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Photo, left: Baber and McWhirter's victory party at Tiramisu Trattoria in La Mesa


Republicans, developer-backed candidates in Council race

Updated November 5, 2014 (La Mesa) - Mayor Art Madrid, who has led La Mesa for the past 24 years, has been unseated by Councilman and teacher Mark Arapostathis.  With 100% of precincts counted, Arapostathis has received 58.8% of the vote to Madrid's 41.11%.

Billl Baber, a member of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District with strong name recognition,  cinched victory wtih 27.71% of the vote. He is also an attorney, political consultant and registered lobbyist representing building contractors.  Guy McWhirter, an insurance agent and political newcomer, also won with 23.31% of the vote.

Baber texted the following message: "Thank you voters for choosing me as your new La Mesa City Councilmember. Congratulations to our new Mayor Dr. A. I am pleased we passed our term limit initiative. Term limits puts a ticking clock on every Councilmember. Let's not waste any time. Let's get to work to improve La Mesa."

Photo, left: Mary England and supporters awaited election results at Bo Beau's in La Mesa.


Mary England drew 19.97% of the vote, drawing support largely from downtown merchants she has served as Chamber of Commerce president.  Patrick Dean, the lone Democrat in the race, took 16.62% despite a majority  Democratic registration in the city of La Mesa, indicated that not even a substantial get out the vote effort by the Democratic party could beat the big money poured into the race by development interests and the Republican political machine.  Pete Gregorovic, running as an outsider, finished with 12.39% of the vote.

Term limits won by a large margin, with over 66% of the vote.  Prop J, the initative to regulate marijuana clinics in the city, lost 54.68% to 45.32%.  An additional initiative to make the city clerk an appointed, not elected position passed by a narrow margin.

Big winners in La Mesa include development interests and the Republican Party.  Arapostathis,along with Council candidates Bill Baber and Guy McWhirter, all had endorsements and substantial campaign contributions from the pro-development Lincoln Club as well as the County Republican Party.

The election marks the end of an era in La Mesa, where Mayor Madrid, 80, has led the city as mayor for a quarter of the city's 100 years, also serving for many years on the city council before winning his first mayoral race. He championed efforts to pass a ballot measure raising sales tax that enabled construction of a new library, police and fire stations and was the first mayor in the San Diego region to sign the U.S. Mayors' Climate pledge to take action against climate change.  He also points with pride to La Mesa's  high ranking as a walkable city and helpin create a safe routes to schools for children among his accomplishments.

In recent years relations between the Council and Mayor have grown contentious and Arapostathis has said he will strive to restore civility and a closer working relationship among council members.  Arapostathis has twice been named teacher of the year and also heads up junior theater programs, earning widespread respect in the community.

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"Political machine" a

"Political machine" a pejorative is nonsense? Nonsense. Since the time of its origin amidst Gilded Age Tammany Hall style political thuggery, the term has been seen as roughly synonymous with ruthless, self-interested partisanship--"boss" controlled political movements and entities. As frequent and often severe critics of John Boehner and the establishment Republicanism he represents, it's no surprise that Fox would refer to him (and his party) in this manner. All this is nothing more than common sense, really. What are machines? "Efficient"? Typically, yes. But they're also mindless, unfeeling and inhuman; not the first words politicians or their parties--any of us, really-- like to use when describing themselves. To suggest that terms and phrases like "development interests and the Republican political machine" aren't being used in an intentionally (and provocatively) pejorative sense, especially given ECM's obviously left-wing orientation, is disingenuous. And why shouldn't elected officials critique the writings of political critics? Democrats do it to everyone from the National Review to Fox, and Republicans to the mainstream media all the time.

