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Bill Wells, El Cajon mayoral candidate

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells is running for reelection against newcomer Democratic candidate Arnie Levine. Wells, a Republican, began his political career on City Council in 2008, and became mayor in 2013. He is now running for his third term in office as mayor. Wells said he has much work to still do over the next few years.

“Obviously, the biggest concern of citizens in El Cajon is homelessness and crime,” he said. “Which I see is very linked. Not completely linked. We spend more money per capita than any other city in the county on homelessness. We have more beds per capita than any other city for homelessness. Part of that is because there is some poverty in El Cajon which attracts homelessness, and we understand this. We are working very hard to do what we can to provide people treatment options.”

Wells said at the same time, the city is committed in trying to have a clean community.

“And because of that, and because we do not think it is very compassionate, we are not allowing people to sleep on the streets as much as possible,” he said. “Where we see encampments, we try to break them up as fast as we can. If we see people’s tents, we try to top them from doing that as fast as we can. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with everybody because the tents and encampments pop up so fast. We are always chasing them down trying to stop it.”

Wells said the city is committed to not be like San Diego or Los Angeles, not allowing these “giant ghettos” to spring up in the city and do nothing about it.

Wells said they are really proud of organizations like the East County Transitional Living Center and what they do for the homeless in its programs.

“I think that is what people are wanting us to do,” he said. “Certainly, I have been pushing back against the County on filling up our hotels with homeless vouchers. That may end up in a legal battle, which I am completely committed waging because I believe it is important to protect El Cajon from that. At the same time, we are seeing an increase of crime. I do not think that has anything to do with El Cajon per say, I think it has to do with the state of California basically decriminalizing crime with all their laws making it easier to make crimes, not be prosecuted, and emptying out the prisons.”

Wells said the city is committed to hiring more police officers and will probably have to hire more fire personnel as well.

“El Cajon is becoming a busier and busier place when it comes to emergency medical calls and to police calls,” he said.

El Cajon has Measure P on the November ballot, which is intended to increase homeless funding, hire more police officers, invest in wildfire prevention, and improve neighborhood infrastructure. Measure P would tax retail sales at one percent, while eliminating the existing one-half percent tax approved by voters with Proposition J in 2008.

Wells said the city is doing what it can to bring new businesses into El Cajon, increasing the city’s revenue.

“We have a balanced budget right now. We have a $53 million reserve. And I think that shows that we have been careful with our money,” he said. “We refinanced the pension obligation bonds and saved $100 million.”

Wells said the city is also committed to things that are not as high-profile.

“Redoing our old pipes and making sure we do not have floods. Making sure all the streets are on a good program to have all street repaved,” he said. “We have the highest rating you can get on the road rating, showing how good you are doing repaving roads, filling potholes. We are committed to infrastructure and trying to make sure we are keeping up, so the people of El Cajon are not having problems with the electrical grid, traffic grid, plumbing, or roads.”

Wells said the city is committed on funding parks, keeping them open and safe.

“Part of that is keeping them clear of homelessness. We spent $8 million at Wells Park to make changes to that park so it would not be overrun by homelessness. I think that is certainly the right thing to do. People need their parks. We have a very active recreation services, so there are many activities for kids and families.”

Wells said that is important for many reasons.

“One reason is because we have many refugees in town and they need recreational activities. They do not have much to spend. So, we think it is important to provide all those services,” he said. “At the same time, with our refugees, our police department and fire department are active in going out and educating people on how to use the 9 1 1 system, how to access city services in a way that is good for them, and good for us. Many times, people do not understand how to properly use these services, so that is a big part of what we are doing.”

Wells said the city is committed to the arts, partnered with Live Nation, and got The Magnolia back up and running.

“We have many great concerts every week now,” he said. “Personally, I do a benefit concert there every year for the ECTLC, which is a lot of fun. This year I am doing a second one for the Home of Guiding Hands in January [2023].”

Wells said from SANDAG to the current County Board of Supervisors, he feels there is a lot of “attack on East County.”

“They want to dump sexual predators on us. They want to dump homeless people on us. I am not quite sure why they treat us like second-class citizens, but I am on top of that, and I am fighting back really hard. I am going to keep putting pressure on them until East County gets it fair share and that it gets proper treatment,” he said. “I think that is a big part of my plans for the next four years is to continue that fight and triple-down on the amount of pressure on these organizations that are treating us unfairly.”

Wells said much of the city’s success has to do with its police officer, firefighters, and city staff.

“It seems like a real happy place to work, and everyone seems to have high morale right now, and I think that helps us to do good things for people. It is a big collaborative effort.”

Bill Wells, El Cajon mayoral candidate

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Source: East County Californian

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