Amid Bitter Fight, Council Clips Budget, Madrid's Wings

LA MESA -- If La Mesa was run with a parliamentary form of government, Mayor Art Madrid would be calling for new elections today. 

After a few hours of angry debate and a series of votes that, in the parliamentary form of government would be seen as a vote of "no confidence,'' a council majority Tuesday night approved the city's annual budget but made it clear it wasn't supporting all of Madrid's efforts in the city.

At the center of the heat wasn't the city's multi-million dollar budget, but a series of small cuts the council members had made in areas that were identified as pet areas of the mayor, including council travel and spending on the mayor's participation in the National League of Cities and the U.S. Council of Mayors.

In a long treatise prior to the city staff's budget presentation, Madrid (photo right) called the cuts to travel and participation in the national associations as narrow-minded and politically motivated, hurting the city's interests and standing in the state and nation.

"I've been out there and the community's appetite for political shenanigans is reaching the gagging point,'' Madrid said. He singled out new council member Kristine Alessio, saying her opposition to his attendance at a national seminar in Las Vegas was based on "a healthy dose of ignorance.''

Alessio fired back saying Madrid's criticisms inaccurately portrayed her opposition to his travels.

City Councilman Ernie Ewin criticized Madrid for making personal attacks within his budget presentation.

"I take offense at you pointing out an individual in such a bullying manner,'' Ewin said.

Madrid went on to defend the work done by the National League of Cities and the U.S. Council of Mayors -- group's Madrid has long histories with -- in helping La Mesa develop safer streets, anti-obesity programs  and winning a variety of competitive grants. He also pointed out what he said were large subsidies the council has allowed for other community efforts, including Oktoberfest, which "do nothing for this city.''

At the prompting of City Councilwoman Ruth Sterling, City staffers enumerated a number of on-going efforts that would be hurt by pulling out of the National League of Cities and, as the council eventually passed the budget, funding for the National League of Cities was restored, but cuts to the council travel budgets and the U.S. Council  of Mayors stood. The council also retained the council member car allowances, but Alessio made it clear she wouldn't be accepting that stipend.

When the meeting ended, Madrid wasn't claiming even partial victory with the restoration of the National League of Cities money, perhaps because he will still need permission of the council members to attend any of the league's meetings.

In fact, Madrid Tuesday formally asked the council for permission to attend an upcoming meeting of the league's energy subcommittee meeting in Florida. Madrid's motion found no support. In parliamentary terms it failed without a second.

Lost amid the personal vitriol flying about the chamber was the fact that an improving local economy had spiked sales tax revenues in recent months, allowing the council to pass a budget that will only slightly reduce the city's reserves next year. That's something all five council members could vote for.



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Tags: Art Madrid, Ernie Ewin, Government, Kristine Alessio, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, La Mesa newspaper, Ruth Sterling


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Comment by chris shea on July 25, 2013 at 7:01am
Not a fan.
Comment by Mark Cavanaugh on July 24, 2013 at 11:57pm

Just curious Chris, how do you feel about Bob Filner?

Comment by chris shea on July 24, 2013 at 10:12pm
Kevin I was not offended in the slightest. I merely think that what we as La Mesans need to do is note carefully where we agree and begin from that space. There has to be more that unites than divides.

As for my President, I am still unabashedly a supporter, Mark.
So it looks like my comments on this particular La Mesa Today post have concluded.
Thanks for an always welcome spirited debate.
Comment by Mark Cavanaugh on July 24, 2013 at 9:22pm

The Mayor has brought all this upon himself and I for one am glad after years of berating citizens, twisting arms, bullying council members and being a generally nasty man, he is getting his due.  Being exposed for the fraud he is is itself invigorating and seeing the new council reign in his wasteful spending gives me hope.  The Mayor could choose to lead but he chooses to be more concerned with self importance, self grandizing, and self back slapping and trying to improve relations with those who oppose him.  All you needed to hear was him telling us all the City does not benefit from four signature events that have been going on for many years to see why he is ineffective and so widely hated.  He is a divider, not unlike our current president.

Comment by Kevin G George on July 24, 2013 at 6:07pm

Sorry Chris, evidently you are offended. I wasn't trying to demean your status as a La Mesan.

"Pushed through" would mean something to you if you were there during those tumultuous times. I was. There was much anti trolley sentiment at the time and it was a tremendous battle that every one of the opposition knew would be to no avail. But we still exercised our right to redress our grievances to our government.

I am not pulling rank here but I have lived in this town for 61 years. I have seen a lot come and go. I have also seen the current mayor belittle and berate people in public dozens of times for merely disagreeing with him and run this town like it was his.

He has treated Ruth Sterling like a red headed step child for as long as she has been there in their on again off again relationship. You just weren't there to witness it.

I think if you looked into the history of what people are upset about you might be more sympathetic.

Should we "just get over it" if we know that what has been done is wrong? Should we just get over it if we have a better idea? 

