UPDATED… El Cajon: Councilman Ben Kalasho commences possible legal battle over city’s voting districts

Greg Larkin Greg Larkin 16 Comments

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This was originally posted May 26 with the letter from Ben Kalasho’s attorney. It was updated May 28 to include Kalasho’s Facebook post about the City Council vote.

El Cajon is one of several cities throughout the state in the process of implementing voting districts for members of the city council, largely to fend off probable lawsuits under voting rights laws. In El Cajon’s case, on Tuesday the City Council voted 3-2 to select a final map made up of four council districts. Councilmembers Steve Goble and Ben Kalasho voted in opposition.

The day after the council meeting, Kalasho shared the following post on his Facebook page, including an apparent reference to fellow Councilmember Bob McClellan’s age…

The day prior to the vote, Kalasho sent a legal message to his colleagues, suggesting the beginning of long, hot summer of politics in the city. Here’s the letter from Kalasho’s attorney…

click the images for a separate link

Note: This article originally reported the vote on the map was 4-1, with Kalasho the lone dissenter. It has been corrected. We apologize for the error.

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Comments 16

  1. Just for the record the vote was 3 to 2 on the maps. Ben did submit 130 maps all splitting Fletcher Hills. I find it hard to believe that out of 130 maps he submitted he couldn’t keep Fletcher Hills together on even one. Considering the amount of lawsuits Ben has lost lately he probably should reconsider suing the city.

  2. Thank you. The article has been corrected and a note was added at the bottom.

  3. To be clear, this is Steve Goble writing, and the comments of “Patriot Steve” are of a Steve unknown to me.

  4. With respect to Ben Kalasho and his lawyer, I do not believe that the city council pre-determined what district map to choose. As one of the many citizens who spent time drawing maps, I considered our city and what areas have shared interests. There may have been many maps submitted with a split Fletcher hills area, but from the meetings there were just as many people involved in drawing two of the other maps that were in final consideration, the Orange2 and bjohnson1 “United Communities” maps. Both of which kept Fletcher Hills intact, as the two groups recognized that splitting Fletcher Hills would mean creating two strong white majority voting areas, and splitting a community that most of East County recognizes. Mr. Kalasho seems to forget two important ideas: One, that he is not the only Chaldean who can represent his community–the new district boundaries have three majority minority areas with plenty of possible candidates; and Two, that the fact that he and Gary Kendrick live in the same community does not mean that Gary will automatically win a vote in that district–but it does mean that the candidate who best represents the values of the constituency has to work hard to keep a seat on the council.

  5. Ben Kalasho sent in over 100 maps, and all of them split Fletcher Hills in two. That is the very definition of Gerrymandering. Its quite obvious that if over 100 maps are submitted, and none of them include keeping Fletcher Hills as one district, he benefits from it.
    Nothing new though from Ben Kalasho though…coming from the guy who is suing the own City he represents. And who sends a letter to the other City Council members from his lawyer the day before this decision is made? Cant get what he wants, so he kicks and screams and runs to his lawyer..
    Ben’s been watching too manyHouse of Cards re-runs…

  6. Based on the IP address and the history of prior comments from anonymous commenters, we can also confirm that “Patriot Steve” is a different person than Councilman Steve Goble. Thank you.

  7. The El Cajon City Council got ahead of this two years ago to avoid a civil suit and the waste of taxpayer dollars defending themselves and now this? It’s going to cost El Cajon residents anyway? Despite the ACLU praising the council for their open and transparent process?

    Bravo Mr. Kalasho.

    This process was supposed to be about the principles of redistricting – maintaining communities of interest and geographical continuity. It’s supposed to be about the residents of Fletcher Hills but you’re making this about you and as you introduced yourself to us at lunch Thursday – you’re “the next Mayor of El Cajon”. You haven’t been in office six months and you’re already using coercion on your peers and campaigning for more power.

    That didn’t take long.

    Let me share two things with Mr. Kalasho.

    One, your lawsuit is a confession that your ideas about redistricting lack reason and principal.

    Two. What made our nation exceptional were the ideas constituted at our founding that laid low religious tyranny and aristocratic power and posited all men as equal under the law. Our Constitution is blind to color. We are united by our intrinsic value of being created in God’s image. But what did you do Tuesday night? You filled the chamber with people that made this all about race and identity politics. Shame on you.

  8. Hate to say it…but it must be said…. 1) warned the RNC long ago. 2) the councilman was threatening legal action from the time he took office. This article should have mentioned this. The councilman threatened legal action on previous occasions not related to this issue 3) several organizations attempting to befriend was an error. 4) supporting a conservative that knows what is happening in the city should have been the mantra. I sincerely hope that the rinos realize that you “reap what you sow.”

