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 Dino Cowel on March 26, 2014 at 2:07pm

It is an election year after all. Remember when the mayor raised the matter of people begging in the street? Chief Aceves already told us that this was a state issue dealt with by the Motor Vehicle Code; in other words, there was nothing that La Mesa could do about it. But there was Art, asking the council to take action; in other words, there was Art playing politics. And what about the commendation he gave to the realtors for restoring the house of a veteran down on his luck. Remember that one? It wasn't Art's idea, and it happened six month after the work had been completed. Once again, Art playing politics. Another example: haven't we been hearing a lot about Art's magnificent grant raising capabilities, lately? Bet'cha didn't know that he has virtually nothing to do with either the solicitation or acquisition of those monies. The city has a full time staff devoted to that task. But there was Art, pitching himself as the indispensable link in this crucial means of revenue acquisition for the city. Oh, and we mustn't forget last night's pitiful attempt to place himself as the board rep. for the ECEDC--the East County Economic Development Council. Wasn't that Art who, a couple of years ago, called our involvement with that very group a complete waste of time? Why yes!--it was him. (You don't suppose he's trying to have his cake and eat it too, do you? Nawwww...) And one more (well deserved) parting shot: it is, as we know, an election year and where's Art? Now a ubiquitous feature at another group he once reviled--the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce. What'll be next, mid-day tea at All Things Bright and British, or a mayoral reading club at Maxwell's House of Books?

Comment by knikki royster on March 26, 2014 at 11:13am
No offense to the lovely "Miss La Mesan's" at the meeting last night - you are beautiful. My issue is the value placed on beauty vs. brains. As a mom of two girls (one who of them begs to do this every year) I wish our "ambassadors" were recognized more for their grades and achievements than their short skirts and high heels. I'd love to have my girls represent La Mesa if they were not going to be objectified.

We are also in the pro-chicken camp and I absolutely loved the debate last night re: the lonliness of hens!! I appreciated the "added" advice by city planners for a closed covered coop and 2 vs. 1 chicken minimum--- I do NOT however agree with a 25ft. Set back!! We live on Mt. Nebo and all of the lots up there are "odd" as most of the homes were built in the early 1900's. Our property at one time owned the lots to either side and behind us, when those lots were split they built the new homes all over those "new" lots--- in other words "set-backs" didn't seem to matter. Trying to find 25' from a fence on ANY lot in LM is going to be tough if not impossible!
Comment by Lisa Moore on March 26, 2014 at 10:16am

Another meeting of the Hatfields and McCoys or a La Mesa Council meeting :-)   Does Mayor Madrid always dress like he has just come in from gardening?   I'll agree with whoever said that proposing spending $1,000 annually on hair and makeup costs for the La Mesa pageant winners seems like a political move in an election year.  As to the chicken proposal by Councilwoman Ruth Stirling to increase the limit from 1 to 2 chickens allowed so the chickens don't get lonely....still laughing over that proposal.  It will be interesting to hear or read about the chicken ordinance once it is approved, and it will,  and the complaints start coming in for all the reasons noted. 

Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on March 26, 2014 at 9:48am

As always, you put an "interesting" spin on events, Chris.  The connection between pageants, the young ladies appearance (heels, and make up) and the Mayor attempting to make political hay out of them is unclear, to put it mildly.  Bravo for the young ladies in heels!  Shame on the Mayor for trying to use them for his own selfish, political purposes.

Comment by Bill Jaynes on March 26, 2014 at 8:42am
Hi Chris,

I think Ms. Sterling's and Alessio's proposal was to allow, not require, a two hen minimum, so that residents with so-called "substandard" lots could do right by their birds.

As to the proposal to blow $1,000 annually on pageant winners, I would note that this is approximately the debt laden on every man, woman and child in La Mesa as their personal "share" of the now $67 Million unfunded pension liability. The brick wall is about a foot off our bumpers now, and it's time we accept that.

Bill Jaynes
8401 La Mesa Blvd.
619 808 7049

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