Mayor Racquel Vasquez proudly serves the City of Lemon Grove as a historic mayor. She is the first black female Mayor to be elected in both the City of Lemon Grove and County of San Diego.
Public service has long been important to the Cal State Northridge graduate. Prior to serving on the Lemon Grove City Council, Mayor Vasquez was an active Lemon Grove community member, serving in various community groups, associations and City task forces. This is where her passion for public service grew.
Mayor Vasquez has worked in City government, as a professional, for more than 20 years in public relations. She prides herself on putting people and community first.
Mayor Vasquez has pinpointed three key priorities to focus on in her four-year term: budget transparency, public safety, and infrastructure improvements.
Mayor Vasquez has been married for 26 years and has two daughters.
RESPONSE TO UNION TRIBUNE QUESTIONS
Posted on this website: September 30, 2020 at 8:46 p.m.
Revised October 1, 2020 at 6:34 p.m.
High resolution photo located here.
1. HOMELESSNESS IN LEMON GROVE
Addressing homelessness in Lemon Grove is a top priority along with budget transparency, public safety and street improvements. With my leadership and guidance, the City of Lemon Grove delivered a new Homeless Outreach Program. This program is grant funded by the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP). The city partnered with HomeStart, Crisis House, Salvation Army and the Family Health Center of San Diego to provide direct services to homeless individuals. Through this partnership, 90 homeless individuals received hygiene kits, housing vouchers, and an individualized work plan, if interested, to find permanent housing.
With our limited resources, we are doing everything that we can we can to help those in need. We will continue strengthen our non-profit team partnership and seek more grant opportunities to address and fund the City of Lemon Grove Homeless Outreach Program.
There is so much more work to be done to support the vision for the City of Lemon Grove and I am optimistic about our future. While we all are stepping up to care for each other in extraordinary ways during these unprecedented times, I will continue to be laser-focused on supporting the recovery of Lemon Grove both socially and economically.
I take great pride and care in putting people and community first. I am proudly endorsed by the Lemon Grove Firefighters Association, the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, business owners, industry leaders, organizations and residents. It would be my great honor to be re-elected Mayor for the City of Lemon Grove.
2. LEMON GROVE BUDGET AND FINANCIAL CHALLENGES
During my first term, I focused on balancing Lemon Grove's budget after inheriting 20 years of deficit spending. I prioritized budget transparency, infrastructure and quality of life improvements. My goal is to fix the structural deficit that was hidden for nearly 20 years and continue this important work.
The 2017 financial audit revealed there were accounts set up that had money, some did not and it was standard practice to pay city staff out of gas tax and sewer fees. This practice was in place for nearly 20 years and is an inappropriate use of this type of funding. Reference the City of Lemon Grove Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2017. This practice is no longer in place revealing the structural deficit. It is not a spending deficit; it is a revenue generating deficit.
With my leadership and guidance, the City of Lemon Grove implemented a new transparent and easy to understand budget reporting system and improved the city credit score from a BBB- (unable to bond or secure a loan) to a BBB+ investment grade. Reference the City of Lemon Grove Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2019. With this new and improved credit score, the city can bond or secure a loan.
The city also created a 115 Trust to deposit one-time money received for the city use to pay down future long-term liabilities. The money in the trust is currently earning 9% interest.
3. TOP THREE PRIORITIES FOR THE CITY OF LEMON GROVE
I believe an honest and transparent city budget is priority number one. The current General Fund budget is $14.7 million. Nearly 80% of the General Fund budget pays for Sheriff and Fire public safety services. Our current reserves as of July 1, 2021, are at 39.5% or $4,915,145. At 39.5%, we are maintaining a balance above the 25% threshold.
With my steady leadership and guidance, the City of Lemon Grove will continue to focus on diversifying our funding sources. The city entered into a new public/private partnership with OUTFRONT media to generate over $325,000 yearly for the next 20 years. We received and will continue to apply for more grants to fund the completion of the Lemon Grove Connect Main Street Linear Park Project, Sheriff’s Bike Patrol, Tobacco Retailer Licensing Program, Homeless Outreach Program and healthy lunches for youth and seniors. The city is now a Passport Acceptance Facility. Residents can take care of their passport needs at the City of Lemon Grove. Finally, the city added more park gazebos for residents to rent for special occasions.
As we look forward to the presidential election in November, voters will also be voting on Measure J, a local tax on cannabis retail sales. If this measure passes, retail sales will help generate at a minimum $560,000 to a maximum of $1.2 million in additional revenue to help restore vital city services.
Infrastructure Maintenance and Improvements
We will continue to focus on maintenance of city owned assets and roads improvements. With my leadership and guidance, the City paved 54 lane miles of roads throughout the city and fixed more potholes in four years. This is a monumental achievement. The city also removed more encampments, graffiti and illegal dumping sites. Finally, the city added more park gazebos for residents to rent for special events.
In the last twelve months:
As a first term Mayor for the City of Lemon Grove, I elevated the conversation about the city structural deficit. There is no way to sugarcoat it; the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the structural deficit to an estimated $1.5 million.
To close the budget gap caused by the structural deficit and preserve existing city services, Lemon Grove staff, Firefighters and Sheriff’s agreed to take the following temporary cuts:
These agreed upon temporary cuts saved the City of Lemon Grove $713,887.
In the last twelve months, the Lemon Grove Firefighters and Sheriff’s:
Currently, city staff is seeking more grants to restore public safety services. We received grant funding for the Public Safety Bike Patrol and are participating in a pilot project, at no cost to the city, to install cameras that do not have the ability to record video in high activity areas of concern: