Love where you live!
LA MESA – A dozen or so La Mesans showed up at Wednesday night’s candidates forum sporting tiaras, a symbolic protest to a comment Mayor Art Madrid made in an earlier campaign exchange. But as political theater goes, the tiara affair didn’t stir much heat in the events that followed. For two hours, Madrid and challenger Laura Lothian as well as four of the five candidates for two council seats continued a now-repetitious dialogue that is making the choices La Mesa voters face increasingly clear. The incumbents – including Council member Ernie Ewin and Mark Arapostathis -- continually describe a well-run city, citing statistics that include a low crime rate, balanced budgets, new facilities and stable services in a time of great fiscal challenge. The challengers, with one exception, try to identify issues they hope might resonate while hoping, it seems, that anti-incumbent sentiment will supply a victory that traditional political analysis would suggest is well out of reach. For example, by now, Lothian has clearly established a platform that might be described as the Garbage/Graffiti/Crime Nexus. The La Mesa realtor describes a town with garbage collecting in the streets, graffiti filling up its walls and criminals jumping off trolleys and running amok on dangerous streets. She is adopting the Fuerte/Severin I-8 on ramp to prove her point. However, Madrid and his fellow incumbents can site recent crime studies that put La Mesa’s crime levels at 42-year-lows and even those who are tired of Madrid and support Lothian have a hard time seeing the garbage, graffiti and danger nexus as their motivation. And Madrid recounts as an aside that he personally schooled Lothian on the adoption program and took her on her first visit to the Cal-Trans offices in Old Town. Similarly, council challenger Ian Shiff tried last night to talk with great indignity about the sales tax increase the council had supported and suggested they were using too many consultants. But he got the El Cajon sales tax wrong and his consultant example was easily explained away as crucial to city efforts to help attract small business and new revenue to the city. And, the sales tax increase had the overwhelming support of voters who had been promised it would allow the city to maintain key fire and police services, which it has. Council challenger Patrick Dean has taken a different approach, outlining a platform that acknowledges the city’s current stability but pointing out the need to prepare for a future challenged by environmental threats. Still, suggesting as he did last night that perhaps the trolley could be free to encourage less driving, probably makes even those who find him smart and charming wonder if he’s ready to assume office.