READER’S EDITORIAL: LA MESA’S CHOICE

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By Dr. Anthony Mc Ivor

October 21, 2018 (La Mesa) -- This year’s City Council election offers La Mesa an exciting and encouraging choice. Exciting, because for the first time in many years the challengers present a bright contrast to the incumbents. And encouraging, because La Mesa surely needs the integrity, fresh ideas, community insights, and sheer energy the challengers are bringing to the contest.

As insiders, incumbents enjoy many advantages. But this year is a little different. Burdened with a shallow record of accomplishment, and an utter failure to articulate – despite expending tens of thousands of dollars on consultants – a coherent vision for the city’s future, the incumbents hold out the prospect of four more drab years as a caretaker council.  

This position is plain to see in their own campaign materials.  Officials who claim credit for city revitalization programs or initiatives that were well underway long before they took office are not leaders. When those same officials point to events that have been part of La Mesa’s public life for decades as their own accomplishments, they are shamelessly riding the coattails of others.   

The Council incumbents’ campaign veers from the risible (rising home prices! By their efforts alone?) to the problematic (endorsements from city employees whose salaries and benefits the Council will set). Any mention of plans to complete the permanent library? Nope. Any inkling of a unifying concept for the new civic center? Yawn. Creative thinking on issues that impact greater La Mesa, outside the Village? Crickets.

Enough already. La Mesa deserves – and can now do – better.

It is no crime to pass the years sitting in a caretaker administration. But it is time for a change. Time to open the windows at City Hall. Let’s thank the incumbents for their service, wish them well, and turn the page to a brighter tomorrow.  

November 2018 presents a real choice. Given the record, it should be an easy one. Pull the lever for Sheriff’s Commander (ret) Dave Myers and obstetrician Dr. Akilah Weber and get La Mesa back to work.      

The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.

 

Comments

For the Record...

My goodness, you boys do like to shoot the messenger, don’t you. For the record Mr. McWhirter, I have not been associated with the Foothills Democrats for several years. Being out in the community and all, how did you miss that? In contrast, my voluntary efforts are well-known to you, though here you pretend otherwise. That is precisely the kind of shilly-shallying dishonesty that has cost you the trust you assume you deserve. Yes, I do contribute to the dialogue during elections. That is when we elect people. Do you not believe constituents should engage publicly during election season? Or, did you think that you could once again fill our mailboxes with half-truths and no one would say a word? And is it not interesting, Mr. McWhirter, that for all the hyperventilating here, you managed to not address a single point in my original piece. And that inability, not partisan myopia, is the crux of this election. Want to discuss that? Always willing to share a cuppa anytime, anywhere.

McIvor

I usually enjoy reading articles on East County Magazine but this article was filled with such drivel that I had to respond. You write that the challengers offer "an exciting and encouraging choice." "a bright contrast to the incumbents," "integrity, fresh ideas, community insights," and sheer energy, change" and the desire and ability to "get La Mesa back to work". You supported our prior mayor who had served for over twenty years. Doesn't that render your current demand for change a little hollow? But lets be specific about these "changes." Are they needed and where? And how will they be implemented? You offer nothing but vague generalities. I have spoken to thousands of city residents over the last four years. I have heard their questions and concerns. It seems to me that these things are what we should be talking about. Not wish lists from a self-appointed spokesman for the challengers-people with no record of local civic involvement. La Mesa has the lowest crime rate in 50 years, new businesses opening, affordable housing projects being built, a new climate action plan has been adopted, and the revitalized downtown is thriving. It all happened under the careful watch of the present Council. Is that the "shallow record of accomplishment" you were talking about? La Mesa is a great place to live and everyone knows it. That's why so many are choosing to live here. Of course, we can't take credit for all the good things happening. Not one can. It is a team effort. The Mayor, the Council, our wonderful staff and our great residents. Anthony, you seem to "pop up" every election season and take pot shots at the elected leaders-especially if they are not Democrats. You are a poster-boy for partisanship and see the world through "partisanship glasses". But La Mesa needs and wants people who work together to build our city. Step outside sometime and enjoy our city. Better yet, get involved. Join a commission or do volunteer work. Inevitably, you will see h ow much we can do together, and just how trivial party allegiance really is.

Guy, you say Mr. Mc Givor is a poster-boy for partisanship???

