took on the Quail Brush Power Plant that was going to be placed at Mission Trails Regional Park...which was a boondoggle,” he said. “Through a grass roots effort we were able to stop it from happening. Now I find that Santee is growing rapidly and we need traffic solution and traffic mitigation before increased density.”
Houlahan said he and his wife both take SR 52 with both of them spending hours in commuting.
“With the Castle Rock development going on in front of West Hills High School, 70 percent of the people of Santee drive over the 52 to work. They are all going to be impacted with all of these developments. We need traffic solutions, including the SR52. I’m going to go out there and do everything I can to help mitigate this traffic problem before we increase our density.”
With a great sampling of what some of the candidates believe are important to the cities and offices they want to serve, this event was a glimpse into what is going on around East County and the people that want to change it, fix it or continue working on it.
All proceeds from this event benefit the San Diego East County Chamber Foundation, a nonprofit that provides training and education to the local community with a number of programs and projects throughout the year.