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El Cajon City Council
By Jonathan Goetz
Photo, left: El Cajon’s new City Council, left to right: Gary Kendrick, Bob McClellan, Mayor Bill Wells, Ben Kalasho, and Steve Goble
December 14, 2016 (El Cajon) — Businessmen Ben Kalasho and Steve Goble were sworn in to their first terms on the El Cajon City Council Tuesday along with Bob McClellan, celebrating his 24th year on the Council.

McClellan thanked outgoing Councilwoman Star Bales, a former military translator, for her service to our armed forces. He said, “She’s a veteran as much as anyone else. She’s the one their snipers were targeting.”

Kalasho stated, “Voting for me means that I earned your trust. To those of you who voted for me, thank you, and to those who didn’t, I’ll get to you next time.” Kalasho, president of the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce in East County, opted to be sworn in by Padre Dam Board member Augie Scalzitti instead of the City Clerk.

Photo, right: Ben Kalasho being sworn in, replacing Star Bales as the Chaldean on the City Council and becoming the City’s first Chaldean elected to the City Council.

Goble, a franchise marketing executive who has been active in local charities, thanked his endorsers, including former El Cajon Mayors Joan Shoemaker and Richard Brown, both present. Goble quoted a friend as saying “”There are no strangers to me, just friends I haven’t met yet.”

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob was there to name Tuesday, December 13, 2016 “Star Bales Day” and “Tony Ambrose Day” in the County of San Diego in honor of the outgoing Councilmembers.

Bales told a packed Chamber audience, “Today I am very happy to celebrate the freedom we have in America, the democracy we have here.” In her last speech as Councilwoman, she raised awareness about the high rates of suicide among Veterans. Her ideal day job now that she is retiring from the El Cajon City Council would involve working with veterans, or something on base, she told East County Magazine.

Photo, left: County Supervisor Dianne Jacob declaring Tuesday, December 13th 2016 Star Bales Day and Tony Ambrose Day in the County of San Diego

Ambrose, who did not run for re-election, choked back tears as he issued thank yous. “Every chapter has an ending and that begins a new chapter,” he reflected, adding that his tenure saw five new playgrounds built in El Cajon.

After the transition of powers and a reception for the Council at the police department, the Council voted unanimously to temporarily ban the outdoor growing of marijuana in El Cajon until staff can draft something permanent.

Mayor Bill Wells nominated Bob McClellan to serve as his Mayor Pro Tem, which Councilmember Gary Kendrick seconded. Kalasho asked McClellan and Kendrick if either had served in that role, to which both replied affirmatively. Kalasho suggested that either he or Goble should be made Mayor Pro Tem and proceeded to vote no. Kalasho did however, loudly congratulate McClellan at the conclusion of the vote and appeared to pepper him with questions throughout the evening.

The Council unanimously approved a resolution to award a design-build contract for the animal shelter to CW Driver, Inc. Assistant City Manager Majed Al-Ghafry estimates design completion by late spring 2017, groundbreaking in the summer of 2017 and construction completion by late summer of 2018. The City has already finished off paying the bonds to finance the animal shelter issued under Prop O.

Goble had questions for staff about the animal shelter contract. He remarked that people relinquishing pets are in a far different mood than people adopting pets, and was told by Al-Ghafry that there would be a separate entrance for each with a common area in the middle.

Goble asked about the risks to animals during a power outage, to which he was told there were no risks in a short-term outage and that the City has a contract to provide power in the event of a prolonged outage. He asked about contagious animals, to which he was assured there was a quarantine area.

Goble also questioned the level of veterinary services, to which Al-Ghafry confirmed there would be a surgery room, x-ray room, recovery room and all the equipment necessary to provide state of the art veterinary services. Goble asked about the changes to capacity and was told the old shelter could hold around 101 to 103 animals and the new shelter will have capacity for 190+.

Mayor Wells asked if the old shelter would be demolished with Prop O money. Al-Ghafry confirmed that is one way it could be handled, but that staff would make a separate presentation about how they think best to handle the old facility, which is on a different parcel, at a subsequent meeting.

During Councilmembers’ remarks, Goble praised city staff for quickly addressing an issue he brought to their attention. He forwarded a complaint about a clothing collection with a broken lock that had become a magnet for homeless people to come get clothing. City staff discovered this is operating without a permit and will order it removed.