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.