El Cajon

PILOT MAKES EMERGENCY LANDING NEAR SCHOOL PLAYGROUND IN EL CAJON

Photos courtesy of ECM news partner 10 News
 
By Miriam Raftery
 
October 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – A pilot who took off from Gillespie Field for a practice made an emergency landing on a field next to a playground at W.D. Hall Elementary School in El Cajon Friday afternoon after the plane stalled. Fortunately, no one was injured.
 
The pilot told 10 News that he had been flying for decades.
 
The wing of his small plane suffered damage from hitting a fence or trees, according to eyewitness reports.

PARKWAY PLAZA HOSTS DRIVE-THRU BOO HALLOWEEN SUNDAY OCT. 25

Drive-Thru Boo Halloween

East County News Service

October 24, 2020 (El Cajon) - Parkway Plaza, in partnership with East County Young Life and North Island Credit Union, is hosting a Drive-Thru Boo Halloween event on Sunday, October 25 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.in the outer parking lot between Dick’s Sporting Goods and Wells Fargo. This is a no -contact, family-friendly drive-thru event where guests are invited to bring their little ghosts and goblins to the mall parking lot to receive a fun Halloween treat bag. 

COVID RATES REMAIN LOW IN MOST REOPENED EAST COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS, BUT MANY LACK TRANSPARENCY

Cajon Valley, first to reopen, has most cases.  Three other districts report cases; others lack transparency in disclosure.  

Update October 31:  The Cajon Valley Union School District has added a breakdown by schools of its COVID cases, which now number 15 students and 2 employees  (17 total) at 11 schools. 

By Miriam Raftery

October 21, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – How safe is it to send your child back to school amid a pandemic, or for teachers to provide instruction inside classrooms?

East County Magazine has checked out the websites of all districts in East County to determine how many cases have been reported at schools that have reopened thus far, and how transparent each district is in making this information easily available to parents, teachers and staff.

To date, the County Public Health Department has not reported any outbreaks (defined as 3 or more cases tied to a single location) at any East County elementary, middle, high school or community college district. However some school districts do have cases among both students and staff. It is unclear whether cases were contracted on campus, or how many others may have been exposed.

In some districts, information on schools with COVID cases are being publicly disclosed, but not in others. Asked about this discrepancy, County spokesman Michael Workman said, "A change in the order regarding schools is being discussed and may be in place soon. The state guidance referenced above covers school notification. It’s too early to say what our health order change may say."

Here are the results of ECM's investigation.

HINTON CHALLENGES CLARK-MEJIA FOR CAJON VALLEY SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEE, AREA 4

CVUSD Election, Part One
 
By Robin N. Kendall
 
Photo: Karen Clark Mejia, left, and Monica Hinton, right
 
October 19, 2020 (El Cajon) - Cajon Valley Union School District (CVUSD) is the largest school district in East County. Two of the five seats for Governing Board Member Trustee are on the ballot this year with the incumbents facing one challenger each. Current board member Karen Clark-Meija represents Area 4 and faces behavioral health specialist Monica Hinton on the ballot. Jim Miller represents Area 5 and is challenged by Stacie Hoover, a retired paralegal. 
 
In this part one of our election series on the Cajon Valley School Board race, we will cover Area No. 4. In part two, we will cover Area No. 5.  

EL CAJON HOLDS VIRTUAL COMMUNITY MEETING TO GATHER INPUT FOR THE CITY’S GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENT

By Henri Migala

 

October 15, 2020 (El Cajon) -- Representatives from the Community Development Department from the City of El Cajon hosted a virtual community meeting on Sept. 29 to both share and gather information regarding the city’s long-term General Plan.

SCALZITTI FACES CHALLENGER WITH A “RESERVOIR” OF EXPERTISE IN HELIX WATER BOARD DISTRICT 5 RACE

By Miriam Raftery

October 12, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Helix Water District Director Joel Scalzitti faces three challengers—including Vickie Butcher, who brings a “reservoir” of knowledge on water issues as well as decades of experience in water policy and infrastructure to the race. The other two challengers have no ballot statements and an online search found no campaign webpage or Facebook site.

