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By Jonathan Goetz

February 14, 2017 (Lemon Grove) -- Newly elected Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez forwarded to a list of committee assignments for Council members to a dramatically altered City Council following the November elections.

Councilmember Jennifer Mendoza pulled the item from the consent calendar.“I think Racquel did a very good job of distributing the committee,” she said, but added that Jerry Jones should be the city’s primary representative on the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) board.

SANDAG is the regional planning agency that has representatives from all 18 cities and the county, making decisions on growth, transportation, environmental management, housing, open space, air quality, energy, fiscal management, economic development, and public safety.  

“Jerry served as the first alternate for over fourteen years and I think it’s entirely appropriate that he be moved up to primary,” Mendoza noted. “I should stay as first alternate and then Racquel come in as second alternate.  As far as I know, she’s never served on a position on the SANDAG board, so the second alternate is a great place for her to come in at and educate herself…”

Councilman Jones noted that it's not traditional in the county for the Mayor to always serve as the SANDAG representative, and that the representative is selected by each city's governing board and is not a mayoral appointee. He added, "It is not uncommon at Sandag for a more experienced member who is not the Mayor to sit as the primary at Sandag." For example, he noted, Jack Dale from Santee was a Council member who chaired SANDAG.   Prior to him Ron Morrison who as a council member sat as their primary and was also the chair of Sandag....The law was designed so that Sandag continue in its continuity and not be subjected as much to local elections as it would be to having experienced members in those positions."

The Mayor responded,  “All government agencies are different. Many places have term limits… that means that there is a turnover often and they don’t have someone serving on SANDAG for more than eight years. I know that SANDAG is looking to benefit from fresh blood, and this is an opportunity to bring fresh ideas to the governing board of SANDAG.”

Public comment was about evenly split between supporters and opponents, with two in support and two opposed.

Julia Cooper spoke in favor of Vasquez, the first African-American woman elected Mayor of a city in San Diego County, serving as primary SANDAG representative. Cooper stated, “We were very excited that we have this historic woman in Lemon Grove as Mayor. We want her to be visible and the City of San Diego and all of Lemon Grove and the whole County know she is Mayor.” She concluded, “We want the representation.”

Tom Clabby questioned if Vasquez’ day job with the City of San Diego would present a conflict of interest. “I’m concerned that I know the Mayor is an employee of the city of San Diego, and to sit on SANDAG, which doesn’t always go along with what San Diego is doing; they do what is best for the entire community. I think there is a chance of maybe a conflict of interest….I don’t want to see you put in that position, where it could endanger your employment in San Diego,” he  addressed Vasquez.

Vasquez responded, “Yes, I do work for the city of San Diego and it is a full-time job. But in my position I don’t make policy, nor do I have the ability to apply an opinion on public policy. When I sit here at this platform and I represent the city,  that is my sole purpose: to represent the city of Lemon Grove. As I work at my day job, I do the job as assigned.”

Jennifer Mendoza also switched places with David Arambula and will be the primary representative to Heartland Fire Board, which she served as primary alternate in the prior term.

Matt Mendoza, who, like Jerry Jones is also a Republican, joined Jennifer Mendoza and Jones in voting in favor of the revised assignments. Vasquez voted against the changes, while Arambula abstained.

After 14 years of being a SANDAG alternate, Jones will now represent this heavily Democratic city as the primary SANDAG representative.