Speaking of which, you say " anti everything and pro nothing", if you watched the meeting last night you heard Dave Smyle explain that investing long term in a rising interest rate market is not a good idea.  Do you consider that negative just because he is criticizing the " experts" ? It was an idea expressed to the Council by a private Citizen. Do you really have a problem with that?

If you want to sit by the wayside, unquestioning, fine. But do not criticize others for doing so because it will not make a difference.

PS I used to be able to ride a bicycle that was standing still and I see people doing it every day.

Comment by chris shea on July 24, 2013 at 3:48pm

I realize I have not been a viewer or attendee as long as you, Kevin.  But doesn't it seem like sometimes people need to act and not react, hash and not rehash. The mayor has only one vote doesn't he? I get that many people are currently not a fan of the mayor, but if, as it seems, almost all of the energy in the meetings is anti everything and pro nothing, it is a colossal waste of time. It's like the agenda of the meetings becomes "Things the mayor did that we don't like" and "Things I did and here's why."  It's past tense for the most part.  Like Cher said in Moonstruck:  "Get over it!"  Move forward.  You can't steer a bicycle that's standing still.

I was unaware the trolley was pushed through. If that's true, I'm happy it was pushed.  I love the trolley! 

Comment by Kevin G George on July 24, 2013 at 2:37pm

Chris, as someone who has been watching and attending Council meetings since the trolley was pushed through in 1986 I can tell you that there is only one person responsible for the wretched condition of the Council.

The remainder are reacting to him.

Comment by chris shea on July 24, 2013 at 1:58pm

Here's what I wish:

I wish that there were more grown-up behavior at the City Council meetings. I wish there were a penalty for eye rolling, sarcasm, animus and hubris.  I wish each council meeting had a finite number of words allowed so the monologues and "discussion" might be done in a sleeker, more cogent manner. 

There is so much the city needs to do.  That's what the citizens want.  At least that's what I want.  No one should get credit for anything.  No one needs a legacy or a signature achievement. ( And irrespective of whose side you're on in these mind- numbingly lengthy meetings, I think we can all agree the City Staff deserves combat pay for sitting through them.)

I'm not on the Council and as such I have no real say in how to conduct the business of the City of La Mesa.  But I think someone at some point has to step in and ask the members to stop hating each other.  And if they say they don't hate each other, then they should be required to watch themselves on television.  Agree before the next meeting to bury the hatchet.  Admit to skulduggery and sniping and then leave it in the waste paper basket.  (Give it to Edco to dispose of, because they're good at what they do, clicking along without all the drama just doing their continuously excellent job.)

Start fresh.  Shake hands.  Admit you were a dope.  Confess your feelings were hurt.  Then proceed to fix our wonderful little city, a city which, from time to time last night, I pictured  like a little kid sitting on the curb with a skinned knee being ignored while his parents argued about whose fault it was that he fell down.

Again, I know my comments are not ones that deal with the concrete facts as such because that is not within my purview to elaborate upon: but I really think that until the entire city council, mayor and all, can come out and "say sorry,"  stop looking backwards, stop picking at scabs, stop the recital of    who said what to whom, nothing is ever going to get done to improve the really pitiful reality show on Channel 24 or our beloved village with its very badly skinned knee.  

Comment by Mark Cavanaugh on July 24, 2013 at 12:16pm

Watched the carnage on TV thank god.   I could replay some outrageous statements made by the King. Yes Art, we all know car allowances go towards all aspects of a car including wear and tear and that is what the mileage allowance also covers so maybe if you had to actually account for your miles on an expense report like HWD, maybe you wouldn't travel so much.  Go to a mileage reimbursement and then we can actually track your travel (commuting to City Hall doesn’t count). 

First of all, Chris Lavin, I know you have more recent photos of the Mayor showing his face of disgust and anger than the 30 year old photo used.  I think even that younger photo was photo shopped. 

Best of all was an amazing revelation of the Mayors real feelings toward the civic organizations who spend so many hours of time trying to promote the City through events.  The City has no benefit from the four major downtown events?  Really? And the PBID would do what differently? Normally, you only hear these types of statements when people are drunk and don't really know what they are saying but are actually speaking truthfully.  The Mayor drunk??  Interesting concept.  Drunk with power that has all but been now taken away and you can see him grasping at any straw he can to save his precious travel and last bastion of control.  Voting delegate to the League of Cities-GONE!  Member of the US Council of Mayors-GONE.  Environmental Agenda-GONE.  Respect among colleagues-GONE.

Money saved from not traveling to Florida for a useless conference-$1,100.  Money saved from elimination of bogus Conference of Mayors-$5,500, Money saved from reduced travel budget $7,500, seeing the Mayor get neutered time and again-Priceless

Comment by Kevin G George on July 24, 2013 at 12:12pm

Photo right? 

Photo right from the 20th Century is more like it.

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