Ewin Won't Seek Re-Election In November

LA MESA -- Ernie Ewin, the long-serving City Councilman, who had two different stints in La Mesa leadership, has chosen to step aside.
Ewin Tuesday morning told the Union-Tribune that he would not seek re-election in November, clearing the way for what could be one of the most interesting political seasons in recent La Mesa history.
With the prospect of two open seats on a council of generally long-serving politicians, new candidates are expected to declare early. Already Bill Baber, a political consultant and member of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board, has filed preliminary papers to run for the City Council. If he is successful, that would create an opening on the local school board as well.
But it was Ewin's decision to step aside that was the big news of this day. Ewin has been a strong presence on the La Mesa council and a frequent jouster with Mayor Art Madrid.
Ewin's banking background gave him insight into the city's finances and enabled him to play a strong role as La Mesa's representative on the Metropolitan Transit System Board, where he helped initiate the MTS Audit Committee.

But in recent years, Ewin was most noted for leading an effort to rein in the long-serving Madrid, gathering support among other council members to force Madrid to approve travel and connect his efforts on regional and national organizations with La Mesa issues.

Speaking recently over breakfast, Ewin didn't reveal his decision to step aside, but he spoke generally about a political career that was, in many ways, as leader of a shadow cabinet to Madrid's more aggressive leadership style.

Ewin joined the council back in the 1980s not long after Madrid, but he said Madrid made it clear to him early on that he sought higher office, asking Ewin to support him for vice mayor. Much of Ewin's two stints on council were lived tussling with Madrid over the mayor's tendency to operate in isolation from the rest of the council.

In a City Manager form of government, the mayor and council are meant to give guidance to the manager, but Madrid's long service and style has, at times, given him a "strong mayor'' look and feel. Ewin preferred to adhere to the City Manager system and, in recent years, gathered allies among the four council members to remind Madrid of the limitations of his office.

If Ewin had mayoral ambitions, however, they may have been stifled by this more technocratic approach to governance. Madrid and, in many ways, Councilman Mark Arapostathis who is expected to challenge Madrid in November for the mayor's post, engaged with the public more directly. In recent head-to-head votes, Madrid and Arapostathis regularly garnered higher vote totals than Ewin.

Still, his departure, coupled with the possibility of an Arapostathis run, will make this November's election one for the La Mesa record books. Two open council seats, a vote on medical marijuana and possibly a vote on term limits as well as a classic mayoral race should give local residents much to think about.

Patrick Dean, who has run unsuccessfully for council in the past, has remained engaged in local politics and could be a candidate for one of possibly two open council seats. And Baber, (photo right) who is familiar to many in La Mesa from his school board service, said Monday that as long as there was one open seat on the council, he would run. If he runs and loses, he can remain on the school board, but must give up his school board seat if he wins and joins the City Council.

Baber Tuesday was praising Ewin.

"Ernie does not need to be in elected office to contribute to our community," Baber said. "He can retire and enjoy his family and continue his charity work and be really happy.''

Baber said Monday he was recruited to run by City Councilwoman Kristine Alessio and Ewin, a move that will clearly further anger Madrid.

Baber has been behind the petition effort to establish term limits in La Mesa, an effort that has featured signature gatherers telling local residents the intention is to get rid of Art Madrid.

With Ewin's departure, however, it is clear Madrid will still have strong opponents on the council regardless of November's outcome.

Alessio has emerged as a particularly aggressive critic of Madrid, her family helping fund the term limit effort. On Monday, Alessio posted a comment on La Mesa Today under the false name of "Dino Cowel.'' Cowel was the name used by a critic of Madrid's on local Internet spaces, including other recent postings that accused the mayor of being "corrupt" and a "bully.''

Alessio later acknowledged her daughter had created a false identification and had been posting under the name "Dino Cowel.'' "I posted my comment without noticing I was using my daughter's log-in,'' she said.

Madrid wasn't buying that explanation, pointing out that many of "Cowel's" comments revealed greater knowledge of city issues than typical teenagers might have.

"After re-reading the crap posted by Alessio and then blaming her daughter, it confirms everything I've always heard about her and have concluded that when she came to the council she brought a virus with her that's turned into a disease," Madrid said. "You can quote me on that.''

Alessio was looking ahead to the political races of the fall.

"When the person I believe is going to announce against Madrid does it,'' Alessio said, ''that will be a happy day for the people of La Mesa.''

Views: 975

Tags: Art Madrid, Bill Baber, City Council, Ernie Ewin, Government, Kristine Alessio, La Mesa Politics, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper


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Comment by Batman on April 5, 2014 at 8:29pm

This Dino Cowel thing is a big nothing. Just let it slide. After all, somebody had to take on the obnoxious Batman, right?

