Four candidates vying for mayor at Lemon Grove
Over the past year, Lemon Grove has pondered the possibility of a county takeover amid the city’s budget crunch. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has not helped matters. Looking for a way to close the financial gap, Lemon Grove will look to voters on November 3 to impose a tax on all cannabis stores in the city.
Proposal J will pay for general municipal expenses such as fire, safety, roads and recreation. Lemon Grove estimates that the measure will generate $ 560,000 to $ 1.1 million per year.
Mayor Racquel Vasquez in 2016 became the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of San Diego County. She faces three challengers for the seat – Councilman Jerry Jones; Kamaal Martin, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on city council in 2018; and businessman Chris Williams.
The San Diego Union-Tribune has asked all candidates to comment on some of the city’s most pressing issues. Vasquez refused to participate.
Jerry jones, 66, retired businessman, city councilor since 2002
Jones said homelessness has a serious impact on residents and businesses and a federal decision has made it impossible to restrict or ban camping on public property unless the city can provide shelter.
“This is a regional problem that will require regional solutions and these solutions will come at a cost, ”Jones said. “To date, Lemon Grove has not had the financial resources to engage in this issue, although we do receive some services through state grants. What we need is a plan that meets (federal laws) so that we can take campers off the streets and put them in shelters. This plan would also include an enforcement component for impacts such as litter, public defecation and trespassing. There is no magic solution, but as mayor this will have my personal attention and I will be active with our supervisor and other East County mayors to find East County solutions that work.
Jones said he was frustrated to see the city’s once balanced budget turn into multi-year deficits, with dwindling reserves and cuts to vital services such as law enforcement.
Jones said Lemon Grove is underfunded compared to other towns in East County that have adopted special sales tax measures in the past. Proposal S, a sales tax initiative presented to voters in Lemon Grove in March, failed. Jones said the city can balance its budget through “innovative cannabis tax revenues” (if voters approve it) and a contract the city has for a digital billboard and future billboards. display.
He said other concerns include repairs to streets and sidewalks, as well as parks and recreation services, which he has all said he will address in community discussions and town hall meetings. One of its priorities will be to fund more law enforcement. He referred to the city council’s recent decision to remove a deputy from the patrol, which he voted against.
“Given recent events, it’s also prudent to explore either more training or other first responder techniques when we review our law enforcement services,” he said.
Kamaal Martin, 41, Southern California advocacy director for the California Charter School Association and financial services educator
Martin said homeless people deserve dignity and respect, and housing instability is much more prevalent than most realize. He said partnership with groups is essential and the city needs to focus on rapid relocation.
“I believe we have an obligation to do what we can to support people who are vulnerable, who are struggling to survive or who are barely hanging on,” Martin said. “I think a useful step would be to work with our local and regional partners to better understand the entire spectrum of homelessness and its many expressions.”
Martin said the city’s finances need a triage-type approach, requiring greater economic development and a vision that reflects the city’s diversity and history and is a stepping stone to the future. He said this should include building housing that takes advantage of public transportation and the city’s proximity to downtown San Diego.
“Lemon Grove needs to rebrand, create an identity and market itself to attract investment, new businesses and give the businesses that are still there a reason to stay,” he said. “Lemon Grove should work to be the cleanest, greenest city in the county and eventually in the entire state of California. Build a reputation for promoting health, wellness, the arts, culture and our DIY spirit.
Martin said that “the intersections of public health, public safety and the economy” are Lemon Grove’s most pressing challenges.
“Our city is bankrupt and we cannot afford to fund the recreation center properly,” he said. “Our city is broke and we can’t even afford to properly operate and clean the public toilets our city has built at Promenade Park. In turn, our business community suffers because not everyone feels safe on our streets and may choose to patronize businesses elsewhere. “
He said nearly 45% of the city’s budget goes to law enforcement and continues to increase each year and encourages a closer look at the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Department. of San Diego and Lemon Grove’s real need for 21 sheriff’s deputies in a city of less than 4 square miles.
Chris Williams, 39, founder of a real estate acquisition, development and management company, owner of an auto repair business, co-founder of two digital newspapers
Williams said he believes homelessness is a “human rights crisis” and that to end it, the city needs to take “a multisectoral approach”. He said local leaders must address policies that will lead to increased access to affordable housing, mental and physical health services, education and employment opportunities.
“The Town of Lemon Grove needs to offer a combination of targeted programs that assist our residents with financial assistance, mediation and diversion, housing, legal assistance, employment services and / or other supports, many of which can be delivered within the community through public services, nonprofit, faith-based and philanthropic programs, ”said Williams.
Williams has been trying to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the city since 2016, when voters passed a measure allowing them. He has been in litigation with the city over several cannabis stores that have not been approved by city council. Williams is also suing the city over an altercation he had with City Councilor David Arambula in July 2017 that occurred at Arambula’s home.
Williams said the budget problems stem from the city’s “wasteful spending” and that he will balance the budget, reduce government fees and consumption, and increase revenues.
He said the city needed an independent audit, spending limits on city staff and creating “an environment conducive to business by minimizing red tape and costs.” Williams called Lemon Grove’s budget deficit and the city’s financial challenges “unacceptable and inexplicable.”
“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “If you spend more money than you earn, you’re going to be in trouble. The future of Lemon Grove will be directly linked to how we manage the money we have. An imbalanced budget today is directly linked to what our community can enjoy tomorrow. Tax responsibility is vital to creating a better, stronger and more efficient Lemon Grove. “
Williams said he was not interested in raising taxes, but rather spurring economic growth and opportunity in Lemon Grove by attracting and retaining businesses large and small.