Love where you live!
By Chris Lavin
La Mesa Today Editor
LA MESA -- As the summer moves on, slowly the November election season is starting to take shape with new candidates emerging and some older ones promising to appear.
Mary England, the executive director of the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce, and a former member of the Lemon Grove City Council, has confirmed she will seek one of the two open La Mesa City Council seats.
England has filed papers with the city that will allow her to begin raising money for a possible run. Final papers with voter signatures come later, but when asked during the recent Flag Day Parade if she is intending a run, England answered "yes.'' Her official papers now list her address in La Mesa. She lived in Lemon Grove while serving on the council there, while keeping a high profile in La Mesa with the Chamber.
In addition to England, Bill Baber, an attorney and member of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, continues his planning for a City Council run. He previously announced his candidacy.
Guy McWhirter of Lakeview Drive in La Mesa, a long-time La Mesa insurance agent, has also filed papers with the city, signaling a possible run for one of the two open council seats.
Also, Patrick Dean, who has run for council twice and had good, but not, ultimately, successful showings, told La Mesa Today he intends to run, but has not yet pulled the official papers.
If all potential council candidates stick through, there would be at least four candidates for the two seats and two candidates for mayor; Incumbent Art Madrid is quietly starting what he says will be his final campaign and one challenger, current City Councilman Mark Arapostathis, who will give up his council seat to take on Madrid.
The November ballot will also have some interesting initiatives including the term limit proposal, a medical marijuana effort and an initiative, supported by four members of the City Council, to convert the City Clerk position from an elected to an appointed position.
On the City Clerk initiative, there was a clear break between four members of the council and Madrid, who has been drawing lines between he and his fellow council members more clearly as the full election season approaches. Madrid has supported keeping the city clerk's job as an elected position to require city residency for the position to to "give voters more control over city government.'' Not the kind of issue that usually gets voters riled up for or against, but Madrid is not passing up on any opportunities to distinguish himself from council members who spent much of the last year challenging his performance.
After launching his mayor's race with all of the council but Madrid at his side, Arapostathis has kept his powder dry, continuing to emphasize his community and school work and avoiding any confrontations with Madrid. He has said on numerous occasions that he is an elementary school teacher who has told students about the need for good, public behavior so he doesn't intend to let his campaign turn negative in taking on Madrid.
However, Ernie Ewin, who has announced he won't seek re-election for his council seat, appears more than willing to help Arapostathis draw contrasts between Arapostathis' low-key collaborative approach to city work and what Ewin sees as Madrid's tendency to overplay the power of his one vote on the "five vote" council.
In a recent comment on a La Mesa Today story, Ewin accused Madrid of using "scare tactics'' in his dealings with Village merchants and has continued efforts in his final council meetings to control Madrid's ability to attend government meetings without support of a council majority.
Still, if November's mayoral race turns into a referendum solely on Madrid's style, it is not a given voters will turn out a candidate that has run successfully in this city for more than three decades.
There are substantive issues facing the Jewel of the Hills. Financial challenges continue to linger and development pressures are not diminishing. And, as he did at his own campaign kick off, Madrid's long service to the community has given him a deep bench of supporters he can turn to in difficult times.
In sum, quiet so far, but still looking like a very interesting November.