A young child and his mother watch the parade along El Cajon Boulevard. Photo by Chris Stone
File photo by Chris Stone

El Cajon’s diversity may increase thanks to the passage of Measure S on Nov. 8.

And there’s no question that with the measure’s approval — 69.07 percent of voters said “yes” — a political shift is imminent.

Measure S sets up a system whereby voters in four regions (districts) of the city will each choose a council member to represent them and their particular needs, including socio-economic needs.

Under the measure, the mayor will continue to be elected directly by all voters in the city.

Prior to the election, all five El Cajon City Council members were voted into office by the entire city.

Eric Lund, CEO of the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce, told KPBS that Measure S “was necessary for the city to avoid lawsuits over the disenfranchisement of voters.” According to the KPBS report, the Chamber of Commerce, along with El Cajon’s mayor, the San Diego County Democratic Party and the Republican Party of San Diego County all supported the measure.

Lund believes Measure S will further increase El Cajon’s diversity.

“In El Cajon we have a large Chaldean population, so obviously they’ll have a lot of influence on some of those elected officials,” Lund told KPBS. “We have a large Hispanic community here. When you look at the cultures and the people that are in El Cajon, it’s grown a lot.”

The by-district system may also give rise to the African American voice within El Cajon. According to the latest census data, that community comprises 6.3 percent of the city.

The current El Cajon City Council is comprised of Mayor Bill Wells, who is white, and three other white men, as well as Ben Kalasho, head of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce. During the Nov. 8 election, Kalasho unseated the only woman on the dais, Star Bales.

Wells provided an argument in favor of Measure S in the full text of the initiative that was put forth to voters. He said that creating individual districts will allow each council member to focus attention on their own neighborhood within the city.

“It will give individual citizens improved access to their elected representative. It will empower residents by making sure their collective voice is heard through an elected representative who lives in their neighborhood,” Wells argued.

Measure S does not define how districts will be drawn. Instead, the current city council will collect public input and draft an ordinance laying out the four districts’ boundaries, according to KPBS.

El Cajon City Council members are elected to four-year terms. By-district elections will begin in 2018 for one of the council seats; in 2020, three council seats will be up for election. The mayor’s seat is up for election in 2018.

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