By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor
Photo, from left to right: Mike Aquawi, Humbert Cabrera, Nathan Cornett, Robert Pennoyer, Amanda McGimpsey, Jaqueline Sona
July 15, 2019 (El Cajon) --The final chapter of the drama-filled Ben Kalasho novel was written on Tuesday when local businessman Humbert Cabrera was appointed to the El Cajon Planning Commission. The seat was recently vacated by the recent appointment of Phil Ortiz to the El Cajon City Council in May to replace Kalasho, who resigned in March after two stormy years on the Council.
Mike Aqwali, Nathan Cornett, Amanda McGimpsey, Robert Pennoyer and Jaqueline Sona also sought the position. Aqwali’s application was not considered because he did not have an actual residence within the El Cajon city limits but reside in Rancho San Diego, part of unincorporated San Diego County.
The motion to appoint Cabrera was made by Mayor Bill Wells. The vote was 3-2, with Councilmembers Gary Kendrick and Phil Ortiz opposed. Kendrick cited possible conflicts of interest due to Cabrera having projects before the commission.
Each of the candidates had two minutes to speak about their governmental and community experience applicable to the position.
Cabrera, who is the principal of an architectural design and drawing firm, has been an active member of the El Cajon community and for the past five years has been president of the El Cajon Rotary Club. He has been also involved with other community endeavors including the National Latino Police Officers Association. Cabrera was recognized by the City of El Cajon as its “Citizen of the Year” in 2015.
In questions posed by ECM, Cabrera said the main goal for members of the El Cajon Planning Commission is to operate with clear public input.
“Public Input together with the ordinances/regulations and recommendation of staff can help many issues get resolved,” says Cabrera. “The technical knowledge of dealing with several planning divisions during my 35-plus year professional experience can level the playing field and help every day citizens understand how we can work together to solve their issues and better the city.
The Mayor, Council and City Manager have set a vision for El Cajon, we can add to the vision and keep things moving forward for the citizens of El Cajon.”
He says that decreasing regulation often allows for business and homeowners or renters to flourish. “There is a good team at the city. There is not a reason not to work with them in order to achieve some easier solution for businesses and citizens alike. If we help the citizens and the businesses there will be benefit to the city. The government is here to serve the people not the people serve the government,” Cabrera adds.
While the city does face some formidable challenges in the future, Cabrera says that the planning commission needs to “lead the charge and not follow the herd.” He credits the early formation of the East County Homeless Taskforce as an example of the forward-thinking attitude which regularly takes place in the city.
“East County started a homeless task force long before anyone else woke up to this serious issue. We are also partnering with private enterprise and non-for profit organizations. The Task force has had some success, but there is still more to do. East county is unique in that there are so many businesses and private citizens that want to volunteer and help,” Cabrera states.
As a planning commissioner he aims to continue to support the city in these endeavors. “Volunteering is important for all of us.”
As for the City Council’s earlier vote that evening on a “Climate Change Policy,” he called it a “good starting point.”
“The action plan can be amended as these often are. I can see a time when there are “Heat Island Effect” credits and or other incentives that can help us get to the stated goals even quicker than expected,” he said. “Remember this is El Cajon. The people are tenacious in a good way. The people here are strong and work hard. There are several incentives already in the policy and I am sure there will be more creative ideas to come in the future,” Cabrera concludes.