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Arnie Levine, El Cajon mayoral candidate

Arnie Levine is running for El Cajon mayor. The 69-year-old Democrat is running against incumbent Mayor Bill Wells and said he is running to serve everyone, with many Republican supporters. Levine has lived in El Cajon since 1992, works in real estate, Levine said he is running because he believes City Hall is not doing its job.

“The homeless problem has gotten to epidemic proportions compared to other cities,” he said. “Statistically we have more homeless than all the other cities in San Diego. Right now, the rough count through surveys is at 1,300.”

Levine said there are multiple reasons for that and is putting together what he is calling the “Homeless Project,” with the goal to make El Cajon a model city.

“There are lots of solutions out there, but the problem is that they are all reactive solutions,” he said. “The Homeless Project is about planning for the future, taking care of the immediate needs with a long-term and short-term solutions. It is a project that truly does not just receive the funds and allocate them, but in addition to that it coordinates all the mayors, starting in the East County area to the rest of San Diego County. Homeless migrate based on the laws in that city. That is why homelessness is not getting solved, because every man for himself does not work.”

Levine said communities are intertwined and said by tapping into what works in different cities, looking at patterns, then create a network of communities, creating a universal template that would work for all. He said in creating El Cajon as the model, he would reach out to other mayors, county supervisors, and eventually will propose the plan to the governor, then go nationwide. He said the project is modeled not necessarily to take money and feed the homeless, but to manage organizations because homelessness is continuing due to the lack of organizations between all the resources available.

Levine said to help the homeless, there needs to be more outreach community programs for physical and mental health, job training programs, self-improvement education, mandatory drug rehab in lieu of jail sentences, enforcement of loitering laws, and an increase of shelter support systems.

“The laws on the books need to be reinstated. Law and order is a term used in politics in order to get people elected. I am saying law and order because that is a solution, instead of an environment that says we cannot use tough love, we have to use soft love. Soft love does not work and never did. It is an enabler. Anybody who has been in drug rehab programs know this. Enabling is part of the problem. Throwing money at programs does not get people out of addiction and does not get the homeless off the streets,” he said. “It takes a call for action and that is what my program and platform is going to do.”

Levine said another priority is supporting first responders, and that El Cajon can do without the tax increase measure on the November ballot.

“Repeal the half percent tax, and increase it to one percent,” he said. “I say no city tax. Most cities do not have it. El Cajon does not need it. There are resources to support local departments from state and federal. The state’s surplus is now $94 billion, so guess who’s going to be my new best friend. The governor.”

Levine said it speaking with business owners about Measure P, to support first responders, that most of them do not know about the city sales tax increase.

“To me, that is fiscal irresponsibility,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is a city tax when you have state and federal resources already allocated for that.”

Levine said cutting the tax would attract more businesses to El Cajon and attract more people so that El Cajon could become a “thriving community.”

“There are many plans in revitalizing downtown El Cajon, and much of that has to do with planning events that we are not having. The only events we are having are Friday night music events and Wednesday car shows,” he said. “Oktoberfest is in La Mesa every year and everybody from East County goes to that festival. Why isn’t that festival in El Cajon? We do have the Mother Goose Parade, but that is not enough events to make El Cajon what it used to be, which is a tourist area. We are the last stop before the mountains and the desert. What we need is activity events on a weekly basis to support the local business owners. That thriving and making multicultural events more available, and constant is something people want to do, but it takes leadership to make it happen.”

Levine said he wants to support everything that is important in the city.

“Localized support is very important. We have lost that with strip centers over the years. Big businesses are dominating the small mom and pop,” he said. “It can be done with leadership. From what I know, the mayor gets paid is what would be a fulltime pay for most middle and lower-middle class people. Basically, the city manager does most of the work. The mayor has the option in fulfilling his duties as being parttime. I am setting up my real estate company to be parttime with my participation, so I could be a fulltime mayor. Which means coordinating with other community leaders, so we could build up East County.”

Levine said in his outreach to the businesses and community people want to go shopping without chaotic situations where people have mental disabilities, drug disabilities, or people that are financially strapped and on the street.

“The community is supposed to have systems in place so those people can get help. And there is no leadership for that happening,” he said. “I do not get mad when I see things like this. My heart hurts for the community and these individuals that need help. You cannot throw money out. You must have an intention to see this through.”

“People are jaded with politics and Democracy is at stake right now,” he continued. “People can say that homelessness is hopeless. It is hopeless for the homeless. Not for the people who have jobs and a roof over their heads. It is hopeless because of lack of knowledge, wisdom, and action. And that takes leadership in the communities so the communities will not see homeless in the streets. They will see homeless in programs getting help.”

Levine said people will write off solutions because they do not want to deal with the problems.

“Citizens went into apathy mode because politics over the broad spectrum looked hopeless,” he said. “That is why Democracy is in danger right now. Because the people getting the attention are the loudest ones trying to get election from attention, social media, and using it for negative attention, instead of representing the communities.”

Levine said he knows what it will take to move forward, and if elected, he can enact these programs and philosophies.

“Fundamental Democratic philosophies that we just walked away from,” he said. “It starts at the community level. If you have representation in the community, these 100,000 people that live in El Cajon, if they see leadership, they will have faith. If they have faith, they will support projects that work. When you do the right thing people will come to you.”

Arnie Levine, El Cajon mayoral candidate

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Source: East County Californian

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