Council member Jerry Jones is running for mayor of Lemon Grove. Serving on council for 18 years, the Republican said he is nonpartisan in this local race, but that during a pandemic and Lemon Grove’s economic crisis, there is no time for “on the job training” for new offices in the city and that his experience can take the city forward in the right direction.
“I don’t think of myself as a politician, I think of myself as the mechanic I’ve always been. I just happen to represent my neighbors,” he said.
Jones said it need more experienced leaders in the mayor and city council seats to help the businesses solve these issues.
“With everything that has happened over the past, we have had a perfect storm that has affected our business community and that has to be fixed,” he said.
Jones said he helped the city meet its housing goals, building 150% of its goals, more than any other city in the county. Jones served on the Planning Committee at SANDAG for 14 years, chaired for two years and vice chair for seven.
“I’ve opposed a few density things in Lemon Grove since then because I thought it was too much,” he said “Everybody needs to do their part and we did our part. I’ve made that hard fight at SANDAG because they increased our goal by 350%.”
Jones said one of the biggest accomplishments is his work on wastewater. Jones is currently the chair of Metro Wastewater JPA, 12 agencies that process water through the San Diego’s metro system.
“All of us under that system are paying for wastewater,” he said “By creating pure water, we are hoping to avoid the cost of upgrades. The significance there is generational. By the time the three phases of this project is done in 2035 we will be diverting just under 50% of our wastewater from the ocean. That is a significant environmental advancement.”
Jones said through the years, Lemon Grove made it through the great recession without raising taxes, but by bringing in big box retailers into the city and thinking outside the box. Jones said housing was an achievement, but also a failure, not planning for rising crime in the area, homelessness, and the impact on emergency services. He said though Promenade Park by the trolley station was completely paid by SANDAG, it is not a place that people feel safe to go to. He said he pushed for a park ranger, but that did not fix the problem.
Jones said the Lemon Grove Realignment Project is taking too long and even with the most sophisticated controllers, that intersection, which cost the city a lot of money, can’t get it right.
“MTS is driving the bus on this. In hindsight, the amount of angst we’ve gone through at this point, I would not do it again,” he said.
Jones said he never had a “burning desire” to be mayor.
“I didn’t run four years ago because I believed I could better serve on council, but in four years, I haven’t seen leadership from our mayor,” he said. “She [Mayor Racquel Vasquez] is not a team builder. She doesn’t understand how to use the power of her office in terms of influence.”
Jones said Vasquez knew about the city’s financial problems when she came into office, but waited until 2018 to do a sales tax measure, which he did not support and was able to keep off the ballot. He said he worked with council member Jennifer Mendoza on a plan to present in 2019 for a sales tax increase but said when it came to council, the mayor said they had a citizen’s committee to put it on the ballot.
“She went around council and she still claims it was a citizen’s initiative,” he said. “But I’m here to tell you, I talked to one of those citizens George Gastil and I asked him point blank where he got the language for the ballot measure. His answer was Racquel Vasquez. That failure is completely on the mayor.”
Jones said most people do not understand the significance of losing redevelopment money in 2012 and the impact of the 2008/9 recession. Disincorporation was discussed then, and it is a discussion now, said Jones. He said if Lemon Grove went unincorporated, it would lose too much.
“The County started building a lot of multi-residential housing. If we were to go back to the County, our city would be the only town with two trolley stations in the county. And we will have no say in the matter. That fight alone is worth defending our city,” he said.
Jones said he keeps hearing the mantra, “We need new faces.”
“We need somebody with experience,” he said. “But we got all new faces, and I was the only one with experience and for four years I am on the losing end of a lot of 3-2 votes and I have been ignored.”
Corrections made to this article. Jones was vice chaired Planning at SANDAG for 7 years. Impact on services not impact of services.