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Personalizing Discourse Is Not Productive

Brian, I stand on the facts, my convictions and the arguments I made based in hours of research and reflection. The political process is often hardest on close friends and family when differences of opinion separate candidates and elected officials. I'm sorry that you feel this so personally. On a personal level I've been able to put aside election rhetoric and the occasional differences of opinion to have a cordial relationship with most all of my colleagues and former colleagues. The ability to agree to disagree and the avoidance of personalizing opposition makes for a happier life and colleagues that become friends. Indeed with few exceptions I call many former colleagues friend to this day and still have contact with them and input from them. jj


As I said in my comments, nothing about this action was meant to exclude Mayor Vasquez from participation at Sandag. Sandag is a regional body that deals with transportation, public safety and planning. The most direct effect they have is on transportation spending in the region. Sandag does not operate in a way that most of us are used to like a city or school district. A lot of what is done is accomplished through consensus and work done at the committee level. With that said there is a lot to be said for sending an experienced and networked representative to that body as the primary board member. That does not diminish the importance or role of an alternate and the value of gaining experience through the role of an alternate. Indeed, council member J Mendoza and I agreed that it was important that we ensure that Mayor Vasquez have a presence, role and voice at Sandag. Council member J Mendoza deferred her normal first alternate committee assignment to the Mayor and we made sure she had a committee assignment and voice in this regional body.

This just does not sit right

This just does not sit right with with me, the way you describe our Mayor as inexperienced, and also how you describe her conflicts of interest constantly ( which is nonsense ). Your manner sounds much like the way republicans described Obama, which was mostly partisan bickering and birther conspiracies, we should be proud we have the first black women mayor in San Diego. It also sounds like the way so many men have justified keeping women second regardless of their qualifications. It comes across as petty, patronizing and demeaning. I voted for her, and I expect you to put a cork in your vitriol hole, grow up, and stop spinning how you sidelined her as if its for her own good. If you disagree on the issues that is the point, but when you focus instead on her qualifications, on portraying her as potentially corrupt, that is disrespecting those of us who voted for her. The big issue is that SANDAG has major issues, which makes me see your experience as part of the problem. Why are you focusing on her not being qualified, when it seems like the entire board isn't qualified. It seems like you are very much invested in the status quo, which is a big part of the problem not just at SANDAG, but in Lemon Grove as well. The current status quo isn't serving our city or region very well. The fact is that SANDAG isn't run very well, and those running it "are in lockstep" (using the term used by voice of San Diego Article -> http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/a-readers-guide-to-the-sandag-scandal/ ) instead of working for each of their communities. The fact it is involved in a Scandal over measure A, where it knew the budget forecast was wrong a year before putting that measure on the ballot, makes me think we need more outsiders without experience. The other issue is of Transit Systems Security (TSS) officers who use undue force. On Aug. 23, 2014 my daughter witnessed this attack, she's actually in the footage you see on NBC news (seen here http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Disturbing-Video-Shows-Security-Officer-Beating-Man-on-Trolley-272384601.html ). Just think if that were your daughter, and I know you know my daughter. Since that happened I read additional articles about this where it said those officers were still causing a similar pattern of problems. I actually thought since my daughter actually knew George Gastil, and since he's on SANDAG that oversees MTS, that this would have been taken care of, but I saw more incidents in 2016 ( http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/public-safety/officers-violently-arrested-a-man-for-trespassing-at-mts-except-he-worked-there/ which listed the officers in that incident have lots of incidents and many settled lawsuits ). But it seems like its a similar pattern of behavior as you see playing out in police departments. I suspect these security officers still work there, and these sorts of patterns have been ignored. And this might not be in your direct role on the board, it is is within your purview of "Public Safety", and should be something you address. But this seems to be an issue which is ignored completely. This is a larger issue related to police violence where nothing is done, which reflects poorly on the majority of officers doing their job the right way. The fact candidates seek endorsements from these same officer groups each election, just ensures no one forces them to clean house. The reason why we have #BlackLivesMatter is due to incompetent personal policies which don't clean out the bad cops who are endangering those they are meant to serve. The fact it's an issue with MTS officers as well is just plain absurd. Seems to me that this organization could use some real leadership, and we just elected a Mayor who has a strong voice that no one will be able to shut up, who isn't doing everything in lockstep, but it seems the council has united to sideline that voice. My name is Brian Meyer, and I have voted in Lemon Grove for 18 years, and #ImWithHer.