By Jonathan Goetz
Photo: El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis and El Cajon’s liaisons from County Mental Health
January 12, 2017 (El Cajon) -- Formerly operating in lock-step unison, the El Cajon City Council picked up two businessmen in the 2016 elections, one supported by neither political party and one supported by the party previously shut-out.
Newly elected Councilman Ben Kalasho wants to make it easier for new businesses to be a little excessive on their signage for a longer period of time than currently allowed; he proposed a motion to ask City Staff to re-visit the sign ordinance specifically to make it easier to post grand opening signs for a longer period of time as the signs are expensive.
Steve Goble said that as a franchise marketer he definitely supported the effort, adding that he supports Councilmember Kalasho’s thoughts on this topic “because this falls within my career of marketing and helping businesses open. There are changes we can make to our sign code to be a little more business friendly.”
Gary Kendrick seemed to oppose the plan in his comments. “My first City Council meeting I attended was in 1972 and the issue was about signs and I know a lot about it because I had to write a report on it. I drove up and down Main Street and the city fathers wanted to clean up the city and make it look good; they didn’t want it to look like Las Vegas. There was this huge debate, lots of angry people and I thought, I’m glad I’m not up there,” he said, chuckling. “A UT editorial said El Cajon looked like downtown Beirut. Right now, it looks nice. Our sign ordinance is okay…I’m very wary of taking the city in a different direction. I want this city to look better and better.” But ultimately, he voted with Kalasho and Goble to refer Kalasho’s request to staff.
Photo (right): All eyes on Kendrick
When asked about the change of course in his vote between his comments and his vote, Kendrick told East County Magazine “One thing I learned a really long time ago was to never make up your mind before you go into a meeting because as people talk you might be swayed to change your mind. Maybe there’s something that neither you nor the other councilmembers have come up with… It was Steve Goble who swayed me; it was the computer generated plastic signs that go in the windows that look really good so they’re not butcher paper signs that people hang up on their building.”
McClellan voted no, saying “Our ordinance doesn’t say they have to have digital signs for a grand opening. I would think they could use a less expensive type of signage when they’re a new business that way they don’t spend $2,000 on their sign. I wouldn’t think they would have to have these high-quality signs that are being spoken of. I wouldn’t want to spend that kind of money on a sign that’s only going to be there for six months. If they’re a large business then they can get the signs because they have the money for it.”
The Mayor voted no but said that El Cajon must keep “pace with technology and identify trends. The decisions we make, they’re not arbitrary; a small change like this can change the entire look and feel of the city.”
Another Kalasho proposal was forwarded to staff, although quite a bit differently than he envisioned.
Instead of creating 20 jobs for the homeless as he proposed, a subcommittee on the homeless will be created, in an alternate motion by the Mayor.
Kalasho’s motion to create 20 jobs for the homeless was revived by City Clerk Belinda Hawley during Goble’s remarks, but died due to lack of a second.
“Take their cart and offer them a job,” said Kalasho, in getting the discussion started. “I would only approve of a shopping cart ban if you included these 20 jobs,” he clarified later.
He said that he, even without the help of the Neighborhood Market Association, would try to get all of the liquor stores to stop selling alcohol marketed to minors and to the homeless and serial inebriates, if the City Council would approve 20 city jobs for the homeless in landscaping, graffiti clean-up and the like.
McClellan said, “Ben, you’ll be a hero in my book if you can get all the liquor store owners to stop selling to homeless people, but I think it’s a bit like trying to climb Mt. Everest.”
Councilman Gary Kendrick said, “When I first got on the Council 15 years ago, I wanted a shopping cart ordinance. I was told that we couldn’t because we were pre-empted by state law.”
Public comment on the issue at January 10th’s meeting was eclipsed by an El Cajon resident who started a neighborhood fund and raised $300 cash and a ton of toiletries, clothing, towels but was told by the recipient “Lady, I only accept cash and gift cards; thanks for the money and please take your stuff.”
When she came back to give this father of children who were out of school a job at her husband’s solar company, he declined, saying he made $300 a day pan-handling.
To which City Manager Douglas Williford replied “I’ve heard of the location and I’ll talk to the Police Chief.”
McClellan recalled, “A few years ago we were talking about having the police take the carts off the homeless people… also people that have shopping carts make sure their wheels are locked so they don’t leave the parking lot. This is a problem.”
El Cajon resident Stephanie Harper voiced concern that homeless people storing their belongings within the jurisdiction of the El Cajon Police Department should not have their lives made more difficult. She suggested the city offer storage facilities instead of taking shopping carts away from the homeless.
The Mayor’s proposal, which is ultimately what was forwarded to staff, was to create a subcommittee on homelessness, for which the city expects more assistance from the county, because public health is within the county jurisdiction.
Chief of Police Jeff Davis was called forward by Mayor Wells to testify as to Stephanie Harper’s question on a police fee. She questioned a $40 fee to the police department when a property management company called a tow-truck company directly to have her car towed. Harper asked why the city added this fee to her tow bill, making a bad, and for some people devastating situation, worse.