District 5 covers the eastern portion of the Helix district including portions of El Cajon, Granite Hills, Bostonia and Lakeside. View map.

MISSING DESCANSO MAN, 81, AT RISK: LAST SEEN IN GOLD TOYOTA TRUCK

Update October 13, 2020: This missing person has been found safely in Yuma.

By Miriam Raftery

October 11, 2020 (Descanso) – The Sheriff asks for public help to find Kenneth Zimmerman, 81, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and did not take his blood pressure medicine before leaving home in Descanso to get a newspaper earlier today. He was last seen at 12:30 p.m. driving toward Highway 79 from Viejas Blvd in Descanso in a gold Toyota Tundra(license CA 8E41946) with a black toolbox in the bed.  He frequents businesses in Alpine as well as the El Cajon Home Depot.

He does not have a cell phone with him, according to a bulletin issued by the Pine Valley Sheriff’s station.Zimmerman was last seen wearing a white cowboy hat, dark blue short-sleeve shirt and blue jeans.  He has blue eyes and white hair. He is white, 81, 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs around 190 pounds.

IN LIVELY FORUM, FIVE CANDIDATES SHARED DIVERSE VIEWS IN EL CAJON CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 2 RACE

 

Scroll down for highlights of our candidates forum, or click here to view video of the full forum.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left to right: Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos "Charlie" Mercado, Michelle Metschel, and Martin Van Dinteren.

October 10, 2020 (El Cajon) – Housing and homelessness, racial relations, public safety, attracting businesses, the future of Parkway Plaza and the performing arts center were among the hot topics discussed at a virtual forum hosted by East County Magazine for five of the six candidates running for the El Cajon City Council District 2 seat, to represent the north central portion of the city.

Candidates also addressed controversies in the race, including a fake website set up to mislead voters about one candidate and serious residency questions raised regarding another.

The five candidates who participated are Humbert Cabrera, a planning commissioner and business owner, Stephanie Harper, a residential relief worker, Juan Carlos “Charlie” Mercado, an Iraq war veteran and veterans’ advocate, Michelle Metschel, a defense industry administrator, and Martin Van Dinteren, a general contractor and former city building inspector. (Update: View ECM's Zoom interview with Letitia Dickerson, the sixth candidate, who missed the forum due to an incorrect e-mail address provided by the city.)

HIGHLIGHTS FROM EL CAJON DISTRICT 4 CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES FORUM

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Oct. 9, 2020 (El Cajon) El Cajon’s City Council District 4 candidates participated in a forum sponsored by East County Magazine, moderated by ECM editor, Miriam Raftery, via Zoom.  John Sepulvado was the cohost and timekeeper.

Scroll down to read highlights and excerpts of the forum, which covered a wide range of issues with questions from the public as well as the moderator.  Topics covered included racial justice and policing, homeless, housing and renters’ issues, the future of Parkway Plaza and the Magnolia performing arts center, COVID-19,  budget priorities, hate crimes, pedestrian safety/street racing, and more.

You can watch the full forum, recorded on Zoom, at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Z213Qn_Cyo&feature=youtu.be

The three candidates vying for the seat are (alphabetically) Estela de los Rios (D), Phil Ortiz (R), and Dunia Shaba (R). A fourth candidate, Billy Thigpen, did not participate. He has suspended his campaign and encouraged voters in the Nov. 3rd election to support Estela de los Rios.

ECM TO HOST EL CAJON CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE FORUMS

 

Video of district 2 forum is now posted.  Click here to view video. 

Video of the district 4 forum is now posted. Click here to view video.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, top row:  District 2 candidates Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos "Charlie" Mercado, Michelle Metschel and Martin Van Dinteren

Second row: District 4 candidates Estela de los Rios, Phil Ortiz, and Dunia Shaba

 

September 19, 2020 (El Cajon) - East County Magazine will host two forums for El Cajon City Council candidates:

District Four:  Monday Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.

District Two: Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m.

The forums will be on Zoom and livestreamed on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine.  Video will also be posted later on our website for those unable to watch live.  

 

The public can send questions to editor@eastcountymagazine.org up until noon the day of the forum.

