Of Chickens, High Heels And Liberty  

LA MESA -- Watching the La Mesa government machine is truly a tale of two cities these days.
Professional city staff quietly goes about pretty sophisticated operations in efficient, laudatory ways, while the elected oversight can look more and more like a Balkan tragic comedy.

On Tuesday night, the professionals presented and passed with little comment a sweeping update of the city's long-term planning document, a General Plan that was the work of several years and plots a future for the city's development.

For its part, the gathered council members were welcoming this year's crop of young lovelies -- Miss La Mesa and Miss Teen La Mesa -- and gave the high-heeled lasses bouquets of flowers. Within minutes of their departure, the elected officials began arguing about whether the city should help them with their hair and makeup costs across a long year of appearances on the city's behalf.

Mayor Art Madrid had proposed spending $1,000 supporting the young beauty queens, but predictably, that raised the ire of council members who tend to oppose all Madrid proposals these days.
"I thought it was election year politicking to make this suggestion right now,'' said Council member Kristine Alessio. She went on to call the proposal "an insult to women,'' though she didn't explain how traipsing young girls around in short skirts, six inch heels and wearing Hollywood makeup isn't its own anachronism. 

Madrid just muttered something about "small minds coming up with small ideas'' and the debate moved on to other areas as the beauty-queen stipend was tabled.

Over the course of the next three hours, the professionals reviewed plans for major construction projects and federal funding, while the council members continued a Kabucki theater in which Madrid made proposals and the other council members found ways to shoot them down or delay them.

A Madrid proposal that the city treat the new e-cigarettes with same disdain and limitations held for tobacco products -- a move being made in city after city across the state -- was met with a long and torturous debate, despite the presence of American Lung Association executives speaking on behalf of the proposal. At one point, City Councilwoman Ruth Sterling seemed to be trying out a Libertarian coat asking "Why can't the restaurants just decide for themselves what they want to do (with e-cigarettes)? Why does government have to drive everything?''

Moments later, however, Sterling was leading the charge to require anyone in the city who wants to raise chickens to keep at least two of them to avoid "lonely chickens.'' Her new-found Libertarian-ism had its limits.

In the end, the council decided to study the e-cigarette issue for up to another 90 days before deciding whether "vapers,'' as they are called, should be allowed to perfume public air with the new flavored puffs of nicotine gas. 

On the chicken front, the council heard a first reading of the new ordinance that would allow the return of chickens to most of the city. Rather than limiting the number of chickens to one per 2,000 square feet of lot size, the council increased it to one chicken for every 1,000 feet to assure that residents of smaller lots could have at least two chickens to avoid isolating any of the very social foul.

Chickens had their supporters, including the adorable Tweet girls (see photo right). But several residents did speak against the chickens, saying the excrement draws flies and coyotes have been on the increase in chicken-cooped neighborhoods, killing the foul and dogs and cats.

Madrid was again on the losing end of a 4-1 vote. The mayor opposed the chicken move, saying La Mesa is too urban a city to have chickens without a lot of complaints and enforcement issues to come.

But the main event skirmish of the night was reserved for another Madrid proposal in which he suggested the council appoint him as the representative to the East County Economic Development Council.

For years Madrid had led the charge against spending money on that group, saying it had not accomplished anything for La Mesa. City Councilman Ernie Ewin had led the counter charge to join the organization and, at the council's last meeting, finally mustered the votes to overcome Madrid's opposition.

Madrid's proposal died without a second and Alessio quickly nominated Ewin for the ECEDC job.

That's when Sterling's chimed in with a Machiavellian twist this time, wondering aloud if putting Madrid on the ECEDC as he requested would guarantee a critical look at whether the group actually accomplishes anything for La Mesa.

No one bit and Ewin was installed, but not before Madrid tried to repeat his long-held criticisms of the ECEDC. Alessio tried to cut Madrid off, saying he was simply trying to re-litigate the council's decision earlier this month to join the economic group. Madrid persisted, telling Alessio he held the floor and would have his say.

Ewin was chosen with a 5-0 vote and Sterling was predicting he would give an honest assessment of the group's accomplishments and the council could decide whether enough was accomplished to defend joining  again next year.

"It's going to be a one-year membership, I guarantee it,'' Madrid said.


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Tags: Chickens, City Council, Government, Kristine Alessio, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, Mayor Art Madrid, Miss La Mesa, Miss Teen La Mesa, Ruth Sterling


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Comment by Batman on April 2, 2014 at 1:46am

I see nothing wrong with chickens. When I was a kid I had chickens and rabbits in the back yard for a while. It is especially good for children to have small animals to take care of and play with. But you need a back yard, and the single family home is something Agenda-21 wants to do away with.

Comment by Kevin G George on April 1, 2014 at 1:53pm

OK, it's a deal Batman, Agenda 21 will be the only subject worthy of discussion from now on.

Comment by Batman on March 29, 2014 at 12:00pm

What a plethora of trivia! You are all distracted by chickens and beauty pageants while your roads streets are being engineered out of existence. This design for dysfunction, also known as Agenda-21, is going to do more to degrade our quality of life than any crowing rooster.

Comment by Kevin G George on March 28, 2014 at 9:47am

Shocking Scott!

Don't you understand that we two extremists, belonging to the same extremist organization are supposed to walk blindly in lock step, agreeing totally on every one of our extremist ideas, principles and our pre established dogma?

What's wrong with you? This may ruin our reputation!


