Love where you live!
Part Three in a five part series.
LA MESA -- In her 68 years, Shannon O'Dunn has been a mother, a geologist, a college professor, an academic administrator, an author, art collector and now a fine arts merchant with a classic shop on La Mesa Boulevard.
Perhaps it is that range of vocations and her success in each role that give her a kind of devil-may-care attitude not often found in the typical cautious politician.
Rather than role out a series of promises of things she'd deliver to the people of La Mesa, O'Dunn, one of five candidates for two city council seats this year, is offering this assessment.
"La Mesa is pretty much of a first class city,'' she says. "I think we do a pretty good job here, but as with many small cities, the challenge these days is in keeping it like this.''
O'Dunn, sounding her professorial tone, then sketches out a series of connections between local issues. She characterizes them as "knee bone connected to the thigh" bone and points out that in a small city with a larger than usual elderly population, the need to encourage new development is directly connected to the city's ability to maintain its own independent police force.
"There are plenty of cities our size in America that have to contract out for safety services,'' O'Dunn says. "I think it is important that we have our own police, but we have to be honest about what it takes to pay for that.''
So in the face of louder public concerns about new high rise developments in La Mesa or the establishment of a professional management organization for the city's traditional downtown "Village,'' O'Dunn has resisted jumping on the populist bandwagon.
While others reflexively criticize the 18-story proposal for the Park Station project, O'Dunn points out how nice it would be to have a venue in La Mesa where you could see the ocean.
"Maybe not 18-stories, but six or seven?'' O'Dunn asks. "It might be good to remind ourselves that we are a coastal region.''
In a city criss-crossed by trolleys, buses and interstate highways, development is going to happen, O'Dunn agrees, it really comes down to how you shape and direct it.
"The city's General Plan already has sections for protection of neighborhoods,'' O'Dunn says, "but with Proposition 13 and our large number of elderly, long-established citizens, we have to keep an eye on our ability to maintain what we have. We have to have the revenues.''
Educating the public to the need to balance revenues with services is part of the job, O'Dunn says. "The educator in me believes I can do that,'' she said.
O'Dunn originally ran for council in 2008 after City Councilman Dave Allan had announced he wouldn't be running for re-election. Later, Allan reversed himself and O'Dunn was left running against two incumbents in a city that doesn't reject many incumbents. Still, she came within less than three percentage points of beating Ruth Sterling, whom she is facing again this time out.
One thing is certain. O'Dunn on City Council would add an element of character to the panel. Perhaps a vestige of her years in front of a classroom, O'Dunn speaks directly and colorfully. She once explained her support for the Property Based Improvement District in the Village as recognizing flaws, but seeing value. As she put it: "The dog had fleas, but it could still hunt.''
She described her constant vigilence on financial matters (she is the only candidate to take the San Diego County Taxpayers Association pension course) by saying: "I trust my mother, but I still cut the cards.''
And several years ago she was camping with her children on Mission Bay when her daughter suggested the group eschew a boat ride and, instead, head to a piercing parlor on Garnet Avenue. O'Dunn ended up with a facial adornment she still wears or, as she put it, "I'm the only Republican woman in East County with an eyebrow piercing.''
"Because it becomes me,'' she explained.
You can CLICK HERE to see O'Dunn's official website.