El Cajon Mayor’s State of the City address

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El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells gave the State of the City address on Dec. 8. One thing that you have to applaud is the fact that even during the tough times, El Cajon has maintained a balanced budget, and with that has continued to provide city maintenance, safety, police, fire and park and recreation services. The growth of car dealerships in the area has been a great boost to the city, with BMW’s new facility, the addition of El Cajon Mercedes Benz and its plan to build a much larger facility, staying in El Cajon.

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells gave the State of the City address on Dec. 8. One thing that you have to applaud is the fact that even during the tough times, El Cajon has maintained a balanced budget, and with that has continued to provide city maintenance, safety, police, fire and park and recreation services. The growth of car dealerships in the area has been a great boost to the city, with BMW’s new facility, the addition of El Cajon Mercedes Benz and its plan to build a much larger facility, staying in El Cajon.

His love of El Cajon, and his pride in downtown was evident in both speech and expression. Some of the things he mentioned that have made downtown a much better place is the success of urbn Coalfired Pizza + Brewing, the coming of the first four-star Marriott Courtyard in early 2017, multi-use condos on Park Row, low housing for veterans, negotiations with the Hilton Co., that will bring another outstanding hotel to the region and the East County Performing Arts Center. He said there is a residential boom in El Cajon, recently approving 300 new homes to be built.

Wells said there was much progress made in making it easier to do business in El Cajon and that the city has adopted a “customer service mentality” in dealing with the residents, current and new businesses in the city.

As far as taxpayer’s money, he said the 2013 pension reform delivered the reduction in city cost better than expected and the use of Proposition O, a new police station, fire station and an upcoming animal shelter are a few of the successful projects as a result.

Within every city there are problems though, and Wells addressed them honestly. He pointed out that the Deemed Approved Ordinance significantly decreased the sale of alcohol to minors. When studying with sting operations, 27 percent of establishments sold to minors and that problem is “now nearly eradicated.” He said the city is working diligently on working on stopping medical marijuana dispensaries from popping up in retail and home locations and that they are working on solutions in helping the increasing homelessness in El Cajon.

What struck me most with his address though, was his “rebranding” of El Cajon. He referred to the El Cajon of the 80s, and I cannot imagine, because when I lived in East County in the 90s, El Cajon was the one place I stayed away from. All I knew of El Cajon was the drugs, drunkards, prostitutes and crime. It was a place to stay away from. And as he said correctly, many people still have this vision of what El Cajon is.

The city has done a great job in rebranding with its numerous civic events held each year. Hundreds of thousands of people pour into El Cajon each year now to events like the Mother Goose Parade, America on Main Street, 4th of July, Hauntfest, car shows, Dinner and a Concert, and this year, hosting the Special Olympics World Games. And its newest, but he said would continue was the El Cajon Business Partner’s Small Business Saturday Holiday Lights on Main, complete with the lighting of the Christmas tree in the center of downtown.

Everything he spoke about are essential elements in keeping a growing city thriving. But El Cajon’s marketing and branding strategy is nothing short of brilliant. But as Wells admitted, these things have been possible only by the help of the local businesses, organizations, city employees and the community at large.

Although, I strongly disagree with some of the policy decisions that the city has made, all in all, El Cajon is a much nicer place to live than when I came to the region 27 years ago. And there is a lot to be said about that. It never comes easy, and it never comes without discourse, but if it continues to grow in the direction it is in now, El Cajon can and will be a major destination, and not only for the East County community.

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