Here, Council Person Guy Mcwhirter, is a literal Campaign Endorsement Poster from your 2014 Campaign site! So please, don't get too sanctamonious about "Partisanship" and particularly that “Mantle” we heard so much about while you flayed Mary England with your nasty mailers during your 2014 Campaign. Or are you going to blame this partisan Campaign Endorsement like you did the Hit-Piece’s on Mary England on “bad advice”? Why do some running for Office insist that when they’re criticizing opponents during a Campaign that it’s not personal, that it’s only Politics, complete with easily imaginable Angel’s Wings and a Halo, but when they’re served the very same thing it’s suddenly persecuted Martyrdom time and thin-skinned rebuff’s!

https://youtu.be/qtNyfrjL8Uc

Mr. Baber, Couple of questions

Mr. Baber,  Several questions about the performance of the current Council have been on my mind for some time.

1. Around your mid-term, 2016, citizens brought concrete concerns about nuisance canines and dog control efforts to both the Planning Commission and the City Council. The discussion was prompted by a proposal to increase the limit for dog ownership in La Mesa. There was considerable testimony about the continued failure of the City to address dog-related quality of life issues. After hearing testimony, reviewing written pleas from citizens and much discussion, the Planning Commission determined that raising the official limit to three would be feasible – and made specific note of the need to resolve nuisance issues. When the Commission’s recommendation was presented to the Council, your spouse spoke during public comments in favor of raising the limit further. As I recall, there was a motion ultimately made and seconded to ignore the Planning Commission’s concerns and raise the limit to five. The Council approved five – without lifting a finger to address the documented nuisance concerns after the first hearing where allowing five dogs was passed at the second and final hearing with four votes to one.

Two questions here: Should you have recused yourself since your spouse was obviously a directly interested party? And shouldn’t the determination of the Planning Commission, a group representing all citizens of La Mesa, trump the personal wishes of a councilmember's spouse in such an instance? Especially without addressing the concerns of those in attendance at their wits-end dealing with repeated and unresolved neighbors dog issues! The optics were perceived as quite unbelievable to those in attendance having dog issues and the fact that nothing changed except your spouse seemed to snap her fingers and got what she asked for the very next meeting. How do you reconcile the obvious favoritism with the adverse, testimony-based determination of the Planning Commission? http://www.cityoflamesa.com/civicmedia?vid=26#player

2. My second concern stems from your efforts to restrict a citizen’s access to the Council’s agenda.  Specifically, you proposed to change the Council’s procedural rules to require the approval of not one, but two, councilmembers in order for an item to be placed on the agenda. The proposal had the earmarks of a targeted attempt to limit the activity of a newly-elected member of the Council. Fortunately for everyone, it was left to wither on the vine after several comments of alarm were made by the public at large about this proposal. Today, the larger community is expressing strong interest in a different, more open and transparent leadership on the Council.  Do you still believe that such procedural maneuvers to restrict citizen access are appropriate? What can you do instead to make the Council more responsive to resident’s actual needs? 

3. A third question. Is it possible that the endorsement by La Mesa Police and Firefighters of not one but two City Council incumbents could have had anything at all to do with participation in or oversight of contract negotiations that were subsequently approved by the current City Council and those same incumbents? If so, does that not taint the process? And if not, why would you risk even the perception of such impropriety? At the very least, it suggests – fairly or not – the existence of a quid pro quo.
Folks in the community wonder because it appears you and Guy were endorsed by these city employee organizations  before all candidates had even officially declared they were running.

You can here my interview with the Editor here (Bill)

from Bill Baber, La Mesa City Council Member: You can hear my interview with the Editor hear: https://www.eastcountymagazine.org/sites/eastcountymagazine.org/files/au...

Here is the Editor's summary:

Councilman Baber is an attorney who was elected to the Council in 2014 and previously served on the La Mesa-Spring Valley School Board, including as president. He’s served as chair of the La Mesa Environmental Sustainability Commission and has represented the San Diego Taxpayers Association on local school bond oversight committees. He’s also worked as a lobbyist and campaign consultant, and helped draft ethics ordinances and charters for cities across our region.

Baber says he’s most proud of serving on “a well-run Council” that is “very citizen-oriented. We like working together and helping the citizens.” His top priority is public safety. “If you don’t keep people safe, nothing else matters,” he says. He praises La Mesa for having a “world class fire department that’s part of Heartland Fire and also praised the police department, but notes that recruiting and retaining good officers is a challenge.

On development issues, he notes tension between pro-growth forces and those who value community character. “We have to sort of grow while keeping out small town charm. It can be done,” he says. To meet affordable housing needs, he wants to site higher density development along transit corridors where possible. He does not support waivers to La Mesa’s four-story height limit in most places barring “a very unique circumstance,” adding pointedly, “We’re the jewel of the hills. We want to be able to see the hills.”

