Love where you live!
LA MESA -- The La Mesa City Council took its annual Town Hall meet and greet away from City Hall and out among the neighborhoods on Thursday evening. Considering the relative warmth and amiability they encountered at Rolando Elementary School, the civic leaders may want to hold more of their meetings here.
Gone were the sometime cranky regulars at City Council meetings and the often confrontational tone that has marked the recent bi-monthly council meetings at the Allison Avenue arena. There was laughter among the council members and more listening than speaking from the dais.
Perhaps this is why U.S. presidents use foreign trips to escape Washington from time to time.This La Mesa foreign affair was the first of two Town Hall meetings the council executes each year to develop grist for its day-long strategic planning workshop in March. If Tuesday night was any indication, that March meeting should be a snoozer.
One by one the residents who braved weather about as bitter as it can get in San Diego, rose and raised issues so familiar, city staff could have had answers on cue cards.One resident suggested wealthy residents be tapped to finance construction of a local gym for youths on Baltimore Drive where the proposed Park Station project is proposed.
City Manager Dave Witt explained that very kind of youth project, being financed by such donations, is underway just a few blocks west at La Mesa Middle School.
In fact, Jerry Fazio, chief fundraiser for this new Boys and Girls Club, was in the audience handing out T-shirts to the council members to signal the start of the wider, public portion of the $9-million fundraising campaign.
Fazio told the audience the campaign's board had expanded as fundraisers will now be seeking donations from throughout the community to bolster the large donations recently given by Ron and Mary Alice Brady. The campaign board includes Councilman Mark Arapostathis (displaying t-shirt above), Police Chief Ed Aceves, City Manager Dave Witt, Brian Marshall, Superintendent of La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, as well as NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton, a La Mesa native and Helix High grad.
A number of residents of the city's West Side neighborhoods raised concerns about traffic racing through neighborhoods or clogging streets around local schools during pick up and drop off times each day. There was concern raised about the city's modest homeless population, though the concern was for the homeless, themselves, not any menace they posed.
Even when Councilman Ernie Ewin (right) elicited comments about what some in the past have considered an annoyance -- police helicopters droning overhead at times -- these more crime-conscious residents seemed to quickly support the cost-benefit analysis offered by the police chief.
One public servant in the crowd whispered "if these are our problems, we must be doing okay.''
In closing statements, Councilwoman Ruth Sterling agreed, offering this encomium-filled synopsis of the evening: "We have a good police force, a good Fire Department, a good Public Works Department, a good staff.'' No one -- including the civil servants in the audience -- was disagreeing.
The council holds a second Town Hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. February 18th and Northmont Elementary School.