READER’S EDITORIAL: LETS RE-FORM THE PBID IN EL CAJON--AND BRING THE PROCESS OUT FROM BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

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By Peggy Buffo

“:…The newly hired [CDC] executive director Cindi Fargo was thrown to the wolves. None of the problems brought out by the Blue Ribbon Commission were her doing. I believe Cindi is probably the best person now to work with the reformed PBID.”

November 28, 2011 (El Cajon)—When a Planned Business Improvement District (PBID) in El Cajon in was originally formed in 1996, several primary goals were identified: clean up the downtown of transient population, get some businesses in the downtown's empty shops, and take advantage of the East County Performing Arts Center by populating some of those businesses as restaurants to bring people of El Cajon back to downtown El Cajon.

Sadly that mission to this point has stalled and in many instances has failed.

Many downtown buildings are still vacant and the ECPAC has been closed by the City. At least the transient population has decreased substantially and streets are much safer and cleaner.

In the intervening years, the original mission of the PBID morphed into a CDC when the gleam of redevelopment dollars and housing investments with large profits to be made muddled those goals. As the City of El Cajon poured redevelopment dollars into the CDC, not much is left to show the spending of that money.

The housing component designed as a big money raiser flopped just as the housing market tanked. The idea of bringing people downtown by installing more housing in the downtown is a good one, but needs to be done by private partnership, not this stakeholder organization as it was originally designed. And the City of El Cajon failed to live up to its original promise to make the East County Performing Arts Center a viable center to assist restaurants and businesses to support them.

As a stakeholder, a board member and a former chairperson for the originally formed PBID(which became the CDC during my board membership),=I’m concerned with the direction of the City’s involvement with this organization. The City is a large stakeholder, but certainly not the only one. Frankly I resigned from the board when the housing component became housing being developed by the CDC—I saw that as an idea that was too far out of the scope of our original concept; the failure of that project was what sent the CDC on its downward spiral.

In July the CDC was put to a vote with the stakeholders and was recertified with the premise that the bloated CDC would be downsized and changed back more to a PBID.

At that time, the newly hired executive director Cindi Fargo was thrown to the wolves. None of the problems brought out by the Blue Ribbon Commission were her doing. I believe Cindi is probably the best person now to work with the reformed PBID as she is familiar with the organization as it should be. I believe the work that Cindi was forced to do to come up to speed probably makes her the best candidate and she should be allowed to bid on the new organization.

My concern is two-fold: the stakeholders haven’t been kept in the loop of the changes that are happening, and the comment in the Union Tribune article that Daryl Priest “and others are asking the council to appoint a board next month to oversee the organization.”

As this organization is being funded by the stakeholders, I am VERY CONCERNED about this Council involvement. Yes, the Council appointed the blue ribbon commission to oversee the bloated organization and this commission has come up with the idea of reforming the group. But NONE of the stakeholders have received any copies of anything since the voting.

We had public meetings, this reorganization was discussed—but no one is privy to this information. Even members of the blue ribbon commission are in the dark. The City of El Cajon should NOT be the sole involved stakeholder in this reformation.

I call for the City of El Cajon to inform the stakeholders about what is happening and open the board to voting from the stakeholders. When the PBID was formed there was a process in place to get board members: by getting a petition signed by stakeholders and getting elected. This changed over the years and it seemed to allow developers to sit on the board rather than stakeholders.

It’s time to get property owners back on the board.

Peggy Buffo is a stakeholder and the former board chair of the El Cajon CDC. The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.