Talking Short Term Troubles, Long Term Hopes

LA MESA -- That 300 airplanes landed safely at Lindburgh Field is not news.
That one plane crashes, is huge news.
With that in mind, herewith the real news from the La Mesa City Council's five-hour strategic planning meeting:

The combined effects of the recession, reduced home values, state government cuts, pension losses and stagnant sales tax have left La Mesa running a deficit.
For the next few years, the city will draw on reserves -- the city's piggy bank -- to make up for a shortfall in revenues that will leave the city spending more than it brings in. If projections go as hoped, the city will move back into the black in 2016 and will begin replenishing its reserves.

The City Council and a few local residents heard this news as the council and city staff began its annual strategic planning exercise Thursday that was an alternating mix of agony and ecstacy.

While what they hope to be temporary fiscal challenges fueled the nerve jangling "glass is half empty'' portion of the lengthy meeting, there was plenty of talk of an optimistic future and even some "dreaming," as Councilwoman Ruth Sterling put it, about a new City Hall, a new library and developing a capital improvement reserve fund to begin preparing for the inevitable decline in city facilities.

Fundraisers for the new Boys & Girls Club facility being planned for the La Mesa Middle School campus raised the spirits of the meeting with a description of an $8.9 million project that all agreed could "change the face of West La Mesa.''
But for the prudent finance sorts -- and that is how the council likes to see itself -- the real foundation of this meeting was floating on the shifting sands of economic predictions.
The city's finance experts described the source and depth of the current financial shortfall in the city's general revenues and then showed how the improving economy, recovering sales tax revenues and new property tax projections will begin to turn things around in 2016-17 or perhaps earlier if the economic projections prove to be as conservative as they believe they are.
City Manager Dave Witt then began sharing some warnings about what he sees as clear and troubling changes in the fundamentals that have driven city finances for decades now.

Specifically, Witt pointed out that city revenues largely come from property taxes that don't rise quickly and sales taxes that are cyclical and are continuing to show weakness as economic activity shifts from "brick and mortar stores" to the Internet. For example: taxing the sale of a compact disc full of music is easy; getting sales tax from the download of a song on the Internet is next to impossible.

That shift, from products sold in stores to services delivered on the Internet, threatens to challenge the city's method of paying for street maintenance, police and fire protection.

Still, this was a big picture meeting for long-range planning, not a gathering that was given to paralysis by analysis. Each of the council members gave their wish list for issues they wanted city staff to probe deeper.
Council member Kristine Alessio encouraged broadening development discussions beyond La Mesa Village and to include the El Cajon/ University Avenue corridors in West La Mesa.
Councilman Ernie Ewin raised marketing of the city and also what he called "elephant in the room" issues like the city's unfunded pension liabilities (perhaps $30-million) that could overtake all other city issues when fully understood.

Councilwoman Ruth Sterling expressed concerns about rising water and sewer rates and wished for, perhaps quixotically, a system that could measure actual sewer outflows from each house instead of basing them on water consumption.

Mark Arapostathis, the council member, also cited a need for special attention to West La Mesa and heavily encouraged city involvement in the Boys & Girls Club, praising Jerry Fazio (pictured right), executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of East County after Fazio sketched out the plan for the club's plans at the La Mesa Middle School campus.

Amid all the discussion of economic woes, Mayor Art Madrid chose to keep pitching long-term ambitions, encouraging consideration of completion of a civic center plan that he would like to see as part of the legacy of his tenure.

With Madrid's encouragement, Witt (right) displayed rough schematics of a new City Hall and a new municipal parking structure built on the vacant land located just east of the current city offices, which Madrid described as "a rat hole" not worthy of the hard-working city workers who toil there in small offices, temporary trailers and inadequate cubicles.

While the thought of taking on a multi-million dollar, multi-year project like a new City Hall was clearly daunting in the face of current financial challenges, Madrid encouraged the longer view, which he said allowed the community to build the new fire and police facilities.

Sterling bluntly said the project should be pursued before it gets more expensive, but others wanted to hear more about scale, scope and eventual costs. Witt heard enough encouragement to prepare a project overview for the council's consideration, but any decision on that proposal is clearly still far off.

City Manager Witt said formal appraisals of much of that city land has not been done nor have feasibility studies to consider whether other, more revenue generating developments should be considered for that land.

Amid all the financial worries, there was constant applause for the city staff and that judgment was more than backed up by the results of an independent survey of La Mesa residents which chronicled overwhelming approval for the quality of life and the quality of government services in the Jewel of the Hills.