  9. This is the kind of litigiousness that has messed up our country so bad. We need representatives that build through consensus building and argumentation, not suing every time they don’t get their way.

    We need councilmen and women who love our community; not politicians who are consumed with feeding their egos.

  10. So as I see it, the districts should be made based on something far more lasting than whomever is currently sitting on the city council. Sorry Mr. K., but you are just one temporary guy in office and we can’t make long term, city wide decisions based on where you happen to live and the fact that you happened to be elected to this term. Elected officials are temporary and to make district decisions based on the temporary is at best folly, and at worst nothing more than bad and selfish stewardship.

  11. chopping fletcher hills into separate districts would just be like cutting me in half: it takes balls to do but it’s NUTting but trouble.

  12. I understand that 163 map submissions favored Mr. Kalasho’s views, but he seems to conveniently forget that only 3 of those actually met the qualifications for maps that could be considered. Also, many people (me included) support the map that Paul Circo submitted and which was eventually selected. It appears that the “numbers” cited by Mr. Kalasho are of little value in determining what “should ” have been the vote. Kalasho comments that “democracy meant nothing” when in fact it was democracy in action – elected members voting as they felt they should. Kalasho didn’t get his way and seems to be ranting/pouting and threatening to get his way. I ask you: is THAT democracy?

  13. Why do this anyway? Some city and its leaders have got to have to cojones to stop this idiot who’s trying to force this districting throughout California. How stupid is it to cave like this? No Districts! Let El Cajon BE El Cajon! Leave it alone. Let the voters of the entire city vote for all Council members.

    Do you know how maddening it is to call your own district rep., not get the help you need, try reaching out to another local rep, and be told they won’t help you because they’re not your rep? It’s not as though every decision they make doesn’t affect the entire city. Good grief, El Cajon. Grow a pair and refuse allowing this to be forced on you. I’m sure there would be dozens of people who would donate to pay for the city’s defense, or even pro-bono defense, just to stop this idiot.

    I get it that Kalasho is only concerned about his own career and re-election, but frankly, I hope something stops the districting so it can challenged appropriately.

    And yes, I grew up in El Cajon, so I feel I have a stake in this decision.

  14. Just a couple observations. 1. The 148 maps submitted by Ben’s supporters and entourage were not different, just copies of two very similar maps. At the first Re-Districting Meeting Ben’s supporters were adamant that they were at the meeting to “make sure the map’s would be drawn to; “Save Ben’s Council seat”. That litany changed quickly when they realized that one of the criteria, among others, for a qualifying map is: “not drawn for the purpose of favoring or discriminating against an incumbent, political candidate, or political party.” The maps drawn with part of Fletcher Hills in two different council districts (with an incumbent councilman in each) suddenly morphed into the only maps the split the city evenly by population.
    2. The map accepted by the Council is in the best traditions of our Representative Democracy, a “Missouri Compromise”. It didn’t make any of the “vested interests” at the meeting happy but it incorporates some of each groups wants.

  15. We DID report on the letter Kalasho sent, referenced it in our title, and included a link to his letter: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/el-cajon-approves-redistricting-map-councilman-kalasho-threatens-lawsuit

    We do plan on including a reference to the age-based slur it in an upcoming story on the mayoral candidates, since Councilman Kalasho has announced a run for mayor and the tensions between him and some other council members is an appropriate point to note, along with both candidates qualifications and backgrounds.

    Personally I believe comments bashing someone solely based on age are unfortunate. Age can bring wisdom and experience (though doesn’t always).

    If someone wants to suggest it’s time for a change for other reasons, such as a person having outdated views, that’s one thing. But to suggest no 84-year-old should hold public office is just as inappropriate as suggesting someone shouldn’t serve based on race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Of course if there’s a legitimate issue with any office holder that could affect their ability to serve, such as Alzheimer’s, that may be an appropriate concern but should be handled in a caring and respectful manner that addresses the public interest while also respecting the individual. I’ve not heard any such issue regarding Bob McClellan, for the record.

    We also had a comment posted on our site that I deleted from someone who claimed a senior official “drooled” in a meeting. I was there and didn’t see that occur, but why mention this even if it did? The remark smacked of ageism, and crossed the line from legitimate political discussion on policies or competence into personal insults, of which we’ve seen far too much recently in politics.

    Kalasho has of course had his share of insults hurled at him in past campaigns, and some of those were equally inappropriate such as some that maligned his ethnicity.

    Our country and community need more civil dialogue, not disrespectful statements in my view.

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