A New Jersey native, Letitia Dickerson moved to California 25 years ago and has lived in El Cajon for more than 22 years. The 53-year old Republican owned two small businesses which she operated for seven years.
Dickerson began working for Spectrum in 2015. She said her employees were getting paid, but she was making no money herself. Running to represent District 2 on the city council, she said she gravitated towards El Cajon and loves it and has seen tremendous changes in the city over the years.
“I have to take my hat off to the current city council and the mayors who looked really hard through the years, but living in District 2, there are still large amounts of things that need to be done,” she said.
Dickerson said due to the large amount of apartment complexes in the district, it attracts many transients and called it the “forgotten district.” Her children went to school in the district and now one of her grandchildren, so she wants to make things better for everyone in the future. Dickerson said her top priorities include homelessness and public safety.
“Homelessness, I think that is everybody’s top concern,” she said. “We have all been affected by that.”
Dickerson said there are many reasons people become homeless. Some people are just one paycheck away from losing everything, some are due to addiction and mental illness and there are those that like the way that they are living.
“They do not want the responsibility and rather deal with being homeless,” she said. “And in America, it is probably the only place where the homeless are overweight. We make it kind of easy for them to stay in that position.”
Dickerson said she wants to make sure there is safety for people living on the streets, residents and protection of property.
She said before she closed her small gym and smoothie businesses in 2016, she encountered homeless individuals at her businesses every day.
“Many times I would come in the morning and people are sleeping right in front of the business,” she said. “When I was shutting down at night and people would be getting ready to lie down for the night, I would leave them alone. But in the morning I had to run a business and I could not have people stepping over them.”
Dickerson said public safety and the homeless problems are exacerbated by COVID-19 and decisions need to be made to find out what is reasonable and where there is balance.
With public safety, Dickerson said that she thinks the El Cajon Police Department is fair and reasonable, and she likes the job that they are doing and believes that the ECPD needs to be “uncuffed” when protests come to the city.
She said she would like to see a collaboration with the public and the police as long as the public is not dictating what the police force does.
“It is a hard job,” she said. “It is not an easy thing to go out there and protect and have a reason to go back to their own family, especially knowing at this point whether your job is at stake by just doing your job. We are not one against the other. We are one unit and can work together.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Dickerson said that people and businesses should have more control of their futures with little interference from local and state leaders.
“What the governor, who I do not agree with, is saying that we have to shut down and maneuver what the mandates are, get businesses working again and do it safely,” she said.
Dickerson said in the beginning when the county shut down, she understood due to a lack of information of the virus globally, but now more is known about the virus, things need to open back up and that universal precautions (masks, social distancing, washing hands) work.
“At this point we cannot justify the numbers with the shutdowns,” she said. “We are costing more lives and more people with depression, suicide, and how to feed your family. We cannot keep sending stimulus checks. People get $1,200 and what are you going to do with that this month. In San Diego you cannot even pay rent with that, not even in El Cajon.”
Dickerson said people need to be allowed to be self-sufficient and most people have self-preservation and will do what they need to do, but that there is no longer a need to “babysit” with mandates.
“As we ease restrictions it is going to be a hard fight. Individuals need to have the finances to support their business and people need to go in and patronize those businesses,” she said. “Which means they need to have the finances and the ability to go back to work to make it feasible to not cook at home and go eat at a restaurant or go back to the movies. They need to feel safe and feel that businesses have taken precautions that they need to do to make sure their space is safe.”
Dickerson said that funds released to businesses already are helpful, but it creates problems for a small business owner who is owner, operator, accountant, maintenance, as many of these are left out of the funding process.
“The best thing we can do for businesses is to uncuff them and allow them to do what they need to do and help the people get back on their feet so they can patronize these businesses,” she said.