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Commission Mulls Seeking Sanctions For Lothian
LA MESA -- Sometime during the Clinton Administration the era of the endless campaign became part of national politics. As subsequent presidents have learned, the next election begins the day after the inaugural balls.
La Mesa may have joined the game this year.
Tuesday evening at the city's Parking Commission meeting the commissioners took steps to reign in one of their own -- Parking Commissioner Laura Lothian, who the majority of the members feel is acting more like a candidate for the 2012 elections than a responsible member of the commission.
The board, reacting to recent public writings by Lothian, asked City Attorney Glen Sabine to attend the commission's August meeting, to discuss whether the commission can pursue sanctions against Lothian.
According to Parking Commission Chairman Jim Wieboldt, at the heart of the commission's concerns is section 2E of the group's bylaws which require commission members to refrain from taking public positions on issues before they come before the panel for official consideration.
Lothian, who ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Art Madrid in last year's elections and has talked about running for a council position in 2012, has recently begun penning pieces on a corporate website criticizing her fellow commissioners and announcing her views on issues before they are officially heard. Specifically, she recently announced her opposition to using parking meter funds to build public bathrooms in the downtown "village'' portion of La Mesa because she feels they will attract more homeless to the area.
Lothian said this morning that she doesn't believe she is doing anything but exercising her First Amendment rights.
"Wieboldt tried this two years ago and the City Attorney told him he was trying to limit my rights to free speech,'' Lothian said. "I don't see what could possibly change this time around. I am simply writing what I've stated publicly at the last few meetings.''
Lothian said she has watched the Parking Commission's bank roll rise up to as much as a million dollars in recent years "and I haven't seen one dollar spent to improve the appearance of this city. It's a travesty and I think people should know about it.''
Lothian's recent writings also included criticism by name of Wieboldt, who has announced his candidacy for the 2012 council elections.
"It is not her criticism of me that is at issue,'' Wieboldt said Tuesday. "I can take that. But if you want to run a campaign, run your campaign. She was not put on commission to pursue her own ambitions and ignore our proper role. I have never used this position for my own personal ambitions and neither should she.''
The Parking Commission has been at the center of tensions that sometimes rise between the city and downtown merchants, some of whom believe, like Lothian, that parking money should be used to beautify the streets with improved landscaping and increased cleaning.
The commission has traditionally limited its use of the parking funds for capital improvements -- like the proposed public bathrooms -- rather than more transitory efforts like flowers and routine maintenance.
Public bathrooms have long been on the list of downtown merchants, many of whom run businesses with bathrooms that can't meet the federal disability requirements for public use.
But recently, Lothian has raised concerns about what she says is a burgeoning number of homeless in La Mesa and she has added management of that population to litter and graffitti as issues on which the city needs to improve its performance.
The commission and city staff are considering adding public so-called "Portland loos'' to two locations downtown, but a public hearing and vote has not yet occurred.
All Parking Commission decisions -- including one to censure or remove one of its members -- eventually go to the City Council for final approval or disapproval.