Love where you live!
LA MESA -- The City Council's second Town Hall meeting moved from the west to northeast La Mesa and found a large audience with many more concerns and a bit more vitriol than encountered recently in Rolando.
A two-hour meeting at Northmont Elementary School featured a large crowd and non-stop speakers with a long list of concerns big and small to enrich discussions at the Council's March all-day strategic planning workshop.
The issues politely but firmly delivered moved from extremely local -- speeders and stop-sign scofflaws at key intersections -- to general concerns that creeping urban developments may be threatening the city's core weltanschauung.
Some residents were borderline exasperated with neighbors who kept over-sized RV vehicles and boats clogging narrow city streets and blamed police for being too lax in their enforcement efforts.
Other residents raised more serious concerns about open drug dealing in Northmont Park and nearby streets. A speaker described open use of marijuana "bongs'' in the park on a Sunday afternoon while others talked of harder drugs with a presence in the neighborhood.
"My street is called Snortin' Horton,'' said one resident of Horton Drive. "I wouldn't have moved there if I had known they call it that.''
A series of residents chided the police for being, in their view, too passive when confronting challenges in the neighborhood, saying they need to get out of their cars more often and get to know the community better.
Police Chief Ed Aceves was in attendance and talked about efforts the police were routinely making throughout the area.
"But we really need to hear from you whenever you see something,'' Aceves said.
City Manager Dave Witt encouraged residents to join their local Neighborhood Watch to establish a closer link to the authorities.
"Neighborhood Watch is not a replacement for law enforcement,'' Witt said, but it can help.
The criticisms got strong enough for Councilwoman Ruth Sterling, who lives not far from the Northmont school, to list a series of city accomplishments in the area, including additional stop signs at dangerous corners and the removal of a notorious drug house.
Still, the complaints went on.
The trolley crossing at Severin and Amaya was particularly vexing for many in the neighborhood, particularly when the crossing gates remain down as eastbound trains sit waiting in the nearby station, causing particularly long delays for motorists attempting a left turn from Amaya to northbound Severin. Several residents shouted from their seats in the audience that this same complaint was made at a Town Hall meeting three years ago and nothing was done.
Councilman Ernie Ewin, who sits on the Metropolitan Transit Authority's board, informed the crowd he was texting the MTS leadership as this discussion was occurring Monday night to inform them of a need for immediate help.
Speaker David Smyle seemed to ride the crest to extract his own immediate action from council members that may have been feeling by now a bit surrounded by restless natives.
Smyle pointed out the the Helix Water Board appears to be poised to give its chief administrator what would amount to a 14 per cent pay increase over the past two years and asked why the city, as one of the district's biggest customers, was not taking a formal vote to protest the pay raise.
Mayor Art Madrid explained that the water district is run by its own elected officials and he encouraged residents to make their own protest, noting that official council action could not legally be taken on this night because legal notice had not been given.
But Smyle asked if individual council members would write letters of protest. Ewin and Councilwoman Kristine Alessio made clear pledges to do so.
More universal city concerns also got some airtime as residents noted a need to increase affordable housing throughout the city. Other residents, noting the proposal for the high-rise Park Station project along Baltimore Drive, expressed concerns that La Mesa's small town charms were giving way to the kind of urban developments seen in North Park, City Heights and other City of San Diego neighborhoods.
City officials, eventually facing a final judgment on Park Station, couldn't comment on that project, but council members may have noted they didn't hear from any citizens worrying aloud that the Park Station project wasn't big enough.
And perhaps as a paean to the city's agrarian past, animal concerns twice appeared at this town hall. One Village resident, plagued by a neighbor with barking and menacing pit bull dogs, suggested the city ban ownership of the controversial breed.
And an other resident asked for an update on past proposals to allow residents to keep live chickens in their city yards.
Chickens were an easy slam dunk for the council members and city staff. They pointed out that on Wednesday night, the city's Planning Commission would be working on the chicken issue. On this one, no one was crying fowl.