LA MESA -- Patrick Dean has been a chef, a waiter and is a father and La Mesa resident who has regularly attended City Council meetings. Among his interests in city affairs has been on on-going desire to see increased care for the environment and sustainable living in La Mesa. A candidate for city council, his answers below are the second installment in our "Six Questions'' series.
Question 1: Could you please list what you consider to be the three most pressing challenges facing La Mesa today?
First, our budget. The news is full of stories of layoffs of municipal employees and even towns unpaving roads because they cannot afford to maintain them. We do not want to go down that road (no pun intended). The city's budget comes from tax dollars earned by the hard work of La Mesans; City Council must always remember that and be sure to use its budget wisely.
Secondly, keeping the public safe by keeping burglaries and crime down and fire protection services properly funded is high on everyone’s list. Put pressure on gangs to keep them out of our city. Simultaneously offering activities to kids to keep them out of trouble will greatly assist this, while improving their health at the same time.
Lastly, water is an issue, as nobody likes rate hikes. I would like to see us maximize the everyday opportunities to save water without decreasing our quality of life. For example, the city might find it can save money as well as water by replacing grass with drought tolerant native plants on city property. The city should help families and businesses implement strategies in ways that hopefully saves them money while simultaneously conserving water.
: 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?
In answering this question, we must also answer "How might we make La Mesa the best possible place to live? In this lies a delicate balance between undertaking grand projects that incorporate the bold innovations and protecting the quaint small town character that is the foundation of our lifestyle and our homeowners’ property values. By carefully considering any project brought before the council on its own merits, we can achieve both goals. Wise, sensible multi-use developments, especially along our transit corridors, that don’t flood the market will be the key to insuring that our bigger developments don’t negatively affect the property values and traffic in our lovely single family neighborhoods. That being said, I am not in favor of exemptions that allow for current height requirements to be routinely skirted to foster the growth we need. Our dynamic location allows La Mesa the potential to be the premier destination in the East County. We will continue to mature as a destination if we are careful and forward thinking, insuring a continually increasing quality of life for all of our residents.
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?
Council member Dave Allen spearheaded an impressive effort in our recent consolidation, and should be praised for the excellent work he did on this project. I think that using the economies of scale in public services should be considered. We need to be open to exploring all of the possibilities of providing our citizens with the cost savings they deserve. Of course there is much to be considered before going to such an agreement. How much in cost savings are La Mesans willing to gain at the risk of possibly losing control over decisions that so deeply affect their daily lives. We are lucky to have such an excellent police force with officers who know this city inside and out. The question is what will we have to give up in order to recognize these savings? Can we ensure that we do not end up supplementing another municipality’s’ services at the cost of our own? If citizens aren't getting more than they are giving up by consolidating services, then we shouldn't do it.
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?
With so much pressure on the city’s budget, thanks in a large part to forces outside of our control, it is important to find ways to maximize the value of our citizens hard earned contributions. Unfortunately, there is strong evidence that instituting a two-tiered pension system, in which employees hired before a certain date get larger pensions than newer hires, just does not produce the desired results. There are just not that many new hires in this economy to make the cost savings worth the disruption caused when two people doing exactly the same job are compensated differently. The inevitable result has been an equalization of benefits, undoing the initial goal of saving money by reducing or eliminating pensions. Most city employees do vital jobs for us and our families while not receiving exorbitant salaries. We need to understand that defined benefit pensions are an economically efficient system of compensation. The main problem in the budget is the loss of revenue due to Prop 13 and we should agitate Sacramento to find real solutions to this problem. Even if it was a way to save money, would we really want to balance the budget on the backs of public servants?
Question 5:How do you assess the condition of public parks and facilities in La Mesa?
I love the parks of La Mesa. My daughters and I spend a lot of time in them, especially Harry Griffen Park. I think that the City does a great job of allocating the available resources to maintaining them. They truly provide the sparkle to our jewel of the hills and I look forward to finding ways to upgrade them over time. I am especially fond of the great design of Briarcrest park, which I think shows how attractively sustainable design can be achieved. We need to embrace local water resistant landscaping where we can. I would like to find a way for hand washing facilities be upgraded to and be available at every park. I would also like to give a thank you special shout out from my daughters to the workers who fixed the tire swing at Harry Griffin. Life just wasn’t quite the same without it, thanks for fixing it so quickly.
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?
My family laid down its roots here because La Mesa offers such a vibrant mix of everything a family could want. Our schools are exceptional because our parents care so deeply and work so hard to assist the teachers and administrators who put their all into educating our kids. Our government works because of the input, oversight and contributions of our citizens. Our roads are better, parks nicer, and services more efficient because so many public employees work so hard to make that so. We are continually making strides in improving the present and future of our city. This is why I want to be so involved in this process. I would like the legacy of our city in one hundred years to be one in which we confronted the inevitable roadblocks and setbacks with levelheaded deliberations that resulted in workable solutions assuring that our children are given the city we are borrowing from them is better condition than we received it. It is time that La Mesa become a leader is planning a sustainable future. This will result in a prosperous, fair and just future for all of La Mesa’s residents.
Next installment Tuesday: Incumbent Ernest Ewin
Part 1 of series Mark Arapostathis: http://www.lamesatoday.com/profiles/blogs/six-questions-for-city-co...