By Miriam Raftery
April 22, 2014 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid held a press conference yesterday, flanked by his supporters, to formally launch his reelection campaign. “I pledge that the city will continue to be properly managed and that I will vigorously protect its character and heritage,” said Mayor Madrid. He cited successes under his leadership during his 24-year tenure as Mayor and his 10 years previously on the City Council, as well as a decade serving on civic boards and commissions.
“In 1990 when I was elected Mayor, my commitment then was to help make La Mesa the best community in the region in which to live and raise a family,” said the Mayor, adding that his leadership, collaborative governance and management skills have helped fulfill that dream. “I’ve led the transformation of la Mesa into a vibrant, proactive and inclusive community that continues to attract new families and businesses to our city.”
Councilman Mark Arapostathis recently announced his intention to challenge Madrid in the mayoral race. Noting that “elections are about choices,” Madrid said voters will have two distinct candidates and that those differences will be the focus of his campaign “with emphasis on the integrity, leadership, values and courage of each candidate.”
The Mayor said that public safety remains his top priority, including police and fire, as well as core services protecting health, safety and welfare of residents.
He then touted accomplishments on his watch.
“Just look around this city,” he said, citing new state-of-the-art public buildings, new infrastructure including the $2 million renovation of Allison and smart growth development around transit corridors.
“That’s just the beginning,” he added, noting that soon La Mesa will embark on “another grand project that I initiated…the $5 million Downtown Village Streetscape Revitalizing project. After its completion, it will become the destination point for residents and visiors, generating new businesses and commerce for our downtown merchants.
Madrid said he also championed redevelopment of Fletcher Parkway, purchase of surplus Caltrans property to build affordable housing units, and a Cox Cable grant to upgrade Council Chambers enabling council meetings to be live telecasted.
“I also launched La Mesa’s Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol, started the city’s successful farmers’ market and initiative and assisted in directing the City’s highly successful year-long Centennial celebration,” the Mayor said.
Recently Council members voted to curtail the Mayor’s travel allowance to attend events such as a national mayors’ conference. Madrid fired back that those trips led to successful grants of more than $12 million. “These grants have helped make La Mesa a safer, more walkable community for school-aged children, residents and guests,” he said.
Increased tension between the Mayor and the Council in recent weeks culminated in members endorsing Arapostathis for the mayoral run. Critics have questioned what Arapostathis stands for.
The Mayor made clear that the public knows where he stands, based on his long list of accomplishments. He also touted his creation of six new city boards and commissions to provide a “voice to the voiceless” on key issues for residents who had previously been ignored or rejected.
Key issues facing La Mesa include whether a proposed high-rise building will be approved and the future of the former police station site in the civic center plaza. While some have called for sale of the latter, Madrid pledges to protect the community’s character, adding, that he aims to assure that the Civic Center campus and other valuable city-owned assets will be developed appropriately through public-private partnerships.
Supporters at the rally included physicians from Grossmont Hospital, Fair Trade La Mesa representatives and a variety of groups with which the Mayor has worked to benefit the city. Resident Don Wood proudly stated that he has put up his “Reelect Mayor Art Madrid” lawn sign saved from the last campaign.
Madrid has never been one to treat the mayoral position as a part-time job, pouring countless hours into the job –albeit though critics have sometimes accused him of micromanaging and proving irascible to those who oppose his policies. After 44 years of serving his community, Mayor Madrid pledges he intends to continue to devote “the same time, energy, hard work and loyalty to the city and every resident during the next four years that I’ve devoted to my community during the past 44 years.”
This will, however, be his last campaign, the long-serving Mayor said in response to a media question.
“The current fiscal challenges La Mesa faces today requires a Mayor who is conversant with all aspects of the problem areas,” he concluded. “I am that person.”