Common sense on language

The only constant in language is change. Both usage and meaning evolve continuously. We are now a long way from Tammany Hall. Helix dismantles Grossmont and sports writers gush that the offense performed like a well-oiled machine. Does the Highlander coach write an outraged letter? ABC Corp gives it's annual business-unit performance award to the accounting department, lauding their machine-like precision under regulatory pressure. Does the dinner audience gasp? Of course not. And that's where the common sense is - anyone can see that. "...given ECM's obviously left-wing orientation,"? Obvious to whom? By what measure? If the only evidence behind this baseless assertion is a cramped definition of "machine," who's the disingenuous party? Of course elected officials have every right to express their opinions. No one questions that. The question was Why? Why is an elected official making a sustained effort to label a publication as something that it is so clearly not? Why the veiled hostility? People are free to read ECM, or not. Readers make decisions on the merits of ECM content every day. Why this sudden push to label it? ECM accepts readers' editorials from every point on the compass. The comments section is open to all and the rules are very lenient. What's the point here, really?

Nothing controversial or

Nothing controversial or pejorative (of course) about the word "machine" or most of its non-political metaphorical meanings; but the phrase "political machine?"--now that's a specific and very different matter. "To whom"? Virtually everyone who reads it who isn't on the left. "What measure?" The paper's content--the same thing that's allowed readers to see the political persuasion of say, The Nation, or Mother Jones. How do you know that the National Review is conservative? You read it. To read it is to know it. It's no different here. Why? Because the official in question obviously disagrees with your assessment of the paper. So do I. And "hostility"? Please... I'm glad we're free to read ECM. I enjoy it. There's so much of real value here. And we appreciate (what had always seemed like) the paper's open comment policy. But disagreements and arguments are bound to occur. So why be thin-skinned about them now and issue not-so-tacit threats to "ban" those of us who've had the chutzpah to speak/write our minds? Journalism's a tough arena. Who wants one that doesn't allow wrestling with and over tough issues? Journalistic "Mr. Roger's Neighborhoods" benefit no one. Ultimately, isn't that the point?

Looks like these locals took

Looks like these locals took a lesson from state Democrats who've always taken advantage of the biggest donor of all: the public teacher's unions. Only here it's hard to see what harm could come. What wilderness would they ruin? That's not to say that every urban developement is okay. But (ironically?) the only open support for the most "controversial" (i.e., unwanted) upcoming project, Park Station, was given by--NOT those who the above article suggests are in developer's hip-pockets!--but none other than progressive, "smart-growth" candidate Patrick Dean.

Park Station

Truthfully for those looking to be guaranteed "no more than four" stories there was not a single candidate in the race who would commit to that among those running for Council, though Dr. A came close in the mayoral race, stating he supports the existing height limits. All candidates voiced support to varying degrees for variances to the height limits in some circumstances, ie if a developer gives something of value to the city like a park or civic center, and some might support a high rise even without such trade-offs. That's among the four candidates we interviewed; we did not have the opportunity to speak with McWhirter though like several others he took a lot of developer money.

Yes, seriously non-partisan reporting

Borntoolate - What do you suppose was the principal difference between the substantial get-out-the-vote efforts by the two parties? That's right - tens of thousands in PAC monies. This was unprecedented for La Mesa and it changed the face and the content of the races. Just as reported above. Please try to read more carefully before impugning the integrity of a professional and impartial news outlet like ECM.

No, seriously

"impugning the integrity of a professional and impartial news outlet like ECM" I like ECM, I really do, but this is a funny statement. You should consider stand up comedy.

Sarcasm is

Not only the lowest form of wit, but the surest sign of a lost argument. We're still in the first days of the campaign, so let's at least try to keep the conversation on a higher plane, shall we? Perhaps we might start by knocking off the baseless attempts to discredit a serious and trusted publication - and the editors/writers who produce it.

Sure am sorry Mr.

Gosh I am so sorry. I now realize that you were serious, and here I am insulting a fella I don't even know, and worst of all, I'm using the lowest form of wit and him deserving a much higher form an all. You are clearly the winner, Congratulations! I concede the point that ECM is a fair and balanced news organization (just like FOX). Oh, and you only used half of Oscar Wilde's quote, he said "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit......but the highest form of intelligence" - of course there are those who claim that he was just being sarcastic.

Seriously, this is nonpartisan reporting?

"not even a substantial get out the vote effort by the Democratic party could beat the big money poured into the race by development interests and the Republican political machine." Maybe the substantial get out the vote effort by the Republican party was able to beat back the... never mind, you wouldn't get it any way. Same old ECM song; Democrats good, Republicans bad.