Keeping that up in these challenging times may not be so easy, but Witt, ever the optimist, chronicled a lot of advantages La Mesa has, including a diversified housing stock, centrally located in a growing county. These older, single-family homes remain in high demand and are ripe for rebuilding, expansion and the increased values that will help sustain the city's revenue base.

Here's hoping Witt is right.
















Views: 362

Tags: , ", , , , Alessio, Arapostathis, Boys&Girls, , , Arapostathis, , , City, , , Club, Council, Councilman, , , Councilwoman, , , Dave, , , Ernie, Ewin, Kristine, , More…, La, , , Manager, Mark, Mesa, Ruth, Sterling, Today, Village, , Mark, Village, Village, Alessio, Boys&Girls, Boys&Girls Club, City, City Manager, Club, Council, Councilman, Councilman Ernie Ewin, Councilwoman, Councilwoman Ruth Sterling, Dave, Dave Witt, Ernie, Ewin, Government, Kristine, Kristine Alessio, La, La Mesa, La Mesa City Council, La Mesa Today, La Mesa Village, Manager, Mesa, Ruth, Sterling, Today, Village", Witt


You need to be a member of La Mesa Today - Community Website & Online Newspaper to add comments!

Join La Mesa Today - Community Website & Online Newspaper

Comment by David Stanley on March 30, 2013 at 8:46pm

Scott Kidwell seems to have knocked it out of the park with his comment. "Legacy" is defined as a gift of personal property by will. On its face a noble concept. However, when associated with any politician, in this case The Mayor, it becomes a rather sordid idea which inevitably costs US money.  Consider Obama's "Legacy". Approaching 20 TRILLION in debt by the end of his regime, a nation saddled with "ObamaCare" in which many or most can barely afford medical costs that were PROMISED to go down but continue to spiral upward out of control, massive unemployment despite a government that grins and says "Its looking pretty good", currency that is no longer accepted by many other countries because it is no longer dependable or stable, a nation devolved to a second class status, ridiculed by most other nations and leaders.  "Legacy" is a dangerous thing. What will your Mayor's legacy be?

Comment by Scott H. Kidwell on March 29, 2013 at 2:47pm

Having a new city hall seems very low on any list of priorities. Rather than looking for creative and/or dubious ways to extract ever more $ from the taxpayers, our local government should continue on it's own fiscal diet and learn to exist on what it can afford, while focusing on eliminating a crushing pension debt and looming property balloon payments. Charting a course that we should spend now before it gets more expensive is unethical and immoral when you don't have the funds and purposely spend other peoples money or borrow against the earnings of other peoples children and grandchildren. We already have a federal government going down that path. La Mesa does not need to fundamentally change and we must not be equally whimsical and reckless!

Reoccurring hyper rhetoric that the current city hall is a "rat hole" has become hollow whining that does, however, bear a familiar vermin theme. Few give a rodents posterior what the mayor "would like to see as part of the legacy of his tenure."

Comment by helen t. givens on March 29, 2013 at 2:32pm

As a resident of La Mesa I very much appreciate the efforts, dedication and ability of La Mesa Today to bring us reports of events and meetings happening in our fair city. It is in depth, accurate and timely. Without these reports we woud know little of what is going on.  It not only brings us all the news but affords many folks the opportunity to express their hopes, dreams and thoughts of just what direction they think this city should take. It only requires a true name.  And if someone does not wish to reveal who they are what worth is their opinion.  So I hope Chris Lavin and his staff continue to devote the time and dedication they do to continue to inform and educate all of us here in this fair city ofLa Mesa.

Many Thanks


Comment by David Smyle on March 28, 2013 at 11:12pm

Oh yeah, one more thing.  How come the workshop was never advertised on the Marquee or signs put up around the City promoting it to the public?  A little more important than the aging, parking, youth and planning commission meetings, wouldn't you say?

Comment by David Smyle on March 28, 2013 at 11:06pm

Ok, alarm clock is ringing.  Time to wake up from this dreamscape and back to reality.  Nothing is going to be built until the City get's a handle on benefits and pensions which have bankrupted the City.  The City owes over $30 million in unfunded pension liabilities which is growing worse every year.  $5 million for a new parking garage?  $xxx million for a new City Hall?    Where is this going to come from?  The employees, all well paid can work just fine in their current confines. Was at a real estate forecast recently and smaller workspace is the "in thing" right now.  Everyone is going to open cubical environments.  As long as employees are getting paid, I imagine they don't really care about their space.  The rat hole is good enough for the Mayor to go in to work everyday even though it is a part time job.  Whats next, a new Community Center?  Renovate Nan Couts Cottage?  A new Senior Center?  By the way, how much did the City spend on the new City Hall rendering?  Was that expense approved?