Comment by Scott H. Kidwell on March 28, 2014 at 8:48am

I don't happen to agree with the proposed change to allow chickens in more residential areas, but it's not a hill to die on for me. However, working to change a law one doesn't agree with , while abiding by the law, should be the standard. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences of the violation as the price of civil disobedience in pleading your cause. Here, former council candidate and current city commissioner Dean admits he has ignored and purposely defied a city codes he does not agree with. Will city code enforcement be visiting the Dean residence soon to seek compliance to current law?  If not, why not? Are there other municipal codes he similarly ignores to his own benefit, and to hell with others? Seems to me he has knowingly violated his sworn oath of public office and should immediately resign.

On the other hand, he is well certainly qualified to sit in the mayoral chair!

Comment by Dino Cowel on March 26, 2014 at 6:16pm

It is an election year, but not for Councilwoman Alessio, right?

She's not running.

That isn't politics.

Comment by Kevin G George on March 26, 2014 at 3:48pm

My thanks to Patrick Dean for his heroic admission of openly defying a stupid and unnecessary law.

Lord knows there are a plethora of City ordinances to control noise, odor and sanitation to curb any abuse of the ability to raise chickens that were brought up last night. Dogs can cause all the problems that chickens can and they are legal until said ordinances are violated. Why not the same for chickens?

Something that was not discussed was if this measure will include all fowl. I know there are pigeons being kept in LM and ducks are excellent snail control. How about turkeys? It would be wise to address this in the language of the final document if there is one.

Another fine print matter is what if one wants to build a new structure and there is an existing chicken coup within 25 ft.? Is the coup grandfathered in eliminating the ability to build? Or does the permanent structure prevail?

As for ecigs, I don't care what people smoke. If I don't like it I will avoid it. That is a small sacrifice in order to allow my fellow Citizens their freedom to do what they want.

But I do have a huge problem with cigarette butts. If we could figure out how to power electricity plants with cigarette butts our problems would be over. They are everywhere, including all around the bases of the butt receptacles installed last year, that are completely ignored by smokers.

Ecigs have no butts and that I think is a good reason to promote their use.

Comment by Kristin Kjaero on March 26, 2014 at 3:26pm

Agree, it is amazing how even Miss La Mesa can become a useful political football in an election year. Just vote no if you don't want to support the expense and move on, but one Council member attacking another in blog comments for backing something as innocuously American as apple pie? That is politics.

I am the product of a women's college education at the hight of the feminist liberation movement. Having observed and spoken with various Miss La Mesas over the years (who were just as often dressed in a business suits), my thoughts on the subject have evolved with the times. In the 21st century these girls today are judged on grades and community involvement as well, and put through a business-worthy public speaking training of which I wish every student had the benefit. When I hear them speak, I am proud for the youth in our city. We're very fortunate to live here. Women can be both smart and beautiful, and the insult is to assume they cannot.

Comment by David Smyle on March 26, 2014 at 2:35pm

Congrats to the Miss La Mesa winners but let's face it.  It is a private organization not funded by the City but by private donations like the Chamber of Commerce and others along with the application fees.  Like many who serve on Boards and Commissions for free and for the love or duty of providing public service, so goes the same for Miss La Mesa.  My understanding is the Miss La Mesa program did not ask Madrid for the money.  He offered it all on his own.  The City won't give a dime to  the other "Ambassadors of the City" (Chamber and Merchants) who annually bring thousands of people and thousands of dollars of revenue to the City but make sure they pay every dime of cost recovery.


Councilwoman Alessio got it right.  Election year politicking at its finest.  Use the kids as propaganda so if your opponent votes against it, he or she is vilified for not supporting the kids and you look like a hero supporting the kids.  Never mind we don't' have any money to pay for it.  Doesn't matter in an election year.  it is only $1,000.  Hey, I got a pothole you can fix for $1,000.


As far E - Cigs, just because everyone else is banning it doesn't make it right.  Ruth had it right.  Let the restaurants and stores decide.  Apparently, the vapor doesn't smell and no one can prove it is harmful to anyone.  It is NOT TOBACCO!  If stores and restaurants lose business or get complaints if they allow it in their establishment, then the market will tell them to change or if they want to provide a separate area to vape in, it might increase their business.  How is anyone going to know whether the vape cartridge has nicotine in it or not and if it does whether the small amounts are harmful to anyone?  Why aren't the Cancer folks and the City upset about Hookah bars.  Lots of smoke in there? Stop being so hypocritical about e-cigs.  Don't hear anyone complaining about under age kids getting a hold of alcohol, or marijuana even  though they aren't supposed to be able to buy them and both do a lot more damage than E-Cigs. 


Hey parents.  Do your job.  Raise your own kids.  Don't leave it up to City Hall.

Comment by Guy McWhirter on March 26, 2014 at 2:13pm

I was expecting many things last night.  News of an impending chicken apocalypse was not one of them.  And then hearing that La Mesa has a rooster on the loose...what next.  As much as I support those who choose to raise chickens, I think everyone missed the more important subject: the rights of property owners.  Our neighbors can have large, noisy, smelly dogs that keep us awake at night but not a clucking chicken?  I thought it was interesting that after the long discussions on the pros and cons of chickens, the council discussed banning ecigarettes to be in harmony with the rest of our neighboring cities who ban them.  Maybe we should also be in harmony with these cities when it comes to chickens.  San Diego, El Cajon, Santee and Lakeside all allow chickens. 

Hope they don't fowl this up.

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