Love where you live!
LA MESA -- On his third attempt at winning a City Council seat, Patrick Dean (speaking in photo above) has clearly decided it is time to stand out.
On a warm October evening, with election night just a few brief weeks away, Dean injected an element of energy and tension into a candidate's forum at La Mesa's First United Methodist Church that might have otherwise felt like kabuki theater, that is, lacking in spontaneity of any kind.
Dean started the evening with an almost barked "I am different!'' from the other City Council candidates. He went on to suggest the current council -- there were two members on the dais and two in the audience -- represented only a small slice of La Mesa. Later he repeated his belief that the Village merchants get all the focus of the current council and that he would represent "everybody -- all of you.''
Later, when answering a question about homelessness, Dean pointed out that this issue comes up every two years and "then the council just goes on and nothing gets done.''
(Later as the crowd turned out, City Councilwoman Ruth Sterling said she had taken notes on Dean's comments. "He insulted us twice!'' she said. But who's counting?)
Dean also offered the only nuanced answer to a question about the attempt by a local landowner to bring high rises to downtown La Mesa. While the other candidates directly or indirectly played it safe by pointing to the Planning Commission's opposition to the Park Station project as currently proposed, Dean noted that the city might be able to get the open green spaces it needs in the city's vacant core by smartly managing the project in a way that might give more height than the "no more than four" stories crowd would like. The city's need for a growing tax base and the market's desire to trade height for open green space could result in a compromise as the city continues to confront development pressures. "Can we remain a Village?'' Dean asked at one point. "I don't think so.'' But he went on to say an engaged city could shape the development that is inevitable to serve the city's interests and goals.
But other than Dean's efforts to rattle the cages a bit, the remainder of the evening found the other candidates hardening the staked out, middle-of-the-road positions that have become familiar at these gatherings this election cycle. The mayoral candidates -- City Councilman Mark Arapostathis and Mayor Art Madrid -- sat at opposite ends of the dais and hit the usual notes. Madrid emphasized his experience -- all 44 years of it, including years in leadership of state and national government organizations. Arapostathis outlined his life-long commitment to the city and its people, emphasizing his collaborative nature and his understated nature at meetings.
"I know the streets, I know the people,'' Arapostathis said. "I listen. I don't talk first. I listen first.''
Council candidates Guy McWhirter and Pete Gregorovic continued to introduce themselves to the voters with reminders of their long lists of public service performed over decades. Candidate Mary England continued to stake out the "business candidate,'' reminding all of her work with the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce.
However, even though the good church people tried to bring up substantive subjects with pretty pointed questions, this group of candidates proved pretty adept at avoiding any of the perceived third rails of La Mesa politics. When asked point blank if they would propose building a homeless shelter to support the local churches' efforts to help the homeless, most sidestepped the issue, saying they preferred to partner with church groups and others who address this issue. In other words: No.
Dean and Gregorovic clearly stated they would support a shelter, but both acknowledged public opposition would probably keep it from happening and looked to the county to show more effort on this front.
Council candidate Bill Baber currently serves as a member of the La Mesa-Spring Valley Board of Education. That board was meeting Tuesday evening so Baber addressed the early arriving crowd, asked them for their support and promised to deliver written answers to the church members' questions.