A reference to Democrats with a majority registration failing to get out the vote is not intended as a positive statement but merely a fact; if anything one could construe it as a negative, ie in La Mesa the Republicans were more organized and a did a better job motivating their people to get to the polls. Or perhaps the money they spent is what worked. And many would conclude that buying elections is bad, no matter which party or special interest is doing it.

This is fun and helpful

"the Republicans were more organized and a did a better job motivating their people to get to the polls" That statement has a vastly different sound to it than the original wording in the article. It sounds like a fair way to state the facts without the anger and innuendo. Thank you for the rewrite.

Republican political machine?

A non-partisan report would not use the term "Republican Political Machine". Kristine C. Alessio, Esq. Member La Mesa City Council

How many journalism courses have you taken Kristine?

The word "machine" has been used to discuss both parties where their political operations are effective. We've heard about the Chicago political machine through the years in many media outlets including in reporting on Obama's rise to power.

Journalism Classes?

Since you asked, journalism was my original college major. Switched to Philosophy part way through college. I've taken quite a few journalism classes. Even won journalism awards from the Union Tribune in the County wide student writeoffs back when I was in high school. The use of the term "political machine" is meant as a slur whether it's used to reference Chicago or La Mesa! I'd have a lot more respect for you if you just came out and admitted your bias. There is nothing wrong with having one political leaning or another, it's when it's disguised as balanced and/or non-partisan that it becomes irksome. You should just title your paper as East County's Leading News Source. That's what your paper is, might as well wear it proudly. Kristine C. Alessio, Esq. Member La Mesa City Council

That's not accurate.

Kristine - I apologize then for assuming you didn't have any journalism background when you did have some courses. We are not positioned as a progressive paper, nor a conservative one. Never have been, never will be. We strive to show both sides to the best of our abilities. Some people who are used to right-wing only or left-wing only coverage at other news sites can't seem to tell the difference. You might be interested to know that the station our radio show is on (which was started years after our news site) is progressive and some people there have complained our show had too many conservative views. I guess if both sidses are complaining we're doing our job right in trying to stay neutral and in the middle. We always told the folks at the radio station that our show would be nonpartisan and air a variety of views, though while covering some social justice issues other stations might not (such as talking about the plight of the Iraqi refugees being massacred or wounded vets not getting services when they come home), but on candidates and elections, we are strictly in the middle and strive to be inclusive and fair on all sides. We've done interviews that were respectful and provided platforms for people like Susan Davis' opponent, a Republican and Navy Seal, as well as local candidates for many races in all parties. The far-right attacks even National Public Radio and KPBS as liberal simply because they won't slant the news toward conservatives. We won't be bullied here into presenting only one side on politics. If there is a specific example where we can improve our coverage I welcome that but demanding we "admit" a bias that isn't there is not productive. We have reported on issues of big money in politics before in cases where it did NOT favor Democrats, by the way, such as in cases where someone took a pile of money from lobbyists for SDG&E, the insurance industry, or the tobacco industry and voted against the position of his (or her) party or the will of his or her constituents. It doesn't matter which party that happens in, the media should report it. Taking money does not mean someone will vote for the donor over the public interest; there are plenty of cases where people did the opposite. But huge money in a race that's never seen such sums before, particularly if it is coming from a political party, a corporation, or a PAC representing special interests such as developers or unions is a legitimate topic for the news to cover.

East County's Leading Progressive News Source

A more apt description. Erroneously omitted the "progressive". Be proud of your beliefs, as I said before, there's nothing wrong about having political leanings, many national papers and magazines do and they own them. Kristine C. Alessio, Esq. Member, La Mesa City Council

See note above.

That's simply not accurate. Why don't you stop wasting everyone's time. We want people to comment on content of articles, not clutter up comments with this nonsense and it's growing very old.

That is disappointing

Your articles are being read by people who love their country and want to be informed and involved. You have inspired us to comment and discuss and that is a good thing - a very good thing. Don't get defensive because some of your readers have a different opinion than yours. You are doing a good thing here and we appreciated it, but sometimes when you touch a nerve you will get a reflexive reaction. Keep up the good work but expect that when you zing your more skeptical readers, you may see a swift backlash. Why are you responding to all of this anyway, go have dinner and a nice glass of wine and hug somebody. Now no more talk of clutter and wasting time and suppression of ideas. It does not become you.

