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A Day To Pause And Think
LA MESA – Once a year the City Council retreats away with the city staff and, without an agenda, a public hearing or angry citizens dominating the session the way they often do at regular council meetings, they spend a long day taking stock of things.
Thursday was that day for this season and in many ways, the officials liked what they saw and heard. And much of the day seemed dominated by the future: new possibilities for city streets and development. Just before lunch, the meeting took a stroll down Allison Avenue, looking at new motion-sensor activated crosswalks about to be installed (pictured above) and discussing other plans for the city’s civic center.
Here are some other highlights:
The city’s fiscal advisers tried to parse the uncertainties of city’s long-term finances in an era of economic contraction and state and federal budget crises. The centerpiece of that discussion, officials said, dealt with steps needed to begin dealing with the city’s unfunded pension obligations. The consensus seemed to be that the city’s $500,000 payment toward that debt was realistic but perhaps too small given the magnitude of the problem. Russell Buckley, a frequent critic of the city’s handling of its pension issues, said the discussion was focusing too much on how to pay back the debt and not enough on how to reduce pension benefits to “stop the bleeding now.’’
The city’s police chief outlined a plan that, “in an ideal world’’ would provide him with several extra officers to improve crime prevention efforts and free up patrol officers’ time to increase patrolling. It seemed unlikely, given the city’s financial constraints and the record declines in crime rates across the board, that the city would meet his request.
The city’s fire officials chronicled the $254,000 they were able to save by merging department management with El Cajon and Lemon Grove.
Officials also reviewed the results of a commissioned scientific survey of city residents that showed an approval rating for city services that was greater than 90 percent. However, the survey also chronicled a decline in the marks citizens give the city for its communication with residents. That part of the survey measured a marked shift from print sources to on-line information delivery but chided the city a bit for not adjusting to that shift well enough.