 

Ten candidates are on the ballot in the highly competitive District 2 and 4 races.  (In District 3, Councilman Steve Goble is running unopposed.)

All candidates in District 2 and 4 have been invited. Eight have agreed to participate. In District Two, participants will include Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos Mercado, Michelle Metschel and Martin Van Dinteren.  In District Four, participants confirmed are Estela De Los Rios, Councilman Phil Ortiz, and Dania Shaba. The fouth candidate, Billy Thigpen, advised ECM that he is suspending his candicacy and endorsing De Los Rios.

Below is information on all candidates running in Districts 2 and 4. Click each name to view the statement of qualifications submitted to the city of El Cajon.

EL CAJON’S CLIFF ALBERT SHARING BROADCASTING WRITING TIPS AT SAN DIEGO PRESS CLUB WEBINAR

East County News Service

September 28, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon resident Cliff Albert, news director at KOGO-AM Newsradio 600 and one of San Diego’s leading radio news personalities for the past 35 years, will share his favorite broadcast writing tips at the San Diego Press Club’s next “Write Better Right Now,” a one-hour webinar from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 30. 

RACIST HATE GRAFFITI DEFACES CHALDEAN AND SYRIAC CATHOLIC CHURCHES IN EL CAJON

A Catholic church nearby was also targeted with graffiti early Saturday

By Miriam Raftery

September 27, 2020 (El Cajon) – Yesterday, St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Diocese in El Cajon posted this message, along with disturbing video:  “This morning our beloved Cathedral was defaced with pentagrams, upside down crosses, white power, swastikas, BLM, etc. It reminds us to pray for my brethren in Iraq that are facing persecution. Pray for the criminals who did this.”

The odd combination of hate symbols fueled speculation over who was responsible.  Some community members theorized that a group might have sought to discredit another group, since it seemed unlikely that a support of Black Lives Matter or Joe Biden would spray paint racist symbols such as swastikas and the words “white power,” nor would a neo-Nazi or white supremacist want to promote BLM or Biden.  The pentagram, a symbol associated with satanic cults, is not affiliated with either either the far right nor leftist groups named.

EL CAJON HOSTS COMMUNITY MEETING TO PLAN FOR HOUSING, ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND SAFETY IN GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENT

By Miriam Raftery

September 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – The city of El Cajon is embarking on updates to the Housing and Safety Elements of the General Plan and developing a new Environmental Justice Element. Residents are invited to join in a virtual community meeting on September 29 at 7:00 p.m. to discuss housing needs and the future of housing and community issues.

READER’S EDITORIAL: MUCH NEEDED PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALK FOR KID’S SAFETY CREATED AT JOHNSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN EL CAJON

By Robert Gehr

September 22, 2020 (El Cajon) -- Finally, a new crosswalk has been added to Madison Ave. at the west entrance to Johnson Elementary School (Cajon Valley School district), thus creating a safer environment for children and adults to cross a very busy street. In this writer’s opinion, it’s long overdue.

CRISIS HOUSE URGENTLY FUNDRAISING TO PURCHASE NEW BUILDING; COPLEY FOUNDATION WILL MATCH DONATIONS

By Kendra Sitton

 

September 19, 2020 (El Cajon) - The Crisis House is urgently fundraising in its biggest campaign ever so that it can purchase a new building before the City of El Cajon ends Crisis House’s lease and forces it to move out by December 31, 2020. 

EL CAJON COUNCIL BACKS OFF MAYOR’S PROPOSAL TO BAN POLICE FROM ENFORCING COVID-19 RULES

By Miriam Raftery

August 29, 2020 (El Cajon) – At a special meeting yesterday, El Cajon’s City Council heard a barrage of public comments, nearly all opposed to Mayor Bill Well’s proposal to direct police to stop enforcing state and county COVID-19 laws and regulations including business closures, mask wearing and social distancing 

The Mayor indicated that on his Facebook page, however, he heard from many more people, most in favor if his plan.

 In the end, the Mayor proposed a watered down motion that leaves enforcement up to the police chief and ciy manager, with some council guidance.

