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By Miriam Raftery

Mayor Madrid (R) with Shane Shaw of E-Village
Beneath solar panel display at “Sustain La Mesa” festival

Crowds flocked to view cooking demonstrations on solar ovens,
visit with solar energy experts, get tips on water-saving landscaping and more
at Sustain La Mesa, the City’s first annual Environmental Awareness Festival
on September 13th in Harry Griffith Park.

“It took me almost a year to get this event,” Mayor Art Madrid
told East County Magazine, then shared  his vision for a greener
La Mesa in the future. 

La Mesa’s Council voted 3-2 to create the festival. Councilmembers David
Allan and Mark Arapostathos voted in favor,  Ruth Stirling and Ernie Ewin
voted against.   “We have a good cross section of people here.” 

Displays by 21 vendors included private companies selling everything from
earthworms to solar panels, environmental organizations such as Sierra Club,
agencies such as Helix Water District and even Sempra Energy (parent company
of SDG&E) – all touting energy sustainability.  The festival’s
initial aim was to show the public how much can be accomplished to reduce energy
consumption and decrease global warming through simple measures such as changing
to low-energy light bulbs and planting trees.

A maverick who parts company from the Republican Party platform on key environmental
issues, Madrid became the first East County mayor to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate
Change agreement and led efforts to create an eleven member Environmental/Sustainable
Committee in June 2007. Comprised of six residents and five members from the
private and public sectors, the committee’s mission is to advise La Mesa’s
City Council and residents on effective means to reduce or eliminate causes
that contribute to climate change and reduce their impacts on the environment.

Madrid pointed to a cluster of solar panels displayed at the festival.  He
hopes to persuade E-Village or another solar vendor to donate panels for permanent
public demonstration in the park.  “If these were in your yard,
you could have your meter go backwards,” the Mayor says. “We want
to teach people that this is something that could

Solar oven


The panels on display can generate 165 watts each.  An average house
would need about 12 panels to generate 3,500 watts, Shane

Shaw of E-Village said.

La Mesa’s soon-to-open new police station will be LEED (Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design) certified, the Mayor disclosed.  The
green building rating, created by the U.S. Green Building Council to certify
structures that meet energy efficiency criteria, has now been awarded to more
than 14,000 building projects in 50 states and 30 countries.

A new La Mesa City Hall, still several years away from construction and completion,
will go even further.  “It will be totally sustainable,” said
Madrid, who aims to have the new civic building powered by solar energy.

“California’s Attorney General (Jerry Brown) is on full court press
to get all the cities to have general plans that embrace environmental issues,” said
Madrid, noting that Brown has sued the City of San Bernadino for failing to
meet state-mandated sustainability goals.  Madrid, who supports Brown’s
efforts, said La Mesa will be revamping its general plan and updating the City’s
permitting process to encourage new developments and remodeling projects to
be environmentally sustainable.

Madrid would also like to see the City create a community garden, similar
to what some communities in the South Bay and North County have already done.  But
La Mesa is fully built out and unlike more rural communities, lacks public
land that is both available and not contaminated with hazardous substances
from prior usages.  But if a private property owner would allow the City
to use private land for creation of a public garden for residents to grow fruits
and vegetables, Madrid concluded, “We would embrace it.”

Miriam Raftery, editor of East County Magazine,  is a 25-year
journalist who has won national and local awards for her investigative
reporting and community journalism.  If you are indicated in syndicating
or reprinting this column, please contact

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Good for La Mesa!

The Environmental Awareness Festival was a great event. May it be the start of our city's efforts to reduce its impact.