By Chris Lavin
LA MESA – Tuesday’s City Council meeting felt a little like the last class before a tough final exam.
The professor and students are there, but their minds were clearly more on the big test to come.
In the last meeting before next Tuesday’s election, the City Council incumbents took the opportunity on the cable broadcast to make a few points about their records and clear up a rumor or two that have surfaced at election forums. And some of the challengers took a moment to get a little air time, even if the issues didn’t really merit great debate.
Mayor Art Madrid said he had been hearing from a number of people in the community that there was confusion as to why the downtown zip codes had changed twice in recent years, irritating local businesses that had to redo business cards and stationary.
It was not, Madrid said, a city decision and to prove the point he had City Manager David Witt recount the chain of events, all of which were driven by U.S. Postal management with no input from city officials.
With that cleared up, the council moved quickly through a completely non-controversial agenda, the highlight of which was a quick reminder that residents should insist that any vendors offering to paint your address on the curb have a city license.
That inspired council challenger Ian Shiff (right) to rise during the public comment period in a move that might have been inspired by the opportunity to get before the cameras beaming this meeting throughout La Mesa.
Shiff asked the council members if they knew what percentage of La Mesa residents have curbs and where was the money coming from to put curbs in, presumably to be painted?
No one seemed to know but the staff quickly explained that the curb painting was a private endeavor and didn’t involve city funds or city involvement, beyond licensing painting vendors.
That great debate was followed by a series of speakers arguing whether voters should legalize possession of marijuana.
Proposition 19 on next week’s ballot has raised tempers on both sides, but it is not an issue the City Council has any jurisdiction over. In fact, the council members had resisted officially weighing in on the issue though local opponents had urged them to make a symbolic vote against it.
That didn’t stop U.S. Congress candidate Ray Lutz from weighing in on an issue Congress would not necessarily handle. He argued for taxing marijuana and controlling it and then he thanked the council, smiled and said: “I wish you all good Lutz.”
Two local doctors – Royal S. Magnus, PHD, and Shirley F. Forbing – pleaded with local residents to vote against Proposition 19. Years in the drug counseling business, they said, had convinced them that marijuana is harmful to the brain and lungs and will devastate youth if it is legalized.
Ben Cisneros, the regional coordinator for “Yes on 19’’ argued that legalizing marijuana will disarm the drug cartels that are fueled by marijuana profits.
The council meeting ended quickly and the candidates all melted into the night, talking about plans for election night gatherings.
There was an old fire truck just outside City Hall sporting signs for incumbents Ernie Ewin and Mark Arapostathis. The truck belonged to Jim Wieboldt, an ally of the incumbents.
But in proof that politics is the rule of the day, there was grumbling in some quarters about whether the signs improperly implied the incumbents had the firefighters support.
“It’s my truck,’’ Wieboldt said, “I’ll do what I want.’’
Madrid took one look at the truck and asked: “Where’s my sign?’’
He was assured it was being prominently added tomorrow.