Comment by David Smyle on April 5, 2014 at 12:08pm

I have no problems with people using pen or fake names to post.  I can see many instances where people want to voice an opinion but because they are afraid it might affect their current work or ability to get future work that they want to remain anonymous.  As owner and editor of the site Chris, you have the right and ability to allow or edit out whatever post you choose.  You own the site, your option to let a post go or not so this nonsense that you need to know the real name of the person blogging is BS.  Doesn't serve you any purpose to know who is who.  You should be happy people are actually going to your site and getting engaged, not trying to stymie opinions or conversation that does not become vile.  I have often suggested your own stories are skewed in the way you write them but again, you are free to write what you want.  Allow your readers and bloggers the same freedom.  My guess is if you continue require people not remain anonymous, your readership and bloggersphere will dry up quickly.

Comment by La Mesa Today on April 5, 2014 at 11:25am

Ms. Alessio,

If accuracy is your goal, I contacted your daughter directly several weeks ago about her use of an alias that we discovered in checking on an identity that appeared suspicious. I did not publisher her identity then, but told her I would not accept comments from her unless she signed up under her own name. According to you, she chose to rejoin under another false name, which you exposed when you used her sign in. Because you are a public official and I had several messages from other members wondering about your posting under the name "Dino Cowel,'' I contacted you to clarify the issue.

As always, thanks for your engagement and your efforts on the community's behalf.

Chris Lavin,


Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on April 5, 2014 at 11:13am
Correction Chris - I told you my daughter had used a pseudonym. You told your readership. Whatever bizarre political gain you and your boss think you may have gotten was not worth the risk you put her at. It's just another example of fact twisting "reporting" in the alleged name of freedom of the press. If you want your blog to be treated like a news source for the community, you might try to start acting like a newsman and not a spokesman for your personal political favorites.
Comment by Lisa Moore on April 5, 2014 at 10:45am

Chris, I appreciate your comments and agree with most of what you said.  I guess finding out that some posters use false names took a number of us by surprise.  I for one feel if one has to hide behind a pseudonym instead of posting comments with their real identity then I really lose respect for their comments.  I really enjoy LMT and look forward to seeing the latest good and not so good of everyday La Mesa life.  I don't always agree with the posters or their comments, but I have the option to comment under my own name or just simply ignore it.  It's great to have that option.

By the way, did I miss the wrap-up of the Tues. City Council meeting?   

Comment by La Mesa Today on April 5, 2014 at 10:18am


As I mentioned before, we run this site as a public service. We endeavor to have no anonymity. On occasion, someone in public safety, education or other work that could expose them to access they would not like to have ask if they can use a screen name. We don't want to deny such public servants the service of news alerts or posting of events, but we do insist that they divulge their identity to us and adhere strictly to our rules of civil behavior or we will identify them. In the instances when someone has managed to get around our identity checking, we inform them that we have discovered the false identity and we eliminate them from the site. In the recent incident, Ms. Alessio herself  revealed the false identity in her own inadvertent post, which she later identified as her daughter's pseudonym. La Mesa Today did not reveal that fact nor did we publicize her daughter's earlier use of a false name.

It is not a perfect system, but it is far better than the open anonymity that led to such wild, uncivil discourse on other local news sites, including one that is dying a slow death. There is no intention on our part to act as judge, jury and executioner on any issue and, when you consider the range of materials and comments that are published here, overwhelmingly with identities attached, I think you'd agree it is hard to argue we try and guide the direction of this river. We do like to channel it in a civil pace whenever possible. I gauge that the mass of readers appreciate that.

As always, I appreciate your engagement and vigilance. It forces me to remind all of the intentions of this space and the hope that it can continue to help the community in some way. If we come to the conclusion that it is not helping or if the readership tells us it is not appreciated, of course we will discontinue it. These are changing times in media -- less scripted, more democratic in many ways and, always, reshaping itself,  and much more participatory. We will continue to try hard to serve the highest purpose of good information presented fairly and with civility and good humor.

All the best,

Chris Lavin,


Comment by David Smyle on April 5, 2014 at 12:50am

Interesting LMT discloses someone who wanted to remain anonymous by using a pen name but won't release the name of sources of information which are blatantly false or attacks against others.  The press has the right to not reveal their sources but the same doesn't apply to the regular folk when the press doesn't like it.  Judge, Jury and Executioner.  Nice job Chris.

Comment by Batman on April 3, 2014 at 9:00pm

Ok Mrs. Moore. I assumed you meant commenting in the comment section like "Dino". Honestly now, Art Madrid has far more finesse than to make wild comments like mine.

Comment by Lisa Moore on April 3, 2014 at 7:49pm

Batman, the Mayor is quoted or makes comments throughout a number of blogs including the one above.  It's interesting people have to use  a pseudonym instead of posting comments with their real identity.  I will say, it does make it interesting trying to figure them out.....sort of a mystery :-) 

Comment by La Mesa Today on April 3, 2014 at 7:08pm
Generally, we endeavor to have no anonymity on this site. From time to time, because of their work or a personal situation, we will let someone have a screen name, but we insist they divulge their full identity to us and promise not to take advantage of this fact by making personal attacks or unsubstantiated charges. On occasion, someone will slip through our checks, as Dino Cowel did but eventually we try and chase down the identity and eliminate the membership. The result is, we believe, virtually no anonymity on this site and more civility than other sites like this. It is not perfect, I acknowledge, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp or what is a heaven for?
Chris Lavin, Editor

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