Ideas From A Distance

LA MESA -- The great thing about summer vacations is the distance you can gain on your own life, your own job and town.

The tiresome elements of your routine can look petty and inconsequential with the benefit of the longer view travel gives.

Still, on a recent trip east, I found myself discovering little aspects of life which, with leadership, could add a little polish to the Jewel of the Hills.

I share them here not at all as a scold, but as reminder that the difference between a good town and a great town can be the little human things that differentiate one town from the next.

In a small town in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, I walked one morning through its old downtown. Trees lined the streets, flower-filled baskets hung from the light posts. Virtually all of the shops were filled. The local merchants credited the town's Business Improvement District and its executive, John Hicks, with finding the grants, polishing the little details and creating a "buzz" and sense of ownership of the downtown that went beyond the merchants who happened to be renting space at this time.

Looking a bit further, I learned that the BID's leader was not an expensive employee, but a retired executive who had held high-powered jobs and wanted to keep contributing in his latter years. The untapped talents of our senior workforce might be something to consider as La Mesa looks to build on its niche as a great, livable small town city.

Traveling a bit south, I was walking along the Hudson River in one of New York City's great public spaces -- Riverside Park -- when I suddenly had a déjà vu experience. I stood before a garden in full summer bloom. The array of flowers were framed by a wrought-iron fence and filled with a colorful variety of plants that, even in one of the world's largest cities, managed to attract the kind of butterfly and bird life you'd expect to find in Julian.

This, I quickly realized, was where they had filmed Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in one of my favorite movies -- You've Got Mail.

This was confirmed to me by a Manhattan architect who happened to be spending his morning weeding his portion of the garden. It turns out this stretch of park -- so beautiful it attracted the keen eye of great film-makers -- is a volunteer effort. They call themselves "The Garden People" and the architect estimated the dedicated "core" of the group numbered just 40 or so spending a few hours each week.

La Mesa is, in fact, famous for its volunteers. We honor the most dedicated with a star on our streets. But this garden along the Hudson made me wonder if a similar dedication to the new downtown Village here might reduce the worries of on-going maintenance of the new downtown streetscape.

I am reminded whenever I travel that it is the little signs of shared commitment that have made La Mesa the great place it is today.

Gina Garcia is a Realtor (CalBRE #01704251) and is publisher of To contact her, e-mail or call (619) 818-6982.

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Comment by Patricia I. O'Reilly on August 24, 2014 at 10:41am

Those are all excellent ideas, Gina, and definitely should be shared with the City's Community Development folks as well as the La Mesa Village Merchants Association and the Chamber of Commerce.  From my perspective as a former Village merchant there are things to be considered in everything that is done.  1.  The LMVMA purchased enough American flags to decorate from Acacia to 4th and the City installed sidewalk sleeves to put them in.  Volunteers from the LMVMA installed/removed them as desired.  Even so, within less than 6 months more than half of them had been stolen or vandalized.  2.  The LMVMA purchased a like supply of blue street banners.  The City installed brackets.  That all devolved into issues of who could/would do maintenance or was capable of climbing a ladder to straighten or exchange them and who was responsible for liability if someone should fall.  3.  The LMVMA installed and hung hanging baskets of beautiful flowers.  They were promptly stolen or vandalized.  Needless to say this all led to a group of people in the Village who were thoroughly discouraged.  It also pointed out the need for closer attention to the Village from the LMPD.  For decades the Village has periodically lobbied for a Beat Cop of its very own but such a concept has never been taken seriously.  If the Village itself is perceived to be a priority, why has law enforcement presence there, just blocks from headquarters, NOT been so perceived?  Response is rapid when asked for, but there has never been day-to-day presence.  All of these issues can be solved, of course, and then perhaps the general public would wish to become more involved.  We are soon to have a brand new beautified Village.  Perhaps it is a very good time for some of your ideas and an equally good time for the people of our City to reassess their own dedication to helping it fulfill its potential?

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