By Jonathan Goetz
Photo: El Cajon Councilman Ben Kalasho faces resistance on new group to bring holiday cheer to seniors
March 1, 2017 (El Cajon) - Freshman El Cajon Councilman Ben Kalasho was impressed by the Santee Santas, and wants to bring the idea to El Cajon. Kalasho envisions an organization, El Cajon Elves that would bring carols, socks and slippers to elders around the holidays.
But groups that already serve seniors, including the AARP and the Salvation Army, turned up to oppose the City of El Cajon from releasing $5,000 in seed money to the El Cajon Elves, and requested that the funds instead be given to one of the existing organizations already serving senior citizens. No one testifed in support of the city providing seed money to start a new nonprofit.
Dana Stevens with Citizens Against Substance Abuse (CASA) read a letter from Hoagy Carmichael stating the AARP Chapter 4800 of El Cajon and La Mesa’s opposition to the El Cajon Elves seed money. During her testimony, she said that a needs assessment by the County in District 2 showed that yard work and minor home repairs topped the list of needs for seniors, followed by routine housework and grocery shopping. The El Cajon Elves revolves around caroling and distribution of socks and slippers to elders.
Carol Lewis of the El Cajon Collaborative, celebrating 25 years in existence and 90 collaborative partners, said “city staff should investigate what services are already there” and, along with other speakers, suggested that the money be given to an existing organization instead of a start-up.
Humbert Cabrera, a Salvation Army Board member, said “Seniors need the physical work. Physical work; you’ll see some of the different volunteer groups go out, Rotary clubs are one of them, we go to senior housing, Home of Guiding Hands. We actually do the work in their yards, help them with their HVAC systems.”
Kalasho states that the seed money will go to pay the City Attorney to file a 501c3 and design a website that will educate and capture data from the public.
Councilman Goble pressed Kalasho to commit that he would not seek more funds, at least not in 2017. “The current request seems to be about $5,000 to help set up a 501c3. Would that represent the totality of funds for 2017?” Later he pressed, “Is the scope of City’s contribution one time or ongoing? Is the request for setting up a 501c3 and then there would be additional requests?” Kalasho replied “No.”
At the beginning of the meeting Councilman Bob McClellan seemed to support funding the El Cajon Elves, saying, “If staff has the time to do this and it is a worthy cause and it is for seniors and if Kalasho has the time to spearhead this that would be a good thing.” But later he stated, “After hearing from the speakers, we already do this. If you really want to get involved, go to the Salvation Army; donate your time there and let’s support the things we already have.” He added, “We don’t need to do more things than we’re already doing.”
The Mayor moved to approve the money, saying “I think it’s a Councilman’s prerogative to pick up projects and develop them,” but a substitute motion by Councilman Gary Kendrick was approved 4 to 1 (with Kalasho opposed) to delay action for another 30 days.
When asked why he made the substitute motion, Kendrick told East County Magazine, “We got a lot of information tonight from nonprofits that help seniors and I want to be able to digest that information and come up with the best possible solution. I want to do what’s best for our seniors. I want to make sure we get this right. So I’m not saying ‘no’ to what Ben is proposing, I’m just looking at all the information that the nonprofits brought up tonight; there was a lot of public comment.”
Also during the Council meeting, Eric Lund, president of the East County Chamber of Commerce, gave an update on the San Diego East County homeless Task Force. He thanked the city representatives, police and other agencies involved in tackling the homelessness issue. The task force’s first three meetings included a report-out session, a brainstorming session, and analysis.
1) a stronger marketing approach to communicate effectively on homelessness,
2) defining data to benchmark and analyze whether success is achieved,
3) organizing the contact team so that it’s not always the police responding to homeless issues,
4) trying to solve services confusion, since the system is fractured, by defining specific entities where homeless can be directed to go,
5) A reunification program; San Diego, which has a lot of homeless people, has had significant success reunifying homeless people and their families,
6) Shelters and day care centers,
7) Determining how to deal with mental illness and addiction,
8) How should businesses respond if they have issues with crime or legal matters,
9) How can we help homeless youths attending our schools and colleges to succeed in life?
Earlier, during public comments, Bonnie Price asked to hear from the Police Chief on his department’s stance on cooperating with federal immigration enforcement efforts. She noted that New York City’s Police Commissioner has said his department will not pick up undocumented immigrations for ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) because the department doesn’t want to shut down communications and have immigrants afraid to talk to police.