Love where you live!
Last in a series.
LA MESA -- Laura Lothian likes to stand out.
She drives a golf cart around town.
She did some of her door-to-door campaigning on a Segway scooter.
Her Realtor's sign, which has moved between brokers a number of times in recent years, makes it clear she is happy being her own brand.
And though she regularly raises the hackles of other La Mesa politicians, she doesn't back down.
When she inaccurately suggested two fellow merchants were violating conflict of interest rules in their mixing of city and PBID responsibilities, she didn't apologize.
When another local merchant complained that she had used a picture of their overflowing dumpster in her campaign against blight, she removed the photo from her website but refused to apologize.
"It shouldn't look like that,'' she says.
And of the five candidates running for the two council seats, Lothian is the only one being highly critical of the current city administration and, to a lesser degree, of her competing candidates.
"Kristine (Alessio) and Shannon (O'Dunn) sound like they are incumbents,'' Lothian says. "If anyone should be running on this administration's record, it's Ruth Sterling. She was there the whole time. But the rest you'd think were on the team. If you don't want to change anything, why are you running?''
At the heart of Lothian's campaign -- and central to what so many of the establishment find objectionable about her -- is her insistance that La Mesa is plagued by grime and crime and risks losing its best qualities if it doesn't quickly find ways to attract new business and spur redevelopment of declining properties throughout the city.
"I just sold a house to a couple in La Mesa because they couldn't afford Santee,'' Lothian said.
Not surprisingly, Lothian's chiding of La Mesa has made her a target of many. One group, calling itself Citizens for Responsible and Ethical Government, are quietly circulating a four-page, unsigned dosier on Lothian, listing a series of criticisms of everything from a spotty voting record, what they say were doctored photos of trash and what they say is her constant use of public, political forums to promote her real estate business.
True to form, Lothian shirks off the criticism. She acknowledges she has become more politically involved in recent years and votes more often now than in years past. She says the critics are angered by her willingess to suggest things could be better in La Mesa.
"I love La Mesa, too,'' she says. "But I want people to cross over the La Mesa city line and say 'Wow, what a beautiful place','' she said. "I don't hear that now.''
Lothian wants the city's building inspectors to crack down on apartment owners who, she says, openly violate city codes, with the same force they apply to new business owners trying to rehabilitate a commercial location.
"The apartment landlords get away with lots, but just try and get a permit for sidewalk seating,'' she says.
Lothian believes the city also needs to do more and use innovative techniques to market the city as a place to do business. She said she served with the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce but found that organization ineffective.
"They were always so close to the edge themselves, it seemed like they were preoccupied with surviving,'' she said.
Lothian thinks the city should be creatively building the job of marketing of unused stores into its own website and develop an application for smart phones that would help market La Mesa's assets and events.
Like virtually all of the candidates, Lothian also raised concerns about development that could threaten the character of La Mesa. A project like the preliminary one submitted as "Park Station," with multiple 18-story towers, Lothian said, was beyond what La Mesa needs. But she said development will happen.
"It is possible to do it right,'' Lothian said. "I'd like to see us encourage redevelopment of everything -- including houses. If a house goes from $200,000 to $400,000 that's good too.''
Lothian praised one of her opponents, Patrick Dean, for what she says is the clarity of his message and his consistent stands on issues that matter to him. "Frankly I disagree with him on almost every one of those issues, but at least he stands for something.''
Lothian said she wouldn't criticize 20-year incumbent Sterling "out of respect for our elders. She is an institution,'' she said. But Lothian said she is a strong proponent of term limits -- having said she would only seek two terms on council herself.
"I would have liked for Ruth to do what Dave Allan did (voluntarily stepping aside)," Lothian said. "Over time after you've been on any board, you get used to it and like it, but you get entrenched. It sets in. I sometimes call that council La Mesa's Mt. Rushmore.''
There is at least one thing that Lothian and her critics would agree on. Lothian makes it clear what you are voting for if you support her.
"If you are a resident of La Mesa and you think things are going well, then you'll vote for Kristine or Shannon,'' Lothian said. "If you think things should be better, then I'm here.''
Lothian is a native of New Orleans and a graduate of Long Beach State. Now 51, she said she worked as a stay-at-home mom raising three children before entering the real estate business a decade ago.
Below is Lothian's official ballot statement:
You can click here to visit Lothian's official website.
The Race For La Mesa is a five part series focusing on the City Council candidates. Part One focused on candidate Ruth Sterling. Part Two on Kristine Alessio. Part Three on Shannon O'Dunn. Part Four on Patrick Dean.