LA MESA JOINS REGIONAL HOMELESS TASK FORCE, CHANGES COUNCIL MEETING TIMES

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SDG&E defends its record on safety and clean energy

By Jonathan Goetz

Photos Courtesy City of La Mesa

December 11, 2017 (La Mesa) - City Council voted at its last meeting to officially become a due-paying member of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. La Mesa has been participating by sending staff to the meetings, and this action makes the relationship official. Additionally, meetings will now be held at a standard 6 p.m. instead of the rotating 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., and SDG&E’s Public Affairs Manager Cameron Durckel and La Mesa Parks and Recreation Foundation President John Fonseca shared PowerPoints.

Councilmembers Colin Parent and Bill Baber introduced the motion to join the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. Parent said, “We wanted to ask the Council to have the City formally join the regional continuum of care… the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, the City of La Mesa was faulted by the County Grand Jury about a year or so ago for us not being a formal member. But we’ve been participating in the interim and so…what Councilmember Baber and I are proposing in this is that we formalize that arrangement that we become a formal member that we allocate a very small amount of money on an annual basis for dues and then to have this be a more formal arrangement with this regional effort.”

Resident Janet Castaños (right) spoke in favor of joining the task force, saying, “I just want to commend Councilmembers Baber and Parent on their work in gathering information on this regional homeless task force and encourage the Council to approve membership for the City. It’s really important especially in light of all we’re dealing with lately with health issues among the homeless with Hepatitis A,” she noted, adding that such issues of concern need to be addressed regionally.

Resident Jack Shu (below left) also spoke in favor, stating, “I want to support this action to join this regional task force but also, I hope the Council advocates for additional federal and county funds and state funds to support the homeless population. There is a crisis of homelessness in our region and I think that affects La Mesa. There’s many homeless here in La Mesa that I think we need to help as much as we can and working regionally I think will help us a lot, so please join the task force.”

This is in addition to the San Diego East County Homeless Task Force, Parent explained. “I think it’s great that the Chamber is doing this East County task force…There can be a lot of value for that. I think one of the key differences is that the regional continuum of care has as partners regional organizations and also… the public housing authorities.”

The motion to join the Regional Task Force on the Homeless passed unanimously, 5-0.

La Mesa has changed its City Council meeting time from rotating between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to a standard 6 p.m. with a second reading of an earlier 3-2 vote.

Councilmember Guy McWhirter voted no on the first reading of the ordinance, but said he was now voting yes to support the decision of the Council. Vice Mayor Kristine Alessio dissented in both votes.

Councilmember Bill Baber asked staff to bring the item up for discussion at the end of 2018, saying, “I would encourage staff at the end of a year, 2018 to bring it back and see if it’s working.”

San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) Public Affairs Manager Cameron Durckel (right) delivered a PowerPoint presentation and defended the utility company’s record on safety and clean energy.

“We have one of the densest largest weather networks in the world, 173 weather stations throughout the service territory. We installed these after the 2007 fires, there were a few existing prior. But to understand the weather and its impact to our electric system, and we’ve been able to data crunch, provide this information to the public, to various fire agencies and to be able to utilize this data for fire risk tools,” Durckel testified.

Durckel explained that SDG&E receives 43% of its electricity from clean and renewable energy sources. Additionally, SDG&E has a program for customers to opt in and, for a small premium, receive 100% of their energy from clean and renewable energy sources. “We’re still making advances in those areas and won’t stop but we’re way ahead of the other parts of the country and certainly others in the State,” said Durckel.

At the beginning of the meeting, Vice Mayor Kristine Alessio skipped the invocation and read “Your Bit,” a poem which once belonged to her grandmother.

“As you know, I don’t do an invocation per say. But I read something that I found interesting and I hope you do too,” said Alessio.

"Your Bit"

To love a little, read a little, and smile a little too.

To greet a friend, and help a friend, and be a friend that’s true.

To work a bit, and play a bit, and blush your sheltering brook.

To be fair and square, to god and man, and be beyond reproof.

The Council was introduced to Kerry Kusiak, La Mesa’s new Director of Community Development.

Kusiak expressed excitement about his future working for La Mesa, saying, “I’m really glad to be here and look forward to working with you all: the Mayor, Council, community and staff.”

La Mesa Parks and Recreation Foundation President John Fonseca shared a PowerPoint and announced that the Foundation’s plans to renovate five La Mesa playgrounds is half-way underway, with renovations at Jackson Park and Northmont Park complete. A new playground at Vista La Mesa Park is expected to be complete this summer, and renovations at La Mesita and Collier Parks are coming next. The foundation has raised $600,000 of its $1 million goal.

La Mesa Parks and Recreation Foundation also supports Fun with Physics, Sundays at Six, Movies in the Park at La Mesita and MacArthur Park, geocaching and more, while the Arts & Lions subcommittee brings utility box painting.

“As you can see from the photos, Vista La Mesa park will bring recognition to EDCO, for being one of the significant donors of this child’s play. This park will provide awareness to recycling with customized signage on signs within the park,” said Fonseca, who also noted that the Vista La Mesa Park playground had been designated as a National Demonstration Playground through the California Park and Recreation Society and Game Time.

In addition to EDCO, other major donors to the new park include AT&T, Bank of America, the Drew Family, Grossmont Center, the Grossmont Healthcare District, the Junior Seau Foundation, Union Bank, Bill & Norma Verbeck and Wells Fargo.

Alessio noted that at the SANDAG board of directors meeting funding was approved to design the missing onramps at 125 and 94.  Alessio explained, “I know SANDAG’s been promising those for about 30 years (laughter) but I’m happy that it’s moving on to design.”

The meeting was adjourned in honor of the late Linda Keene, who served on the planning commission for 20 years, worked for SDG&E for 40 years, and volunteered at flag day, the adult enrichment center, the historical society and Shimmer.