Fox News used the term "machine" for both left and right.

Here they referred to Obama's political machine:

...and here Fox refers to Republican Speaker John Boehner as a fundraising "machine" for the Republican party:

I could show you similar examples from non-conservative media referring to political "machines" on both sides of the aisle.  Numerous major media outlets in the U.S. and abroad now use the term, which dates back to the Gilded Age in the 1920s.

And it's always as a slur

You are proving the point that it's used as a pejorative. Always has been and always will be. Kristine C. Alessio, Esq. Member La Mesa City Council

"Political Machine" a Slur? Nonsense!

The terms "Republican/Democratic political machines" are commonly used today as a shorthand reference to the whole of a party's apparatus in a given jurisdiction or region (from officeholders to envelope stuffers). Over the years use and understanding of the term has evolved - much in the same fashion that the use/meaning of many four-letter words has changed. The suggestion that such a term is still pejorative, especially when it is used alone, unqualified by adjectives, is rubbish. To further assert that the appearance of this term is somehow evidence of a "disguised" bias through-out the publication is just silly. We might better ask why elected officials are attempting to define acceptable/non-acceptable vocabulary for a media outlet?


Use whatever vocabulary you want, that's fine, just don't pretend to be something you aren't. Being an elected official doesn't mean I cannot give opinions. I'm a citizen first and foremost, not some special person whose part of some elite political class. I wouldn't even add the Councilmember moniker as I don't like to differentiate myself from anyone else in such a manner, but the editor here makes me do it. Kristine C. Alessio, Esq. Member La Mesa City Council

I am an editor and journalist just as you are a Councilmember.

I would never demean you by calling you a "so-called Council member" if I disagreed with a vote or action. I do not appreciate you denigrating me repeatedly here by referring to me or others on our staff as "so-called journalists" and other perjoratives. We seek to foster civil dialogue.We welcome constructive criticism and respond to it when we make mistakes. But continuous unwarranted attacks are hurtful to us potentially in efforts to obtain grant funds, and time consuming for our overworked nonprofit editorial staff to deal with. We have tolerated a lot of criticism, some legitimate--such as to clarify points we may not have elaborated on, to suggest new story angles, to provide balance, correct typos, give us new sources, expand on an issue with new information, or provide a point of view we may have inadvertently missed. But repeatedly bashing and insulting our staff, suggesting that our news outlet that's won 80 awards from unbiased professional media judges, or that our editor who has won hundreds of individual journalism awards, are somehow not real journalists, or are biased because of nitpicking over a word choice such as "machine" to describe an effective political election operation is simply a waste of everyone's time and not accurate. If we continue being barraged and having to take time away from our important job of reporting the news, we may simply ban accounts of those who are repeatedly abusive. Not to censor, but to insist upon the same respect for our staff that we ask our readers to show to anyone else. Insults, name-calling, unsubstantiated negative claims violate our site rules, and frankly I'm tired of the barrage as are most readers here - I've heard from quite a few privately asking why we've allowed this unwarranted bashing to continue for so long.


No one is bashing you, or being abusive,merely stating opinion of your reporting on this issue. If you want to ban readers for stating an opinion, go right ahead. As a journalist you should understand that readers will be critical of your subject and style sometimes. It goes with the territory when you are a reporter. You need to simply ignore them if you don't like what they are saying. It's part of the process and an exchange of ideas and opinions. Kristine C. Alessio, Esq. Member, La Mesa City Council .

Unless I'm not remembering

Unless I'm not remembering right, she's taken a few. Not that it matters. Most of the 20th century's greatest journalists--Chesterton, Muggeridge, et al--never took journalism classes. But about the term "machine" there's no doubt: it's a pejorative.

Development Interests?

In a City like La Mesa which is "built out" with a recent General Plan amendment, it's hard to see what "development interests" are being benefitted. The people benefitting from the election results are the people of La Mesa, who will have hard working, honest, decent men representing them. Big congrats to all! Kristine C. Alessio Member La Mesa City Council