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By Jessyka Heredia 

View video of the full meeting 

Photo:  mural depicting Lemon Grove Incident on former Welcome Home boutique site, by Miriam Raftery.

February 10, 2023 (Lemon Grove) -- At the Lemon Grove City Council meeting on Feb. 7, the community honored the memory of a former Council member and announced a budget award received from the Government Finance Officers Association. In addition, the Council heard public outcries from community members past and present urging preservation of murals depicting the 1931 school segregation case known as The Lemon Grove Incident, after the Welcome Home Boutique, a nonprofit resale store benefitting refugees, closed abruptly after scandal allegations arose regarding the nonprofit’s CEO. 

Former city councilmember Tom Clabby was remembered as doing good for Lemon Grove during his 14 years on city council and his deep love for the community. Clabby passed away on Sunday January 22, 2023 surrounded by friends and family.  

Lt. Patrick McEvoy of the Lemon Grove Sheriff’s station gave an informative presentation on the dangers of fentanyl and the opioid crisis. The lieutenant introduced the newly launched Harm Reduction Kits that are available free to the public without prescription.  

The kits come with instructions and include two doses of Narcan Nasal Spray. McEvoy stated that his staff has free kits available at the Lemon Grove Sheriff Station located at 3240 Main Street or by simply asking any deputy. McEvoy told ECM that they typically have approximately 60 kits on hand at any given time but only one kit is given out at a time, no questions asked. 

When the subject of who is paying for the kits came up, the lieutenant explained the costs are covered by the Opioid Settlement Funds. 

Mayor Raquel Vasquez announced that the city of Lemon Grove received the Government Finance Officers Associations Distinguished Budget Award for fiscal year 2022/23. Mayor Vasquez said, “the city has never received an award for good financial budgeting and its significant because it's an outside agency who says, Lemon Grove, you're doing things right.” 

On behalf of the City Council, Vasquez congratulates Finance Director Joe Ware and his staff for their hard work and dedication in winning this important award. 

Mark Gracyk from the Helix Water District Board recognized recently retired councilmember Jerry Jones for his distinguished career at Metro JPA Wastewater Association and presented Jones with a proclamation.  

During the public comment portion of the meeting several people spoke in support of preserving the murals that wrap around the building of the former storefront called Welcome Home Boutique, a resale store that was connected to the non-profit Minority Humanitarian Foundation.  

The storefront located at 7963 Broadway in Lemon Grove was recently closed and emptied after accusations surfaced on January 8, about the CEO Mark Lane in a viral social media post in which the poster alleges Lane groomed her young and vulnerable adult child for online sex work. The Minority Humanitarian Foundation released a statement on their Facebook account on January 16 letting their followers know that Mark Lane is no longer affiliated with their organization. Lane was unreachable for comment as all his social media accounts have been removed and ECM was unable to locate a verified email address. According to the San Diego County Assessor's office the building is owned by Lemon Grove Plaza LP.  

The speakers included Dr. Robert Alvarez Jr, son of the lead plaintiff in the historic 1931 school segregation case that the mural depicts, Mario Chacon the artist of the mural and Lemon Grove Historical Society President Laura Hook. 

Dr. Alvarez stated he was aware that the City Manager has been working to ensure that the new renters will protect and conserve both the school case and the lemon pickers murals.  

Chacon spoke about the California Protection Act as well as the VARA act stating that both Acts protect public art. 

Laura Hook from the Historical Society extended their support in protecting the mural and stated, “It is important to keep the history of Lemon Grove alive.”  

The city manager expressed that the new tenants have moved in there illegally and the city is looking at several courses of action towards the tenants.  

Lastly, the City Council voted 5-0 to approve a new one-year contract to our current provider that is based out of Cleveland, Ohio, Sweeping Corp of America (SCA) formerly known as Canon Pacific, with the no vote coming from Councilmember Liana LeBaron LeBaron voted yes on the Street Sweeping contract saying she is "hoping we commit to putting the publics money to best use by increasing service levels for our next fiscal calender." Councilmember Alysson Snow and Lydia Romero, the City Manager both stated they have heard complaints from residents about the level of service from the company.  

According to the Staff Report, SCA was the only bid the city received. The company will service commercial twice a month, residential streets with curbs and gutters as well as parking lots once per month costing the city an annual rate of just over $53,000 and does not include power washing or cleaning of MTS stops as it previously did. The company is compiling a new schedule that should be available soon.  

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated the vote on the street sweeping contract was 4-1; it was 5-0.

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