Not Exactly Terms Of Endearment

LA MESA -- Two weeks after calling for a 60 day delay in any decision on a "term limit" referendum, City Councilman Ernie Ewin suddenly returned the issue to the council's agenda Tuesday. But if term limit supporters were hoping Ewin suddenly saw the issue their way, it quickly became clear that Ewin wasn't coming to their rescue.

Instead, Tuesday night's reprise of last month's term limit debate seemed to be more about personal politics than any new insights on the issue. Ewin spoke for several minutes explaining his action last month that put him in rare agreement with Mayor Art Madrid, but then quickly distanced himself again from Madrid, criticizing the mayor for "name-calling" and attacking citizens who were simply expressing their support for a term limit proposal that has had wide-spread support in other communities.

Ewin said he didn't vote to put term limits directly to a voter referendum because the council has been consistent in requiring proponents of such grass-roots efforts to demonstrate local support for an issue by gathering signatures and forcing a referendum.

"We did it with the marijuana issue and, to be clear, we did it with the PBID issue,'' Ewin said. "What I am looking for here is consistency and this council has been consistent on these issues.''

Ewin was making it clear to Madrid opponents that his alliance with Madrid, who opposes term limits, was one of principle and not a sudden warming between two politicians who have been sparring constantly in recent years over issues big and small.

Noting Madrid's comments after last month's term limit debate, Ewin said "I'm tired of the name-calling," adding that citizens shouldn't be attacked for pursuing open dialogue in a democratic process.

Madrid characterized the term limit effort as being motivated by his political opponents who resent his longevity in office. Madrid referred to Bill Baber, the political operative who is helping manage the term limit effort, as "an ambulance chaser'' and said Baber was seeking political vengeance because Madrid wouldn't support giving him a consulting contract. Madrid has also referred to the La Mesa Citizen Oversight Group as "neanderthals,'' which Ewin said he particularly resented being applied to his friend Scott Kidwell, a local resident who has served the public in a number of trusted roles. Ewin pointed out that Baber is an elected official and serves in a position of public trust on a bond oversight committee as well.

City council member Ruth Sterling quickly jumped into the fray, saying Madrid can't argue that a term limit proposal that would allow him to serve another 12 years in office as being a personal vendetta against him.

"You are just barking because you are vindictive,'' Sterling said.

"I was asked by a number of people if I thought this was aimed at me and I said 'yes,' Madrid barked back. "I am entitled to give an answer and I gave it.''

Councilwoman Kristine Alessio, whose increasingly cozy relationship with Madrid detractors on the Oversight group has angered the mayor, thanked Ewin for his effort to curb the name-calling. Alessio, who has championed the term limit issue said "This isn't about any one person. This is about the people of La Mesa.''

Alessio, Baber and the Citizens Oversight group have formed an alliance to gather the 3,100 or so signatures needed to put a term limit proposal on next November's ballot. Also on that ballot will be candidates for mayor and this term limit issue may be a precursor for a challenge to Madrid's decades of hegemony in local politics.

Madrid, however, wasn't sounding like the possibility of an organized opposition to his re-election was causing him concerns.

"Great meeting,'' he exclaimed as he gaveled Tuesday's suddenly cantankerous meeting to a close.

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Tags: Art Madrid, Ernie Ewin, Government, Kristine Alessio, La Mesa Citizen Oversight Group, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, Ruth Sterling, Scott Kidwell, Term limits

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