By Chris Lavin
LA MESA - City officials will turn on the mic Thursday night and sit back and listen.
The topic is officially La Mesa's future - a broad topic to say the least - but as with all public hearings, the pundit (that would be me) is predicting that the latest hot topics will still dominate. Speakers can be expected to rail against the mega-project in its early stages of consideration for downtown La Mesa.
Others may raise green issues, including whether residents should be allowed to keep chickens on smaller village properties.
But hiding behind these hot topics may be this real issue that will limit the near future for this Jewel of the Hills: Exactly how hard will the recession hit city operations.
With the State of California fighting for its fiscal life and its tax revenues still foundering, it is quite likely that moves the state makes to right its ship will take some fiscal ballast from towns and cities.
It is happening to the schools already with predictions of massive teacher layoffs as state support for districts declines.
In some ways, La Mesa delayed some of that impact when it raised the local sales tax last year, but with another round of state cuts looming, an honest discussion of La Mesa's near term future may involve a variety of bad choices.
Cut police or parks?
Dark furlough days at city facilities?
No one is proposing these yet but as the impact of the recent recession surges through the government ranks, none of these are far-fetched at all, city officials will acknowledge.
Record declines in local sales tax revenues and the many senior-owned properties in La Mesa also give city leaders little room to move if state fiscal moves squeeze cities as expected.
With that sort of financial cloud on the horizon, some might think a proposal to add a multimillion dollar facility to the tax base would be met with a marching band and red carpet. Don't expect that for the Park Station proposal.
The project was trotted out last month and proposed as much as 18 stories towering over a quaint downtown La Mesans like to call "The Village."
"La Mesans don't like change," one city official said. "And they don't necessarily trust the government process, but we have to hear the land owners proposal with an open mind or the owners could sue the city."
The "chicken in every yard" debate is a whole different kettle of fish - to mix metaphors.
The city has tabled the proposal first brought up by a young resident in search of sustainable living in the form of homegrown eggs. Yet the rural and agrarian roots of this issue may speak more to residents who like to see themselves as semi rural suburban and as resisting the urban feel that arrives just over the La Mesa line in the City of San Diego.
Bringing cows back may be a bit too much homage to our prairie past, but what's wrong with a few chickens?
Plus, this reporter won't out the culprit here, but there is one La Mesa resident with a healthy gaggle of ducks already living in their side yard and no one seems to be kvetching.
The council meeting is Thursday at 6:30 p.m., at the Dale Middle School auditorium 4370 Parks Ave., La Mesa, CA