MAYOR WELLS URGES CITY TO DEFY STATE AND COUNTY COVID-19 LAWS AND REGULATIONS

 

By Miriam Raftery

Updated with comments from Gloria Chadwick and Randy Lenac, members of the Grossmont Healthcare District board

August 27, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells today announced on Facebook that he is convening a special meeting of the city council tomorrow at 3 p.m. to “discuss instructing our police to not enforce Covid-19 laws and or regulations… The state of California and the County of San Diego, of course, may continue to levy fines and criminal charges for violations, but I am proposing that the El Cajon police department not waste their valuable time enforcing mask, non-essential business and social distancing laws.”

VICTIM IDENTIFIED, SUSPECT CAPTURED IN MAIN STREET KILLING

By Miriam Raftery

Photo,left by Della Elliott:  A shrine to commemorate 21-year-old shooting victim Fabian Cerda has been created by community members at the site where he was fatally shot. 

May 24, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police today announced the arrest of George Louis Garcia, 42, following a tense standoff in La Mesa with police from multiple law enforcement agencies. Garcia is charged in the shooting death of Fabian Esteban Cerda, 21, on August 18 in El Cajon.

According to Lt. K. MacArthur with El Cajon Police, Cerda became involved in an argument with Garcia, the former boyfriend of Cerda’s mother around 1:30 a.m. on August 18 in front of 1548 East Main Street in El Cajon. “He was shot several times and later died as a result of the shooting,” Lt. MacArthur says. The victim succumbed to his injuries in an ambulance en route to a hospital.  

SDG&E PLANNED OUTAGES IN TRIPLE-DIGIT HEAT AND STORMS MAY ENDANGER SAFETY OF RESIDENTS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: New power poles in Pine Valley are made of steel, not wood, for fire safety, as part of the upgrades that SDG&E has been installing across inland San Diego County.

Updated August 23, 2020 9:40 a.m. with responses from SDG&E.

August 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Amid a record-breaking heat wave with monsoonal thunderstorms, flash floods and lightning-sparked fires forecast as potential added hazards, SDG&E has announced plans to shut off power for hours during the heat of the day on Sunday and Monday across much of San Diego County.  

The outages are to upgrade wood poles to steel, among other equipment upgrades or maintenance planned.

The NWS has warned that the intense heat  this week can be life-threatening for those without air conditioning, yet the power outage will leave any residents who lack generators without access to safe, cool spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic when many public, air-conditioned places are shut down.

Rural residents with electric well pumps will also be left without water for people or livestock to drink, as well as for fighting fires, as many rural residents equipped with tanks and hoses have done in past brush fires, unless they have invested in generators. Downed communications including internet and in some areas, phone service also leave residents unable to receive emergency alerts despite a high potential for emergencies during the extreme weather conditions.

EL CAJON COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES EMERGENCY SLEEPING CABINS FOR HOMELESS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo credit:  Amikas

August 16, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon’s City Council on Tuesday approved a pilot program to allow emergency sleeping cabins as temporary housing for the homeless. Homelessness is anticipated to rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic, after federal unemployment benefits ran out July 31, putting more people at risk of eviction in the future.

The first village of six cabins, similar to structures known as “tiny homes,”  will provide short-term shelter for homeless women, especially women veterans, and their children at Meridian Baptist Church on South Third Street. 

NEW DAWN UNDERGROUND: NEW NOVEL BY LOCAL AUTHOR AMANDA MATTI

By Miriam Raftery

 

August 2, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon author Amanda Matti’s latest novel, New Dawn Underground, is now available on Amazon and Kindle at bit.ly/NewDawnUnderground.

 

“If you'd like a signed copy, you can order those from my website at AmandaMatti.com,”says Matti, the author of three books, all set in Iraq.

 

New Dawn Underground is a counter-terrorism thriller about Elora Monro, a female CIA analyst who poses as a Washington Post journalist to infiltrate a terrorist organization in Iraq. She seeks revenge after the death of her fiance, a Delta Force member killed in a failed militant raid.

