Love where you live!
LA MESA -- 2014 is an election year for the La Mesa City Council and that was immediately clear in the first meeting of the year.
Tuesday night's council meeting began with a warm and heartfelt proclamation for Ron and Mary Alice Brady, honoring the Mt. Helix couple (right) for their $3-million donation to the local Boys and Girls Club, but no sooner had the Brady's vacated the chamber than the political darts started flying.
In what had the appearance of a choreographed effort, three council members -- Mark Arapostathis, Kristine Alessio and Ernie Ewin -- quickly voted to strip Mayor Art Madrid of his leadership positions with the San Diego Association of Governments.
Madrid called it a "political coup'' and said the three were hurting the city by replacing a long-serving mayor with Alessio, a first-term council member, on the important SANDAG board.
"This city will be losing my committee appointments -- on Policy, Transportation and the Executive committees,'' Madrid said. "This is a bad political decision.''
Madrid said Alessio would not have the experience or connections to represent La Mesa's interests in the influential SANDAG board, which manages grants and regional projects. SANDAG is helping fund the current redesign of La Mesa Boulevard. "She keeps telling everyone she's a land-use attorney, like that makes her qualified,'' Madrid said. "I don't think I'm familiar with any of her clients.''
But if the vote to remove Madrid from SANDAG was an orchestrated effort, none of the three council members were owning up to it. Arapostathis said he simply wanted to spread the responsibility among the council members and pointed out he supported keeping Madrid on the important Wastewater Treatment Board. Alessio said she was simply voting in response to Arapostathis' motion asking her to fill the role. Ewin acknowledged being peeved a year ago when Madrid eschewed suggestions that these committee assignments be reconsidered.
Only council woman Ruth Sterling stuck with Madrid, voting unsuccessfully to keep him on the SANDAG board. Sterling attributed her vote to feeling she, herself, had been railroaded off the Metropolitan Transportation Service Board a decade ago for reasons no one would discuss publicly.
"It was all politics,'' she said. "So was this tonight.''
But if it was politics, no one was putting all their cards on the table. Arapostathis, Alessio and Ewin each took their turns not answering the question of whether they will be considering a run for the mayor's job.
"I haven't ruled it out'' -- Arapostathis.
"I'm not saying yet" -- Ewin.
Alessio recently posted this question on her Facebook page: "Is it time for La Mesa to have a woman mayor?" But last night she wasn't answering either.
Madrid is up for re-election this year and has repeatedly said he would seek another term and he began the first meeting of the year issuing his annual "audit report'' -- an essay that certainly could be seen as his political platform. In the report, he traced the history of the city, credited its founding fathers and then pointed out many of the good things that have occurred under his more than two-decades in office.
Toward the end of last night's meeting, Ewin and his fellow council members seemed to like the idea of giving their own "state of the city" addresses and asked that the opportunity for their versions be added to the agenda for the next meeting if they decide to share their own take on the state of things.
Ewin hinted he might have something to say about his own political plans at that time.