El Cajon mayor touts budget, development in State of the City

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EL CAJON, Calif. -- El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells delivered his sixth annual State of the City address Tuesday night.

The event, held at the Ronald Reagan Community Center, doubled in attendance compared to the year before, city officials said.

“I kind of feel like this is a family meeting," Mayor Wells told FOX 5.

Wells shared some of the city's accomplishments from 2019, including a balanced budget.

"We’re supposed to have about a $15 million reserve. We have a $45 million reserve right now," Wells said.

He also shared some of the city's new development projects in health care, housing and hospitality, including two new hotels. Wells said one of the city's biggest accomplishments was reopening The Magnolia. Formerly known as the East County Performing Arts Center, the theater closed after 2008. It reopened in the fall of 2019 after being taken over by Live Nation, a national venue operator.

“People from all over the county are coming to these shows," Wells said. "I think that’s just going to get better and better.”

Wells also addressed some of the challenges facing El Cajon, including homelessness.

“Homelessness is our top priority. It’s a big issue for us. We’re doing quite a bit to try to reign homelessness in," Wells said.

In 2019, the city secured funding for seven new homeless outreach initiatives, ranging from permanent housing to a neighborhood cleanup program. Last year, the city removed 176 tons of trash and 450 abandoned shopping carts from storm channels, canyons, parks and sidewalks, city officials said.

This year's address recognized several individuals, including Veteran of the Year and Business of the Year.

Alvin Mwangi, an 11th grader at Valhalla High School, won the Teen Leadership Award.

“It’s a huge privilege. It’s an amazing honor just to be here in front of city officials, family, friends," Mwangi told FOX 5.

Looking ahead to 2020, future development projects include another hotel, restaurants and development of the storefront formerly occupied by Sears.

"I look forward to seeing how we can continue to progress in 2020," Wells said.

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