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The First of A Two Part Report On The La Mesa Poll.
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With more than 300 La Mesa Today readers responding, residents expressed a strong desire to preserve La Mesa's lifestyle, growing its business tax base and keeping its schools strong, but a clear majority of the voters expressed support for Dr. Mark Arapostathis as the city's next mayor.
Arapostathis (right), a school teacher, theater director and two term City Council member, led this poll with 66 percent over current Mayor Art Madrid's 13 percent with the other council members trailing further behind.
Arapostathis, who is up for re-election this year, has been mulling a run for mayor. He said Tuesday he was pleased with the results of this survey, but he wasn't yet announcing his plans.
"I feel fortunate that people connect with me,'' Arapostathis said. "I can say I'm happy with the results of this survey and that so many people took it.''
The survey was distributed to LaMesaToday.com members and was taken over a ten day period. Obviously, the survey was conducted months before November's election and before candidates have announced or done any campaigning. Still, the results of the mayoral question suggest it could be an interesting election year.
In addition to poll voters who expressed a clear preference for Arapostathis, there were voters who commented on a desire for other candidates, not necessarily those already in office. Laura Lothian, Madrid's opponent four years ago, Craig Maxwell, who lost to Madrid eight years ago and Barry Jantz, the former City Council member, were among those receiving "write-in" votes on the survey.
Most of the survey results can be found by question below. It was clear by the "order the issues" question that the La Mesans taking this survey shared similar priorities for the Jewel of the Hills. There was less interest in marijuana's future, which was the last priority for most, and much more interest in preserving the city's lifestyle, developing its economic base and assuring that its schools maintain high quality.
Despite virtually record low crime rates over the past decade, La Mesa residents still see crime as getting "worse" in the city by a 55 percent to 37 percent margin over those who see it staying about the same.
Police Chief Ed Aceves said a combination of the city's history of widely publicizing the crimes that occur in the city and new media making the reports more ubiquitous may be giving the impression that crime in the city is worse than it is. He pointed out that violent crime dropped 20 percent last year while the uptick in property crimes were largely "crimes of opportunity" that could be easily combated by more attention from property owners.
The poll also showed most La Mesan's believing the quality of life in La Mesa is getting better or staying the same. Most also saw the city as having good recreational opportunities and was generally a good city for pedestrians and bicyclists. Public transportation also ranked high in importance for survey takers.
But it will clearly be the political temperature taking of this poll that will get the attention. Madrid has been in office for more than 20 years and in a leadership in the city for a decade before that. Approaching his 80s, he has repeatedly said, amid almost constant tussles with his fellow council members, that he intends to run for re-election and win. This poll would suggest he could have a fight ahead of him, but he has not been one to back down in the past.
Arapostathis also has not yet said he would seek the mayor's post. As a full-time educator and heavily involved in his Peter Pan Jr. Theater Company, the question of whether Arapostathis has the time to take on the mayor's job will be asked. Madrid has been retired from his lobbying work for years and has, in many ways, worked as a full-time mayor, keeping an office at City Hall. He has built a standing in the wider government circles that goes beyond the typical mayor of a city of 60,000.
Speaking Tuesday morning it was clear Arapostathis has been weighing that issue. In consultation with those in city government familiar with the part-time mayor's job, Arapostathis said he is sure he could handle the responsibilities if he chooses to run and wins.
"The job of City Council and mayor were developed to be handled by a person with a full-time job,'' Arapostathis said.
Poll results below by question. (Tomorrow, a synopsis of poll takers' comments on what could make the city a better place.)
Ranking La Mesa Issues:
CRIME IN THE CITY
TRAFFIC IN THE CITY: