Vacant El Cajon City Council seat to be continued
El Cajon City Council spent nearly four hours on Tuesday, Dec. 10 screening applicants to fill its vacant council seat. With a deadline of Dec. 4, 27 applicants applied. In the course of the evening, 13 of the 27 were interviewed in open session.
Each applicant had three minutes to speak before being asked questions from each member of council. With a deadline of Jan. 12 to fill the seat or go to special election, City Council will meet on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 6:00 p.m. to finish the remainder of interviews and open discussion up for appointment.
This comes shortly after former mayor Mark Lewis’ resignation on Oct. 24, after disputes over derogatory comments made in a May 2013 interview with The Progressive. Mayor Bill Wells was sworn in on Nov. 12 after a 3-0 city council vote for the duration of Lewis’ term, which ends in 2014.
Though some questions varied, each councilmember had specific items on their agenda where they wanted answers. Councilmember Bob McClellan asked all candidates about their vision for the East County Performing Arts Center (ECPAC) and whether they did or did not agree with the city’s deemed approved (alcohol) ordinance (DAO). Councilmember Tony Ambrose chose a variety of questions depending on the applicant’s previous experience and Councilmember Gary Kendrick focused on new business and development, and whether or not the applicant would take money at reelection time from liquor stores and the Neighborhood Market Association. Mayor Bill Wells focused on each individual’s talents and what they thought was the job of city government.
Vickie Butcher is a longtime El Cajon resident. She is a lawyer, her husband a doctor and they have five kids. She said she would love to see ECPAC “rejuvenated, revived and active,” but was not familiar with the DAO. But she said it is an “us against them” scenario and the interested parties need to be feathered together with communication to find a common solution.
“I served for 12 years on city planning committee. I served long enough to see many of the issues,” she said. “I commit to studying learning and being a team player.”
Humbert Cabrera was born and raised in El Cajon, incoming president of the Rotary Club, and works with the Safer Neighborhood Program. He focused on the intense regulations and codes for pulling permits.
“Regulation costs us jobs, prosperity and the American dream,” he said.
Cabrera said he was in favor of the DAO and that the ordinance will be the backbone for the rest of San Diego that everyone will look at. He said private development and helping other businesses coming into East County would help clean up El Cajon Blvd.
Fisnik Nick Demaj, a probation officer, is an refugee immigrant from former Yugoslavia. He came to El Cajon at the age of 22 and said that representing today’s youth today is important for the future.
“I’d like to become involved in young people, teenagers especially are most vulnerable,” he said. “I’ve seen too many kids going to Juvenile Hall for things that should have never put them there.”
Demaj said problems like youth in trouble, homelessness and helping immigrants assimilate into the culture were top priorities for him.
Michael Griffiths, El Cajon Public Works deputy director, said the community is divided along racial lines and that they need to come together.
“I’ve developed a working relationship with Chaldean leaders,” he said. “I believe perseverance is the key to success. The three most important economic projects the city has taken on that need to continue is the hospital, car dealerships and we need to form a business district along Second Street and brand the district.”
Ben Kalasho, businessman, came in fourth out of three seats in the 2012 elections by less than one percent. He said teachers and the police department endorsed him and he did a lot of work with the ECPAC Foundation.
“We need to bridge gaps,” he said. “Economic drive is public safety. Who is going to do business here if prostitution begins at 8 p.m.? I live in Fletcher Hills and my wife and I see empty bottles tossed by the homeless and drug paraphernalia.”
The 27 people seeking appointment for the vacant seat are: Instar Bales, Theresa Benintende-Wister, Rodney Bohling, Cornelius Bowser, Vickie Butcher, Humbert Cabrera, Fisnik Nick Demaj, Paul Dosik, Mike Foldenauer, Michael Griffiths, Stephanie Harper, Theodore Kagan, Ben Kalasho, John “Stan” Landess, James Lewis, Kimberly Lobera, Johnny Minarick, Darrin Mroz, Melinda Neill, Stephen Nissou, Emily “Lily” Schworm, Christopher Shamoon, Rodgers Smith, Anthony Sottile, Katherine Spacone, Duane Swainston and Wendie Wiggington.