FEDERAL LOANS AVAILABLE TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY CIVIL UNREST

By Miriam Raftery
 
July 31, 2020 (San Diego) -- Low-interest federal disaster loans are available to help small businesses across San Diego County that were affected by civil unrest which began May 26, 2020, if they do not have the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

SYRIAN FAMILY STRUGGLES TO COPE WITH COVID-19

By Kendra Sitton

Photo by Henri Migala:  Asim Al-Abdullah worries about his family’s future
 
July 30, 2020 (El Cajon) - Everyone faces different struggles during the pandemic, such as health, financial or isolation. For a Syrian family of seven living in El Cajon, their primary struggle is psychological. 

MANY SEATS LACK CANDIDATES AS AUG. 7 DEADLINE TO RUN FOR LOCAL OFFICES DRAWS NEAR

By Miriam Raftery

July 27, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The deadline to file to run for local offices is August 7 including school boards, water boards, fire boards, community planning groups, city councils and mayoral races. In some races, multiple candidates have pulled papers announcing intent to run (though none have yet turned in final paperwork to qualify for the ballot).  Other races have only incumbents running unopposed or in some cases, no candidates announced yet at all.

For example, in the controversy-embroiled Cajon Valley School District, where two seats are on the ballot, so far only incumbent Jim Miller has filed to run. No one at all has registered so far in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District.

In the Helix Water District, so far incumbents Mark Gracyk, Joel Scalzitti and Dan McMillan are running unopposed.

All community planning groups in East County currently have fewer candidates than seats. If not enough people run, vacancies will be filled through appointment by County Supervisors to these positions that advise Supervisors on key land use projects. There are many other races still lacking a full slate of candidates.

Interest appears strongest in city council and mayoral races. Here’s who has announced intent to run so far:

PLANS FOR EMERGENCY SLEEPING CABINS FOR HOMELESS WOMEN AND CHILDREN MOVES FORWARD IN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Amikas demonstration village in City Heights

July 26, 2020 (El Cajon) – A proposal to allow construction of emergency sleeping cabins on property owned by Meridian Baptist Church has been approved by the El Cajon Planning Commission and will next be considered by the El Cajon City Council, potentially as early as August 11.

CYT SHUTS DOWN ALL LOCAL PROGRAMS INDEFINITELY AMID STORM OF SEXUAL ABUSE COMPLAINTS

By Miriam Raftery

July 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – After numerous former students alleged sexual abuse by instructors, Christian Youth Theater posted yesterday on its Facebook page, “As of today, CYT San Diego social media will no longer be active since we will not be holding any programming or reopening until further notice. Please visit our website at www.cytsandiego.org to contact us directly if you have any questions or statements. We are here to listen. We are here to learn. We love and support our ENTIRE CYT family.”

100 YEARS STRONG, ARTIST PHEBE BURNHAM’S WORKS TO BE DISPLAYED AT SOPHIE’S GALLERY



By Miriam Raftery

July 24, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – On July 26, Descanso artist Phebe Burnham will celebrate her 100th birthday.  A restrospective display of her vibrant oil paintings, pastels and mixed-media creations can be viewed at Sophie’s Gallery in El Cajon from now through September 9th.  Several can been seen online and many more can be viewed in-person at the gallery at 140 East Main Street in El Cajon.

Born at the dawn of the Roaring ‘20s in the U.S. and the Mexican Revolution in Mexico, Burnham has painted scenes and people in both Mexico and the U.S., including her rural Descanso community. 

 

SIGNS OF THE TIMES: TWO DOWNTOWN EL CAJON BUSINESSES CLOSE

By Robert Gehr

Photography: Robert Gehr

July 23, 2020 (El Cajon) -- On my walk this morning, I noticed two businesses in downtown El Cajon closed and nearly emptied of furnishings.  Both Rock a Betties Beauty Salon and Thrill Seekers have closed these locations, with rent signs in the windows.

Thrill Seekers, a retail establishment at 164 East Main Street, still has a website. A second location at 1421 Woodside Ave. Suite C, Santee remains open for customers. The owner of Thrill Seekers told ECM's editor that relocating to Santee was not related to the pandemic and that his business is "doing just fine."

State and county mandated closures due to the COVID-19 epidemic may have played a role in the permanent loss of Rock A Betties Beauty Salon at 158 E. Main St. El Cajon, a long-time fixture in the community. The shop has has taken its website down and the phone is disconnected.

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