Want to build a new City Hall?  Get a benefactor to donate the money and give them naming rights.  While you are at it, give someone naming rights to the pool and let them donate money to fix that.  Do I really care if a building has someone's name on it? 

At the meeting this morning, it was mentioned the City is paying $5000 to market it's vacant space for lease on owned City properties on a website?  What properties are those?  Why isn't the City selling those properties?  Why isn't the City hiring professional commercial leasing agents to try and lease the spaces?

Mark my words, the City will be coming back for another bite at the apple and ask for a higher sales tax.  First convert all retirement accounts to a 401K.  Put all employees on Obamacare.  Outsource everything you can.  Stop fireman from going out on medical calls and outsource that function to a paramedic company.  That will save the City over $500,0000 annually.  After you have done everything you can to protect our tax dollars, then "maybe" you can ask for more tax dollars.

If Councilwoman Sterling wants to complain about the high cost of water, let her request the City take a stand and publicly opposed the Helix Water rate increases rather than sitting silent or even better, tell HWD to get their own employee expenses, benefits and pensions in line before raising rates.  The City, one of the top water users has never stood up to the HWD but then again, it is not their money so what do they care.

Manager Witt has it right.  Fewer revenues due to internet sales means less taxes.  The brilliant Obama policy of taxing capital gains at higher rates means fewer people selling their properties and thus no increase in real estate tax revenues either.

2016-17 is a hope and a prayer.  The Country is approaching $17 trillion in debt with no end in sight.  The Congress can't even stop the postal delivery on Saturday to save billions even though the Postmaster general is recommending it.  Where is the money going to come from?  This is your one chance Council to take immediate and drastic steps to start us back in the right direction.  You may have already waited too long.

Comment by David Stanley on March 28, 2013 at 10:03pm

La Mesa is no different than most other cities in the state and nation. Faced with grasping union demands and threats, saddled with placating politicians who continually "sell out" to these unions to gain votes for re-election, promises made regarding pensions then political slight of hand with required money.  It goes on and on. I see that the politicians, promising OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY, want a new City Hall. I read that they bemoan loss is revenue because of reduced home values, state government cuts, pension losses and a stagnant sales tax. "A STAGNANT SALES TAX"! I read projects are being delayed for lack of money. Then I sit and think of my own check book. Funny. I cant rely on OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY. I must rely on my own pension. I continually look for ways to cut back on my own financial outlay because you see, I dont get overtime. I dont get raises and I cant just reach out and grab another handful OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY to pay my bills.  I dont recall reading about any of the members demanding cutbacks on city spending. I dont recall reading the Mayor demanding a line item examination of the city's budget in order to cut spending and save money. Nope. I do recall that wee blurb about multi-millions needed FOR A NEW CITY HALL though! Rather a mirror image I have to tell you of what we are and have been watching in the cess pit of Washington D.C. for many years.I see and hear NO REGARD for those who have to actually pay the bills, only wringing of hands about how THEY are going to get more. "Stagnant Sales Tax"??? That your idea of handling things? Stick it to taxpayers again and again then stand up in your meetings and congratulate one another on these great multi-million dollar projects you are demanding??????

When we can elect a crop of honest citizens, willing to actually sit down with these bloated budgets, be willing to tell these promoters to peddle their wares somewhere else, tell these unions to forget about it, roll up sleeves, sharpen RED pencils and CUT SPENDING perhaps we can have a future. Perhaps someday we can move forward without gouging taxpayers. We have a beautiful village, a wonderful place to live and it certainly would be far better without the politicians elbow deep in OUR MONEY! What are they afraid of? What keeps them from just STOPPING THE BLEEDING? WHAT? Are they so consumed with their own self importance that they must just keep on keeping on? And where are these taxpayers that, sheeplike, just keep agreeing to higher sales taxes, agreeing to higher fees? Oh, I forgot, they are Obama supporters now. We now live in Wonderland.

La Mesa Weather


La Mesa Photos

  • Add La Mesa Photos
  • View All

La Mesa Member Videos

  • Add La Mesa Videos
  • View All

La Mesa TODAY is news intended to promote the betterment of La Mesa and its nearby neighborhoods. We want members who share this goal.

© 2020   Created by La Mesa Today.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service