Homelessness is the most challenging issue facing the Council, says Baber. “It’s multi-faceted. I wish there was a quick solution, but there isn’t.” He says the city has two groups of homeless, those who are La Mesa residents, and those who are nomadic, merely passing through the area. Police work with homeless La Mesans to try and connect them with services or family, getting to know them by name, Baber says. The homeless are also divided between those who simply need a place to live or work, vs. those with severe mental illness, drug or alcohol issues. “Our police have to spend 25% of their time with the homeless functioning as social workers,” says Baber. “I’m glad they care,” but he adds that homelessness is a regional problem too big for a small city like La Mesa to handle alone. “We really need the county to step in and manage the mental health component and probably some of the drug and alcohol [components] as well,” he notes.

Regarding a new library, Baber envisions it as part of a new civic center that would include “programmable” space for the community to use for reading and children’s activities as well as other community groups. “Our community center isn’t big enough,” he says, adding, “A library is much more than books.”

On marijuana, Baber is backing Proposition V, which would create a business tax on dispensaries that could raise $1.5 to $2 million dollars a year. Among other things that money could help fund police and fire, including enforcement against illegal dispensaries. Baber also supports an ordinance to legalize adult-use recreational dispensaries, which he hopes to see enacted in early 2019.

Asked about controversies over who should fund Oktoberfest, Baber quips, “Nothing says La Mesa like a discussion about Oktoberfest. It is the epitome of small town charm. Who should put on the beer festival?” He says that overall, Oktoberfest and the Farmer’s Market are “doing well” and he supports having the La Mesa Village Association, a merchant’s group, running the festival while the city provides police services and road closures.

Baber believes adoption of the city’s climate action plan was a “good thing” but acknowledges it was a challenge since “the state of California mandates it but they don’t give you any money to do it.” He praised staff for research efforts to determine how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “We’ve made the commitment to move toward 100% clean energy,” adding, “This could come from a community choice aggregation that we’re looking at” as an alternative to buying power from SDG&E, to name one option. The city is also working to get people to drive less by building along transit corridors and encouraging people to walk or ride bikes. A new phenomenon is the arrival of electric rental Bird scooters that have “nested all over” the city in recent weeks. “We want people to have opportunities to move around…but you have to be a good neighbor,” says Baber, who supports regulations to prevent problems such as dropping off scooters that block disabled access.

“There’s never a dull moment in a small town,” he concludes, adding that residents “know where you live and if there’s a problem, they’ll knock on your door and say `Bill, what about those scooters?” He says the job isn’t glamorous, but he takes pride whenever a pot hole is fixed that someone complained about. He and his wife raised four children in La Mesa, says Baber, who adds, “I would just like you to know that I’m working every day for you.”

He is endorsed by La Mesa’s police and firefighters’ associations and by La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis, whom he praises as “probably the best small town mayor in California. He loves the city, spent his whole life there; he’s beloved.”

You can learn more about Bill Baber and his candidacy at https://baber4lamesa.com/ .

JeffK elects to miss the point, completely

The intended audience here was obviously not “those in the know.” Allison Avenue insiders, such as yourself Jeff, are well acquainted with the serial failures and squandered opportunities of the current Council. You will also know first-hand that the issue is not change. It is incumbent performance. Regular, out-of-the-loop folks like me find it hard to accept trite and empty claims of “excellent job.” We are your neighbors. We are offended by politicians who steal the successes of hard-working city professionals and business people, merely to bend them to their own advancement. We don’t care for that. (Leaders give credit; fakes filch it.) The pandering (yours and theirs) to fear is especially tiresome. Remember, these incumbents recently insisted that regular council/mayoral turnover – yes, change! – was so crucial to the civic vitality of La Mesa that it had to be codified in a city ordinance. But now, voters should fear change? Please. Let’s be honest enough to keep the focus where it belongs: getting past this Council’s dismal record and creating a more promising outlook for our city's future.

Current McIvor column

It's "time for a change"! Let's "turn the page to a brighter tomorrow"! I believe it was my junior high school literary arts magazine where I last encountered such trite and empty filler as comprises most of this new column endorsing candidates Myers and Weber. Actually Dr. McIvor, most in-the-know La Mesans recognize that the current City Council is doing an excellent job. They also recognize that the invitation to "Change" for the sake of change is shallow, entirely undefined and rife with unknown and undesirable possibilities.