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PBID Effort Marching Slowly On
LA MESA -- Efforts to establish a property based improvement district (PBID) continued Thursday evening with a deliberate pace usually reserved for plate tectonics.
Still, beneath the discussions of downtown crimes rates (they're said to be low) and estimates of the need for litter pick ups (two to three times a week), there remain some pretty challenging politics beneath the sleep-inducing discussions.
The merchants and property owners agreed to a basic cleaning and litter service that should improve cleanliness and cost an estimated $65,000 per year and will continue working in coming weeks to consider the costs of adding more security and marketing budgets. More interesting on a nuts and bolts night like this is what isn't said among those present.
In the audience was Miguel Rojas, owner of La Torta Café, who continues to watch the evolution of the PBID project to see if it, as he suspects, should replace the Downtown Village Merchants' Association as the main promoter and marketer of the downtown corridor. "I do still think that,'' Rojas said after sitting through the 90 minute meeting which also included presentations from Councilman Ernie Ewin (talking about low trolley crime rates) and hearing about city police crime statistics.
Rojas has been campaigning to get members of the Merchants' Association to quit the organization because of what he said is that group's lack of financial transparency and inattention to its by-laws and elections.
Local merchant Jim Weiboldt, a former board member of the Merchants' Association, said he believes Rojas will probably succeed.
"I think the Merchants' Association is doomed,'' Weiboldt said. "They haven't had an election in four years and Miguel asked four times for financial reports and he never got anything.''
Wieboldt said the association earns about $180,000 on Oktoberfest and that money needs to be accounted for in a public and transparent way.
Association leadership has said it keeps good accounts of its money, all of which is spent on downtown promotions like Christmas in the Village and the annual Antique Faire and the weekly car shows each summer.
Several members of the PBID committee also sit on the Merchants' Association board and none were agreeing that the PBID organization could take the Merchants' Association place as the main promoter of downtown commerce.
"That's just silly,'' said Arlene Moore, who runs Park Estates Antiques and heads the Merchants' Assocation. "They couldn't run events like we do. It takes years of experience. That's just inexperience talking.''
The other undercurrent finding currency these days are supported by unsuccessful mayoral candidate Laura Lothian, who also sat in on last night's PBID meeting.
Lothian has questioned why the PBID effort is needed to raise money when the city's parking meters produce several hundred thousand dollars each year that could fund even more services than the PBID is attempting to finance. Wieboldt, who serves on the Parking Commission, pointed out that the parking meter funds were intended to finance capital investments in the village. He said the commission, for example, is considering building public restrooms near the old train depot off La Mesa Boulevard and near the bus shelter on Allison Avenue.
The PBID, Wieboldt said, might be needed to maintain and clean those facilities and other similar on-going maintenance.
PBID committee members expect to keep working on details for several months before putting a proposal to a formal vote of all impacted property owners.
If approved, the organization would assess downtown property owners and raise funds to supplement city efforts to maintain downtown improvements and provide added security and services