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Forum pits seven candidates for two Calexico City Council seats

February 28, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Residents here heard from a candidate for the Imperial Irrigation District board and seven candidates for two seats on the Calexico City Council during part of a forum here Wednesday.

The forum was the second of three at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus library to mark United Farm Workers week. Tonight, the third forum, on immigrant issues in the context of Sept. 11, will begin at 6 p.m.

The president of the Calexico Housing Authority's resident council, Maria Teresa Gasca, began Wednesday's forum.

She said, "Some of you are acquainted with the problems with the Housing Authority."

For those who weren't, Gasca said residents have been victims of terrorism and psychological abuse.

"They live under constant fear of eviction," she said.

Each candidate for political office was given five minutes to answer the question, "How are you going to provide decent housing for all if we vote for you?"


Calexico City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva spoke first. Grijalva is running against incumbent Rudy Maldonado for the IID board's Division 5 seat. Maldonado did not attend the forum. Grijalva asked the crowd to "look at my record."

During his tenure on the City Council, Grijalva said there has been construction of 350 senior citizen housing units and more than 400 first-time homebuyers have been given assistance by the city Redevelopment Agency.

As an IID director, Grijalva said he would look into creating "smart homes." The "smart homes" would be run by microchips that would allow a home to be cooled, heated or lighted more efficiently.

"That could save quite a bit of money for rate-payers. I participated with a program in the Los Angeles area and the rates are lower now than they were," he said.

Grijalva pointed to his experience with a San Fernando-based non-profit housing development corporation. He said that organization helped find funding for more than 400,000 affordable homes.

Calexico City Council candidate Alex Perrone spoke next: "I want to create opportunities for our community, create opportunities here in Calexico."

He said, "Students that graduate from here, they don't stay here. We need to bring in businesses that create jobs."

Perrone continued, "I would support our local Police Department. How can we have only four policemen patrolling the city?"

Perrone added, "I want to create communication links between government and the citizens." He called it an "open door policy for worries and doubts."

Perrone said, "I want to see a civic arts center downtown. People deserve to have that in their city, places for fun."

Speaking directly to Gasca, Perrone said, "I agree with what you said. It is sad you have had that poor service. We'll find solutions."

Council candidate David Ouzan said, "Housing issues are very critical." He stressed three key areas he would address as councilman.

"First, we must do something about the security and safety of this community. Second, I support after-school programs for the youth. A lot of kids, there is not much for them to do. We need to make sure they are safe and busy with classes on art, music or dancing."

"Third, we need to bring some tourism to Calexico. Why not? This is a much better location than Yuma," he said.

Regarding the problems of the Housing Authority, Ouzan said, "The residents have the right to improve the quality of their life. They deserve better."

Council candidate Carlos Rocha said he is aware of the problems at the Housing Authority because he has family who live in some units.

"Many times I have known more than other people. I know the problems they have."

Regarding the promises of his opponents, Rocha said, "We sound like a broken record. Everyone says they are going to do this and do that. How are we going to do anything with no funds?"

Rocha said developers are not paying impact fees.

"Why? They are being waived," he said.

Rocha added, "A hospital? We're paying a half-cent sales tax when it is shut down?"

His plans? "I would tell the people, ‘Yo, people. Things need to change. I keep hearing, "Only in Calexico, only in Calexico" when something happens here. When there is a problem, we have to solve it right away — not put it on the agenda and wait for a month.' "

Council candidate Henry Legaspi spoke about his long career with the IID. He said he was in charge of more than 400 employees. He managed a budget of more than $200 million as IID power manager. During his 12 years as manager, Legaspi said he negotiated million-dollar contracts that had favorable terms for the district.

"Some people said I was a workaholic but I still found time to be active in the community, participating in Little League, serving on the school board and the Planning Commission."

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