Six Questions For City Council: Ernest Ewin

LA MESA -- Ernest Ewin is a former banker who now works as a consultant. He has been involved in civic life in La Mesa for decades and also serves on the Metropolitan Transit System Board. As an incumbent, he is seeking re-election to the La Mesa City Council. In the third installment of the "Six Questions'' series, Ewin answers these questions:

Question 1: Could you please list what you consider to be the three most pressing challenges facing La Mesa today?

A) La Mesa’s Fiscal/Economic Vitality- Jobs and our Quality of Life. Current economic times require that we continue to manage limited public financial resources while keeping our citizens informed. Encouraging business investment… making sure the public facilities, streets, sidewalks, parks, reflect a vibrant community where people want to live, work, shop and play, is critical. Replenishing our Reserves -a must. Private business Jobs to follow.

B) Public Safety Services and Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness. Our Public Safety relies upon professionals and citizens working together to make La Mesa safer. Start a neighborhood Watch Program. Check out the highly informative Neighbors helping Neighbors!
Go to the city website and get the details on public safety efforts.

C) Inter-public Agency Cooperation Results in Improving La Mesa and OUR Quality of Life. From fire management consolidation, City/ MTS/SANDAG new elevator at the Grossmont Trolley Station, Live Well Initiatives, Joint facilities usage with School Districts , Harry Griffen Park, working together expands the impact of the effort. Our professional staff get grants to stretch our revenues… raising funds for the Community Flag Day Parade; needed improvements to youth ball fields and needed Kitchen remodel for our Adult Enrichment Center. Go to for agendas, minutes, articles.

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?

La Mesa has intentionally embraced Smart Growth. Longtime City Council observers and partners in our plan growth efforts recognize that housing elements are a key component of our General Plan. We look to the transportation corridors and encourage development in areas such as El Cajon Blvd. and University Avenue.

Where will our residents live who rely or will use public transportation? Working with the Council and staff, The Mixed-use Strategic Implementation Plan was developed for El Cajon Blvd. Another project I championed through MTS and the City, the Mayor through SANDAG is the $115 million dollar apartment project at the Grossmont Trolley Station. Aside from the property tax benefit, this project also provided $500,000 for our local parks. The tenants will shop in La Mesa. La Mesa is out and ahead of many jurisdictions in Smart Growth. That said, we have a track record that enables us to work with interested parties within the framework of our policy and regulations to insure quality projects that will still be attractive and within neighborhood integrity in another 50 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?

La Mesa has entered into agreements with other agencies to benefit from large purchases of vehicles, supplies and even asphalt. The analysis effort put forth with Fire Consolidation can be applied to other areas. There are reasons for keeping some services separate such as your General Plan and Land Use processes. But we have used temporary /consultant staff to address increases in demand where it was determine to be for a short period of time.

As to your specific citing of police services, as with fire, there has to be specific objectives to be achieved and no resulting decrease in service levels. I will not support consolidation just to say we have done it. There has to be evidence of benefit beyond the elimination of duplication at the top. You have to understand what you are doing.

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?

I absolutely support a two tier system with the new one addressing new employees.

The significant changes to the current CALPERS pension program happened in 2000. We cannot sustain that current system because it was based upon a false belief that you can provide/generate enough benefit though higher returns for a longer life expectancy without any additional contribution that a defined benefit requires. And for La Mesa, it means increasing the actuarial requirements from the general fund.

We addressed that in each of the last three budget hearings to different degrees.

We have current legally binding contracts with our bargaining units that do not permit imposing un-negotiated change. That is a very important point to note. That said, there may be other solutions to apply to reduce costs.

In the meantime, with a new tier, any employee coming to work at the city will know exactly what their benefits and terms are. If they do not like the difference between theirs and the more senior employee, they do not have to accept the offer.

There should be no resistance to establishing a new tier that actually supports stronger fiscal positions to a general fund that may be called upon periodically to smooth out market fluctuations and support those already in a current tier. EVERY dollar makes a difference.

There will be a public actuarial update on the pension fund shortly.

Question 5:How do you assess the condition of public parks and facilities in La Mesa?

Let me first thank the La Mesa Parks Foundation for their efforts and upgrading our parks, playground equipment. You should also know of the La Mesa Professional staff’s efforts in securing grants and other aspects for park support. Our parks, like our trees, are a key component of our quality of life. This protected open space contributes to our Jewel of the Hills ambiance. We have a Community Services Commission that has its members assigned to check on the parks on a regular basis.

We are doing everything we possibly could do to keep our parks attractive, crime free, enjoyable and environmentally responsible (low water use, timely trash removal). I visit each park, read the minutes of the CSC and note any items for follow-up. I commend those who participate in our adopt- a -park program.

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?

As one who has lived in La Mesa off and on for 33 years and continuously since 1981( but within one streets distance for many more), La Mesa is truly remarkable!

La Mesa has become a beacon of what you would want your city to be. While at the same time as home to good schools, a wonderful regional hospital and shopping center, we have businesses here equally as long with continued contribution to our reputation and financial stability. Like many of you, Nancy and I buy our cars here, own a home here, raised children here and volunteer here.

In 2112, I suspect some things will change. But I expect its citizens will be equally engaging and community minded. I hope that the tremendous historical record keeping we have benefited from will persist so as to continue the gratitude we feel for those who came before us and made La Mesa, the Jewel of the Hills!

Next installment Thursday: Challenger Kevin Rynearson

Part 1 of series Mark Arapostathis:

Part 2 of series Patrick Dean:

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Tags: Government


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