Transition, change and good deeds

East County witnessed political upheavel, neighbors working to make better lives

David Phillip “Phil” Ortiz was sworn in as an El Cajon city councilman in 2019, replacing councilman Ben Kalasho who quit his post

In February the El Cajon Citizen of the Year Commit­tee selected Joe Mackey as its 2018 El Cajon Citizen of the Year.

Mackey, founder, president and CEO of XL Staffing Service, Inc. and Excell Security, Inc., was honored at a luncheon Feb. 5 at the El Cajon Elks Lodge 1812, 1400 E Washington Ave., El Cajon.

Also that month the Steele Canyon High School girls soc­cer team had been knocking on the door for the past few sea­sons, reaching the champion­ship round of the San Diego Sec­tion playoffs only to fall short of the end goal.

But in 2019 at Mission Bay High School, the Cougars finally kicked down that door to win the school’s first CIF title in the sport after outlast­ing rival Eastlake High School in a kicks-from-the-mark shootout tiebreaker.

“It means ev­erything to us,” Steele Canyon head coach Char­lie Cleaves said of his team’s newly acquired Division I championship. “We’ve been very successful as a program, winning lots of league cham­pionships over the years, but we’ve never had a CIF banner to show for it.”

The next month Sycuan Casino Resort opened its doors formally on March 28.

Leaders and elders of the Sycuan Band of the Kumey­aay Nation gathered to cel­ebrate the occasion on the eve of the Grand Opening with a Ribbon Cutting ceremony on Tuesday, which included invited media and guests like San Diego Mayor Kevin Faul­coner.

Making the community saf­er for women Dilkhwaz Ahmed has dedicated her life to helping women seeking refuge from do­mestic violence. Her foundation, License to Freedom, provides education and resources to immi­grant women who are survivors of domestic abuse.

Her work has garnered her recognition among leading voic­es in San Diego, including several “People of the Year” awards and, notably, she was honored by Casa Cornelia during their 25th Anniversary celebration last Oc­tober for her humanitarian ef­forts in the U.S. and Middle East.

Casa Cornelia is a public inter­est law firm that provides pro-bono assistance in cases of civil rights violations.

Also in April, 22 panel presen­tation by a trio of local writers o n the modern era of agent-free self-pub­lishing, and later in the evening, student read­ings and perfor­manc­es of origi­nal work kick off Gross mont Col­lege’s 23rd annual Literary Arts Festi­val.

The weeklong festival or­ganized by the English Department’s Creative Writing program highlights poetry, memoirs, literature, student writings and more, and also is an opportunity to hear writers from across the country talk about their inspirations and struggles putting pen to paper.

The county of San Diego made plans to acquire a 9.3-acre parcel in Spring Valley from the California Department of Transportation, with the pos­sible development of a park on the table for its future use.

A 4-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote April 10, with Greg Cox at a Na­tional Association of Counties meeting, approved the process to purchase the land while appropriating $6,454,000 to cover the cost of the acquisition.

The county of San Diego’s 2019-20 budget was approved in June an appropriation of $25,000,000 will provide funding for affordable housing including transitional housing.

A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote April 30 re­ferred the establishment of a $25,000,000 appropriation for af­fordable housing to the budget process while directing the coun­ty’s Chief Administrative Officer to identify the funding source.

The action also directed the CAO to revise the county’s Ad­ministrative Code to include transitional housing among eligible projects for the Innova­tive Housing Trust Fund and to indicate a preference for afford­able housing projects in the un­incorporated area of San Diego County.

Lindo Park School turned 70 years old.

“As evidenced by Lakeside’s new Lindo Park School,” re­ported The Lakeside Star on April 21, 1949, “public educa­tion in this community has come a long way from the days when school was held in an open horse shed, and in private homes.” The front page of that issue was dedicated to the open­ing of the town’s newest gram­mar school: Lindo Park, which is still going strong as an inte­gral and respected part of the community. Students, staff, and even a few alumni were on hand to celebrate its 70th Anniver­sary on April 25.

Principal Nina Drammissi hosted the event in front of the school, the exact same location as the opening ceremony 70 years before.

David Phillip “Phil” Ortiz was chosen out of 18 candidates by the El Cajon city council to replace former council member Ben Kalasho.

Ortiz said his main focus points are public safe­ty, homelessness and a balanced budget/revital­ization of the city.

A city council meeting was held on May 14, 2019 to determine who will occupy the seat Kalasho left behind. Council members allowed candidates two minutes each to explain why they were fit for the position. The race was narrowed down to four candidates Humbert Cabrera, Anthony Sottile, Ortiz and Richard Agundez Jr.

Ortiz’s dedication to his city and community earned him the appointment for the remainder of Kalasho’s term ending in 2020.

Steele Canyon High School Drama Department senior Mary Rose Vadeboncoeur was awarded Best Actress and SCHS Theatre Director Nicole La Bella was voted Best Local Theatre Teacher of the Year at the sixth annual Broadway San Diego Awards that took place Sunday, May 26, 2019 at the Balboa Theatre, downtown San Diego.

At the awards show, hosted by Joey Landwehr, artistic director of BSD Awards, and Marcella Lee of CBS News 8, Vadeboncoeur competed as one of the top 20 best local high school musical theatre nomi­nees performing “On My Own” from her nominated role as Eponine in SCHS’s recent production of Les Misérables. She also sang a contrasting piece.

Readers learned of La Mesa resident Charlotte Spahn who could tell lots of stories about the San Diego homeless people she has helped feed each Saturday for 28 years but she is usually too busy working at Saturday lunches at the St. Vincent de Paul Joan Kroc Center to talk for long. She is also very circumspect about the respecting the dignity of those she serves.

Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty June 13 to con­spiracy to use funds from the congressional cam­paign of her husband, Duncan D. Hunter, and has agreed to testify in his upcoming fraud trial.

Margaret Hunter, 44, of Alpine, faces up to five years in federal prison when she is sentenced in 2020.

Lemon Grove City Councilman Matt Mendoza tendered his resignation, effective Nov. 4, 2019, with nearly a year left on his term.

Mayor Racquel Vasquez announced Mendoza’s res­ignation at the Nov. 5 city council meeting.

“The City of Lemon Grove owes councilmember Matt Mendoza our appreciation and respect for his service and dedication to our community,” she read in a prepared statement to the council and attendees. “During his tenure on the City Council his focus was on the financial security and health of the city, ensur­ing decision made by the council were a reflection of the needs of the community.”

In December Congressman Duncan D. Hunter pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds and later announced he would step down from his post as repre­sentative of the 50th Congressional District.