Lakeside Chamber of Commerce hosts Candidate Night to help voters

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On Oct. 9, Lakeside’s Chamber of Commerce hosted a Candidate Night meet and greet to inform Lakeside-area voters about local choices for the upcoming gubernatorial election on Nov. 4. The loosely structured three-hour event, held at the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds, allowed candidates and voters the opportunity to interact personally, freely discussing issues affecting the community. Event organizers also allotted each candidate a few minutes to address the attendee crowd as a whole. 

On Oct. 9, Lakeside’s Chamber of Commerce hosted a Candidate Night meet and greet to inform Lakeside-area voters about local choices for the upcoming gubernatorial election on Nov. 4. The loosely structured three-hour event, held at the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds, allowed candidates and voters the opportunity to interact personally, freely discussing issues affecting the community. Event organizers also allotted each candidate a few minutes to address the attendee crowd as a whole. 

Big topics of discussion were education, medical care, land use alternatives, water resources and fire protection. Neither candidates for the 50th Congressional District attended and only two of the four candidates running for the California Legislature appeared.

Three of the five candidates for Grossmont Union High School District Governing Board were at the meeting. Shirley Anderson talked of her recent retirement from the Local Agency Formation Commission and how she would like to bring her experience with government efficiency and public finance to the Grossmont board. Barbara Stevens, who has been serving on the board, described looking toward “a new era of cooperation” among citizens and within the board. Dr. Gary Woods, also an incumbent, mentioned the need for forward-looking development in education, with smart use of technology so that students can “compete internationally” upon graduation. Voters may select three candidates to fill seats as board members.

For the Lakeside Union School District Board race, Gelia Cook, Kevin Howe and Bonnie LaChappa made appearances. Cook termed the local schools “awesome,” saying, “The schools are wonderful because the parents are involved.”

Howe said his focus in on quality education, including modernization and improved safety measures. LaChappa gave a short biography, saying she was born and raised in Lakeside, and that from her own and her three sons’ experience that Lakeside schools provide a “great education.” Voters have three seats to fill from four choices on the ballot in that contest.

Educators appeared in support of Measure L, on the ballot for Lakeside voters to reauthorize bond spending for local schools. If approved by 55 percent of voters, the measure would allow continuation of bond-based spending that followed the 2008 passage of Proposition V, under refinancing of the bond indebtedness that will save taxpayers on interest repayments and permit use of the money for ongoing technology improvements, classroom laboratory upgrades, repairs and modernization of school facilities. About half of the funds authorized by Proposition V have been spent to date, but the drop in property values combined with a state-mandated tax-rate cap now prevent immediate use of the funds. Measure L would further establish an independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee to review and audit expenditures, none of which could be spent on administrator or teacher salaries or benefits. No organized opposition has been mounted against Measure L. The Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association endorse a yes vote on the measure.

From the Grossmont Healthcare District Board of Directors slate of choices, three of the four candidates on the ballot were there to advocate for their candidacies: Gloria A. Chadwick, Brian Hilemon and Randy Lenac. Chadwick, a registered nurse, asked those present for “one more time please,” voting her into her fifth term on the board. She noted the ongoing $247 million project she has helped guide and that she wishes to see that to fruition over four more years. Hilemon cited his long roots in the area, having been “born and raised in East County,” now living in Santee. He mentioned his “greatest, most valued endorsement,” as being from his wife, who has not quibbled over his absence from home to attend candidate forums for the past month. Randy Lenac, a Campo cattle rancher, described his belief that his 27 years in the Marine Corps had prepared him for participation in making wise decisions about medical care and treatment funds for the healthcare district. His stance is on behalf of pairing low taxes with quality medical care and good access to care for residents. He requested, “Send me back so I can serve again.”

Contenders for the seven openings on the Lakeside Community Planning Group who showed up that night numbered eight. (One absentee makes the ninth candidate on that set of ballot choices.) Appearing were Mike Anderson, Julie Bugbee, Laura D. Cyphert, Milton E. Cyphert, Karen Edsall, Nick Janeway, Brian Sesko and Nathan Thompson. The business experiences they promise to bring to planning decisions span the gamut of such enterprises as ranching to real estate, and accounting to air conditioning.

One candidate each was in attendance for the water board races. For Lakeside Water District, Division No. 3, Frank Hilliker spoke on behalf of his candidacy as an incumbent running on his record. He touted the fact that Lakeside has the lowest water rates in the region and that he had run his earlier races with a pledge to ensure low prices for water. “Promises made, promises kept,” he said. (Opponent Sid Scott was absent)

For the Padre Dam Municipal water District, Division No. 5, James Peasley was there. He is running on his experience of over three decades as a civil engineer in the water industry. He also details a record of reducing administrative and capital costs and cutting operating expenses, in order to pursue savings for water purchasers. (His opponent, Dan McMillan, was not at the meeting.)

For the Lakeside Fire Protection District Board of Directors, three slots are open, and twice those numbers of candidates are running. Two are incumbents. Peter A. Liebig is seeking another term, asking voters to reward his lengthy service in office. Jon Lorenz, the second incumbent, has been serving for four years. Lorenz cites his military veteran experience as a Navy chief and his broad-ranging endorsements from such varied groups as local firefighters and conservative political organizations including the local Tea Party and the East County Republican Assembly. Eric Ninaltowski admitted he is new to campaigning and new to the area as well, having lived here a year and a half. He stated that his run is based on securing a bright future in Lakeside for his three children, that his motivation is to look out for taxpayers, that if elected he plans to remain a citizen-servant of the public, to “keep us in mind, no one else.” Bob Robeson discussed his experience over five decades with firefighting and forestry around Lakeside. He spoke poignantly about the Cedar Fire’s destruction of 13 homes in that blaze from eleven years ago, and how he is chairman of the committee responsible for the monument being built to commemorate that community loss.

Another candidate, who attended the gathering unexpectedly, was Keshav Damoor, who is running for a seat on the city council for Santee. He explained that he had come to an out-of-area meeting to introduce himself to the nearby Lakeside business people involved with the Chamber of Commerce, to inform them about the issues he is concerned about. He is one of five candidates running to fill three city council seats. He said that his focus is on smart development for the growing area surrounding Santee, providing for slow re-beautification and infrastructure maintenance. He noted that he views Santee as his “homespun hometown,” because he had played on those local park grounds from the time he was eight years old.

Frank “Fotios” Tsimboukakis is running for the State Senate seat in the 38th District as a Democrat against Republican state Sen. Joel Anderson. Tsimboukakis described his life as having lived “the American dream,” and that his campaign’s emphasis is on making the state government fiscally efficient.

Highest-ranking incumbent officeholder at the meeting was Republican state Assemblyman Brian Jones, of the 71st District. Assemblyman Jones closed out the evening’s presentations with remarks about his service in the Assembly in Sacramento as contrasted with his experiences in East County. He joked about his casual attire in jeans, saying, “You’ve all seen me in a suit. This is Lakeside. You get what you get.”

He related to the audience that he believes Democrats in East County have very different priorities from those advanced by Democrats in Sacramento, describing his returning candidacy as impelled by holding Sacramento accountable to the voters for not placing attention on their concerns. He noted that he currently represents 460,000 people in the 71st District of all partisan political opinions, then he asked rhetorically how many of them put high priority on the recently enacted ban on single-use plastic grocery bags. He queried too as to whether East County voters want their taxes “continually” going up. His Republican opponent, Tony Teora, was not at the meeting.

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