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Seeking A PBID Cesarean
LA MESA -- It has been nine months since the supporters of the La Mesa Village Property Based Improvement District last formally appeared before the City Council. "Long enough to have produced a baby,'' as City Councilman Ernie Ewin put it.
But it became clear Tuesday that the gestation period for a PBID is longer than that of a human, and that the stretch marks and mood swings seem to be affecting the City Council members more than the members of PBID Committee.
Expressing "exasperation,'' "frustration'' and "confusion'' over the drawn out PBID process, council members expressed a desire to see the PBID issue settled so the city's downtown streetscape plan could go forward without unneeded complexities.
However, the council was reminded by the City Manager that, even though they had a hand in conception of the PBID process, its future rests with the PBID Steering Committee.
"Is there anything we can do to declare it over once and for all,'' City Councilwoman Ruth Sterling asked.
"No,'' was the simple answer from City Attorney Glenn Sabine. Sabine explained that the law does not put a time limit on the Steering Committee's efforts to garner support for the plan.
So the council voted 5-0 to direct the City Manager to talk with the Steering Committee leaders and encourage them to report back to the council within 45 days.
No member of the Steering Committee was present at the meeting, though a number of PBID opponents, many wearing "No PBID" signs, sat in the audience as a few addressed the council, including Brian Marshall, superintendent of the La Mesa/Spring Valley School District who reiterated his district's opposition to the plan. Merchant Bill Jaynes, a vocal opponent with a flair for props and the dramatic, held up a wooden stake and encouraged the council to drive it into the heart of the PBID.
Lynn McRea, the chairwoman of the Steering Committee, was not available for comment, but Jim Wieboldt, a local merchant and committee member, said the council needs to be reminded who is directing the effort.
"We are driving this ship,'' Wieboldt said. While the city owns property within the district and put up the funds for organizing the PBID effort, the Steering Committee is an entity with a life of its own now.
The Steering Committee could still come up with petitions from more than 50 percent of the landowners in the PBID District or it could come back with a revised plan that would take still more time to garner new petitions.
In the meantime, City Manager Dave Witt, told the council he was optimistic about having won the final $2-million of grant funding the city needs for the streetscape project and planning is moving ahead with regular staff meetings and a "break ground" target of Jan. 1, 2014, for the complete overhaul of La Mesa Boulevard.
And that is where the rub occurs. The City Council has repeatedly said that if the city is going to spend $5-million rehabbing the Village, it expects a "public-private" partnership with those who are benefitting from these taxpayer dollars to maintain the improvements.
The PBID, in which property owners would essentially agree to an annual assessment, was seen as the vehicle for that "public-private" partnership. Without a PBID, or something like it, the city could find itself back in the days when an anemic merchants association couldn't come up with enough money or volunteers to water the La Mesa Boulevard planters.
The PBID opponents have been vocal about what they don't want (a PBID), but efforts to discuss an alternative haven't gone much beyond the early talking stages.
The council, of course, could give up on the "public-private'' partnership and simply launch the streetscape improvements and pay for all the maintenance out of taxpayers' money. That, of course, would land the council back in the same position that left the quaint Village to slide down a razor blade of decline over the last 25 years.
Mayor Art Madrid, a strong supporter of the PBID, remained largely quiet on this issue at Tuesday's meeting, perhaps enjoying watching his fellow council members come up against the conflicting goals and forces in a local political contretemps he has spent decades fighting.
So, it is still not clear if or when any Village baby will be delivered. However, it does look like, in any event, forceps will be involved.