Entering Election's Black Hole

LA MESA -- Elections are the black holes in the government universe. The closer election day comes, the stronger the political gravity. It starts pulling on everything, eventually drawing all activity to a standstill.
Tuesday's council meeting had some indications -- both subtle and obvious -- that decision day looms large on all fronts.
Even a minor neighborhood dispute over a property owners' hopes of adding a rooftop deck to his home seemed to get drawn into the contest between the current mayor, Art Madrid, and his challenger just a few seats to his left, Mark Arapostathis.
The city staff recommended allowing the upward addition, as did the Planning Commission. Throughout two days of debate it appeared the homeowner's right to add an open deck would and should prevail. The city attorney noted that had the addition been enclosed rather than an open deck, it wouldn't even have had to come to the city for a special exception.
Yet, when Madrid signaled he would join inveterate populist Ruth Sterling in siding with the more numerous opponents of this deck, Arapostathis went along and the lofty plan was grounded by a 3-2 vote for now.
(Perhaps that wasn't just political calculus, but the centrifugal force of a looming election impacts analysis too!)

The black hole effect was a little more obvious in the only other substantial issue to come before the council on this night.

Several months back, council members Ernie Ewin and Kristine Alessio had asked the city staff to bring back ideas for a public relations effort to help promote La Mesa's image both far and near. At Tuesday afternoon's meeting, the staff unveiled a Marketing and Communications Plan that would have used $50,000 to hire a PR consultant and begin studying improvements to the city's web services.

Arapostathis -- joined quickly by Madrid -- proposed tabling the issue until the first meeting in January when, as Arapostathis said, "there will be a new council.''

His words hung a bit in the air for a moment as all quickly agreed that, perhaps, this was no longer the time for committing the city for the long-term when perhaps three members of this five person council were in their last few meetings. Come January, at least two new council members and, perhaps a new mayor, will be driving this ship. "I know I won't be here,'' quipped Ewin, who decided not to seek re-election.

With the recently announced retirement of Police Chief Ed Aceves, the changes coming on the council and, perhaps, the mayor's office, the winds of change are blowing. And the city's much admired city manager, Dave Witt, is also approaching the end of his time in government, though he hasn't said exactly when he will retire.

With all this in mind, Ewin brought up a number of fiscal issues for discussion -- as if to remind all that regardless of who is sitting on the dais come January, the challenges of maintaining a balanced budget and keeping up with growing capital needs will continue to be daunting as long as sales and property taxes remain as fragile as they have been.

Something for the ambitious candidates to mull as election hopes swirl.

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Tags: Art Madrid, Ernie Ewin, Government, Kristine Alessio, La Mesa City Council, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, La Mesa politics, Mark Arapostathis, Ruth Sterling


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Comment by Gene Carpenter on October 16, 2014 at 11:02pm
And another has thrown in the towel? Do ya think? Your not reading the play book then....
Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on October 16, 2014 at 5:40pm

Remember the vote on ending the PBID consultant was 4-1, only one person wanting to continue to effort.  That person...Mayor Madrid.

Comment by Marie McLaughlin on October 15, 2014 at 7:29pm

If La Mesa Village wants more tax dollars from restaurants and retailers rather than see the proliferation of more service companies, than please put PBID to bed!  Minimum wage increases are tough enough to withstain--we don't need more property assessments in this economy. 

Comment by Ernest Ewin on October 15, 2014 at 12:16pm

Mr. Sanders,

I trust you were watching the Council meeting prior to reading the editor's summary of our activities last evening.

As you would know, at the next council meeting 10/28 at 6pm the City Attorney will present an update to the question can PBIDs/ BIDs return to the scene in La Mesa ; what will it take or is the issue "walking dead"?  

Ms.Alessio and I voted to deny an appeal of a planning commission decision / staff recommendation on a private property rights matter.As you inferred the approval of the appeal was supported 3-2

We also received an excellent up-date by Chief Aceves regarding the relationship between MTS and LMPD at the Oktoberfest.

Please continue reading and watching.I will serve out my term -thank you.

See you at the polls...November 4, 2014!


Comment by Jimmy Sanders on October 14, 2014 at 10:53pm

I think two people are afraid to make a decision they think will hurt them in the next 20 days and another has thrown in the towel. I thought they were elected for 4 years, not 3 years and 10 months? Do the job you were elected to do through the end of your term, or resign right now! And no pay for you doing nothing for two months!

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