LA MESA – Starting today, LaMesaToday.com will begin presenting the views of candidates for city council and mayor in a series we are calling “Six Questions.’’ Candidates who chose to participate will answer the same six questions for each office.
We begin today, alphabetically, with Council Member Mark Arapostathis who is seeking re-election. Arapostathis is a long-time resident. He works as a second-grade teacher and has operated Peter Pan Junior Theater and the C. Hook Theater for many years.
Question 1: Could you please list what you consider to be the three most pressing challenges facing La Mesa today?
A. City finances.
The State of California is taking more money away from local municipalities in order to balance the state budget. Without cutting back on services the City of La Mesa has had to adopt practices which capture lost revenue.
B. Public safety.
Continue to maintain and increase high levels of service to our citizens. Find new opportunities that reduce costs without reducing services.
C. Business growth.
Bring business to La Mesa that would help increase economic viability and cultivate the idea of the city as a destination.
Question 2: Given La Mesa's central location and its public transportation assets, how do you think the city should approach the development pressures that are arising even amid an economic downturn?
The city has actively sought new businesses and developments to move to La Mesa, while adhering to the city plan. Such projects need to fit within the culture of the city and not change the “small town” feel La Mesa has preserved over the years.
Question 3: La Mesa recently partnered with surrounding cities to form a consolidated fire service. Should the city seek similar consolidations in other services, for example police services?
So far, the City has saved $131,000 from January - June 2010 over what it would have spent without the consolidation. If costs continue at their current levels, the City will slightly exceed the estimated $255,000 per year savings that was initially projected. Given these facts, the city should explore every viable and reasonable plan for service consolidation.
Question 4: The cost of public pensions has been receiving a lot of attention recently. Do you support proposals to reduce pension benefits for new city employees? Why or why not?
La Mesa city employees now pay the highest percentage of their retirement cost relative to the other cities in San Diego County. I did support a two tiered retirement pay schedule for new employees. I believe we have to move in this direction to sustain the level of service provided to our residents.
Question 5: How do you assess the condition of public parks and facilities in La Mesa?
Our public parks are very good. Like anything else they can be improved. Our Community Services Department, which is responsible for our 14 parks in La Mesa, tends to do the most with the least amount of resource. They are continually finding innovative means in which to raise capital to maintain and enhance each park and athletic field in the city. In a city of nine square miles we are fortunate to have as many parks as we do.
Question 6: La Mesa is approaching its 100th birthday. How would you describe the city it has become and what would you hope the city's legacy will be at its 200th birthday?
I have lived in the City of La Mesa my entire life and have seen the city change over the years. Even over the past 4 years the city has seen some change, new library, fire station, police station, greater access to public transportation, and streets with increased walk-ability; however La Mesa has retained its charm and friendly neighborhood quality. I hope that in the future La Mesa continues to lead the county as a city with a high quality of city services, remain economically and environmentally sustainable and have excellent parks and safe streets. I, like many La Mesa residents, believe there is always room for improvement but for the most part we are very pleased and proud of our city.
Coming Sunday: Challenger Patrick Dean.