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JENNIFER MENDOZA for Lemon Grove City Council

Lemon Grove City Council member Jennifer Mendoza has served on Council for eight years and is looking at retaining her seat for the next four years.

Mendoza said what made her run for office is that if you think things can be better, you should get involved and do something about it. She said that philosophy has been true for everything in her life.

“My husband and I bought our house in Lemon Grove about 20 years ago,” she said. “What really pushed me was that the city had received a grant for a new library. I am a law librarian, and I volunteered at my son’s school library. Libraries are very important to me, and the City decided to send the grant money back. Lemon Grove really needed a library. At that moment, I thought that I really needed to get involved.”

Mendoza said there was an opening on the Planning Commission at that time, applied, was appointed, and served on the commission for 10 years.

“I oversaw the approval of quite a few building projects for Lemon Grove, and then the recession hit, and the city decided in order to save money that they would eliminate the recreation department,” she said. “Council talked about contracting with YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and staff had done research, and they decided not to contract with either one and decided not to have an active recreation program in Lemon Grove. I was very disappointed in that decision.”

Mendoza said she was the kind of person who went to city council meetings and gave her opinion. But, at that point, is when she decided to run for city council.

“It was not because I thought I could instantly bring back recreation programs, but I saw a bigger picture and I thought I could do a good job. So, I ran. And I won,” she said.

Mendoza said since her time on Council, they have added recreation programs, mainly with kids, and contracted with a company for seniors, but she always felt it was not quite enough.

“There just never seemed to be the money there to bring back a full program,” she said. “People come in, email me, call me, stop me on the street, come to city council meetings, they seem more concerned with infrastructure. Fixing our streets, more sidewalks, a safer community, people speeding. We do not have unusually high crime, but it is definitely here. And then homeless issues weigh heavy on people’s minds.”

Mendoza said though she thinks it is important to bring more recreation programs back to Lemon Grove, over the last eight years it is not what people have been demanding.

“There are a small but loud group of people who want to see more recreation programs in Lemon Grove, so we recently decided to have the recreation center opened on Saturdays, but we still do not have the budget for programs. But people are coming in on a volunteer basis,” she said.

Mendoza, since being on council, said the positive changes that she is most proud of are the new linear park along the trolly line, Connect Main Street. She said the plans are complete, approved, and funding is granted for the first five phases.

Mendoza said people complained of transients drinking and smoking at the park.

“They were uncomfortable bringing their children,” she said.

When she asked the city manager why people were drinking and smoking at the park, she was told there was no ordinance in place that did not allow it.

“That was something that I spearheaded. An ordinance to ban alcohol consumption at any of our parks. I would enjoy a cold beer at the park from time to time, but it is the behavior that came along with it that made me feel it was necessary,” she said. “Parents like to bring their kids to the park to play, and they were not feeling comfortable doing that. And also, we banned smoking in the park. Most people conformed and followed the rules.”

Mendoza said another project she brought forward was the tobacco retail licensing ordinance.

“There is a big proportion of young folks who are buying cigarettes, with nobody policing the tobacco outlets. Mainly at the liquor stores, they were selling tobacco products and not checking IDs,” she said, adding that the ordinance applies to vaping products also.

Mendoza said they brought in a company free of charge, which did undercover purchases.

“It was really quite alarming how many underaged sales were being made,” she said. “So, we brought this ordinance to Lemon Grove, and it has vastly improved. Because an outlet could lose their license to sell tobacco, it is a very lucrative product for them, so they have definitely changed their behavior.”

Mendoza said as a community member, Kaiser brought a $1 million grant to Lemon Grove over a six year period to improve the health of Lemon Grove residents. She said working with Kaiser, and the City, they placed a walking path at one of the city’s parks, exercise equipment at another park, and added a section of sidewalk around the middle school and adjacent elementary school.

Mendoza said Golden Avenue, which runs behind the businesses on the south side of Broadway and sits next to an elementary school, Council was discussing what to do with some community grant funding, and she suggested putting a sidewalk, street trees, lighting, and drainage on that one-block area of Golden Avenue.

“This time, I got my council members to listen to me and they all agreed to spend the money,” she said. “My goal in improving that back area for our businesses, that it will incentivize the property owners and business owners to clean up the back of their businesses. We are just finishing the project. We have not put the trees in yet. Every business has a new driveway entrance. It is going to look beautiful when it is done.”

Mendoza said this project has improved the look of the area and hopes that surrounding businesses and homes will think about improving their properties.

Mendoza said after the City turned down the grant money for the library, the City and the Lemon Grove School District, came together with the idea to build a library on school property. It is shared by the school and the county library.

“It is beautiful, and I love it,” she said. “It was paid for with school bond money, so I walked through the streets of Lemon Grove to get people to vote for that school bond. That library was built eight years ago right before I joined City Council.”

Mendoza said when she first heard of the LGSD $127 million school bond, her first reaction was no, as they are still paying for the last one.

“I am retired. We own two houses on one property. So, everything is doubled. But then, it is really not that much money a year. I have seen two presentations on it so far, and I have to say the superintendent persuaded me that this is a good thing. I support it,” she said.

Mendoza said being on Council, with every decision, you must get your other council members to agree with you. She said with all of these improvements, it is something that the council has done together.

“I strongly believe that City Council is a nonpartisan position,” she said. “We should not be political. We are here to fix streets, put in sidewalks, balance the budget. We are not here to spout our big political viewpoints.”

JENNIFER MENDOZA for Lemon Grove City Council

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Source: East County Californian

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