A still shot from aerial drone footage taken around 8:40 p.m. June 26 shows traffic at the border backed up in all directions. Imperial County Supervisor Jesus Escobar's Imperial Valley Southern Border Committee convened for the first time Sept. 9 and is meant to tackle numerous issues related to the city and border region, including border traffic, environmental issues, and health-related concerns, in addition to other issues. PHOTO COURTESY OF MI CALEXICO
Some eight months after it was initially conceived, Jesus Escobar’s Imperial Valley Southern Border Committee had its first meeting, a gathering of elected officials from various governing bodies and community members meant to address the collective concerns of the region.
Although the District 1 Imperial County supervisor isn’t trying to sound “cheesy” or cliched, Escobar said the committee has quite literally been convened to “improve the quality of life in Calexico.”
Escobar said that through the committee he hopes to “bring to light some of the issues that affect the Calexico community” but addressed through a global, community perspective.
“If there’s an IID issue, we’ve got Erik (Ortega) here. If there’s a school issue, we’ve got Enrique Alvarado. If there’s a county issue, I’m there. Health-related? Heffernan is represented,” Escobar said Sept. 7.
The Sept. 9 inaugural meeting, which was held in Calexico City Hall’s council chambers, occurred past this newspaper’s print deadline.
“The city of Calexico welcomes this effort by Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar to convene community leaders and representatives from local institutions to discuss strategies that will benefit our city in a more effective manner. Collaboration is imperative to find solutions to economic and social issues we must improve. We look forward to updating our community of how this convening will make Calexico better,” committee member and Calexico City Manager Miguel Figueroa wrote in an email.
The meetings are opened to the public, and Escobar believes that Calexico’s council chambers are vast enough that social distancing can be adequately achieved. He added future meetings might also be broadcast online, but not the first one.
He admits this first meeting was a bit hastily convened, because he wanted to get it up and running after having first conceived the committee in late November 2019 and approved the first iteration of the board in February, with a few different members and when things were not so upside-down due to a global pandemic.
“I thought by summer we’d be ready to rock ‘n’ roll … COVID or no COVID we have to move forward,” Escobar said.
The Sept. 9 meeting was to run pretty loose, he said. Escobar indicated the emphasis would be introductions, election of officers, and “hammer out a vision/mission statement.”
“I have a pretty good idea where I want this to go,” he said. “But I don’t want to step on people’s toes, talking 90 percent of the time. It’s important to listen and let them talk.”
Calexico City Council member Lewis Pacheco was selected as chairperson of the committee, with Figueroa elected vice chair, Escobar said Sept. 11. Also, Calexico resident Belinda Alvarado was selected secretary.
The group is still working on a mission/vision statement, which will be tackled in earnest at the next meeting, Escobar said. For now, the meetings will be twice a month, although more information was to come.
The border committee will be about coming up with “team solutions” to problems affecting the city and region.
Escobar earlier in the week indicated there will be a feeling-out process, that is, “we want to be careful we don’t overstep our bounds.”
Like the community committees formed by other members of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, the border committee doesn’t really have any policymaking power, but it can take back suggestions and potential solutions to the respective community boards its members represent.
That has been the way it has worked with the north end Imperial County, Heber area and Ocotillo area versions of the committees put together by Supervisors Ryan Kelley and Luis Plancarte, which Escobar modeled this committee after.
A 12-member committee, Escobar recently reconstituted the membership and approved 11 participants, some of whom he handpicked and some of whom applied from the community.
Gloria Grijalva said she isn’t sure what to expect from the new committee, “but I’m always there to try to help my city.”
The Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District trustee said, “To me, it’s about bettering Calexico; to do what is best for Calexico.”
Calexico resident Guillermo Hermosillo applied for a position on the board as a community representative.
“Since it’s my first meeting, I don’t know what the focus will be. I personally will bring up traffic going and coming into Calexico, clean up downtown trash that’s produced by the border traffic, and the homeless,” Hermosillo stated. “I will encourage the committee to reach out to (Congressman) Juan Vargas for resources.”