Nine candidates vie for two seats on Calexico council

February 14, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

Nine candidates are running for two available seats on the Calexico City Council.

Whoever is elected will face many challenges, including:

· the Calexico Police Department is understaffed.

· the population is growing faster than the city can build infrastructure.

· houses pop up every day but there aren't enough schools to educate the children living in those homes.

· developers are asking the city's Redevelopment Agency for millions of dollars.

Each one of the nine candidates is aware of the challenges and each has vowed to meet them head on with the support of the community.

Councilman Gilbert Grijalva is not running for re-election. He is running for a seat on the Imperial Irrigation District board.

Mayor Victor Carrillo is running for election to the county Board of Supervisors. He said he would vacate his council seat if elected.


Councilman Javier Alatorre is the only incumbent running for re-election.

Joining Alatorre on the ballot — (in alphabetical order) are former Calexico Unified School District School board member Sylvia Bernal, longtime law enforcement officer David De Leon, former city manager Henry Legaspi, former city councilman/mayor Ricardo Ortega, businessman and hospital board trustee David Ouzan, former executive director of the Calexico Housing Authority Lupita Rios and handyman Carlos Rocha.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or


Calexico City Councilman and former Mayor Javier Alatorre is running for re-election because he thinks he has helped improve the relationship between the city's residents and its City Council and he wants to continue the progress.

He initially ran for City Council in 1998 because he was dissatisfied with how city government was working for the people.

"At the time you heard ‘only in Calexico' and things like that. There was crime. My neighbor's house was vandalized three times in two weeks," he said.

In the years since, Alatorre thinks he has helped turn around the city.

"I honestly think so. I wouldn't be here if I didn't," he said of running again.

Alatorre is most proud of raising the expectations for city government.

"Now we expect things to happen. … I think that mentality has helped us to accomplish the improvements that we have," he said.

One thing Alatorre still wants to do is institute a specific fiscal policy that guides the city's Redevelopment Agency board as it decides which projects to fund.

Speaking about the Police Department, Alatorre said he is confident the council will continue to increase wages to keep officers in Calexico.

"We gave three raises (during his tenure). That was unheard of in the last 10 years," he said.


Sylvia Bernal thinks the City Council has done a good job the past four years but since City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva is not running for re-election, she decided to vie for an open seat.

The Heber Union Elementary School District librarian and former Calexico Unified School District trustee thinks the timing is right.

"It's time for me to move up and serve Calexico in a wider capacity," she said.

If elected, she vowed to use the same techniques she used on the school board (1992-2000).

"I'd allow our administrators to do their job, not micro-manage," she said.

She vowed to work at providing emergency medical services for Calexico residents.

"It concerns lives," she said, regarding the city's overworked ambulance service and lack of a 24-hour urgent-care center.

She would concentrate on providing more recreational opportunities for Calexico's youth.

"Arcades, more skating parts, a skating rink, water park and a bowling alley," she gave as examples of projects she would like to see in Calexico.

Regarding the funding for all of those services, Bernal said she would make decisions as a councilwoman to balance the city's goal of promoting economic development with the need to provide recreational opportunities.


Driving around this city with more than 4,000 Calexico High School students over the years, part-time driving high school instructor David De Leon has seen the problems he wants to solve if elected to the City Council.

The background investigator for the county Sheriff's Office said he would try to make sure the city enforces existing ordinances governing housing and traffic issues.

He has watched people convert their garages to apartments when no one is looking and experienced firsthand the traffic problems that choke the city's thoroughfares.

De Leon arrived in Calexico after working for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and police departments in Central and Northern California.

He thinks his long law enforcement career will allow him to propose and implement policies to strengthen Calexico's public safety departments.

His plan: "I'm going to help these guys (firefighters, police officers) to remain in Calexico, get decent wages and benefits."

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