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Key issue: Does the city need a full-time mayor, or can the job be done part-time?

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Mayor Art Madrid (left) and Councilman Mark Arapostathis (right)

October 15, 2014 (La Mesa) – La Mesa’s mayoral race is shaping up to be one of the hottest political contests in East County this election season, with two long-time community leaders vying for the city’s top job.  Both are long-time La Mesa residents with extensive experience in politics and community service. East County Magazine sat down for in-depth interviews with both candidates to talk about their records, their views on leadership, and their visions for La Mesa.

Incumbent Mayor Art Madrid has served as Mayor for 24 years and as a Councilman before that, since 1981. He has chaired the San Diego Association of Government, served as President of the California Council of Governments representing all cities and counties statewide, and was once named San Diego County’s Outstanding Elected Official by the American Society of Public Administrators. Madrid is running on his record, which includes advocating for issues including public safety, youth and senior services, civic and business issues, and  environmental concerns. He dedicates 60 to 70 hours a week on the job—and believes La Mesa deserves a full-time Mayor.He says this will be his last term, if reelected, and he hopes to complete projects he's initiated as legacies for the city that recently celebrated its centennial.

The challenger, Councilman Mark Arapostathis,  known as “Dr. A” for his doctoral degree,  has been named Teacher of the Year by both San Diego County and the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, as well as a La Mesa “Hometown Hero.” He is a full-time teacher and also serves as Director of Peter Pan Jr. Theater and C. Hook Theater, but says he believes he can fulfill the mayoral duties part-time with help from technology.  He agrees with the Mayor on key issues, but says his strengths including bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and he hopes to bring greater unity to the Council.  Also past president of the La Mesa Arts Alliance, he hopes to bring more focus to cultural arts in La Mesa.

Mayor Madrid has challenged Councilman Arapostathis to a debate, but Arapostathis has declined, stating that he has “23 events in 29 days” and prefers meeting voters face to face, walking door to door.  Arapostathis did agree to an in-depth interview for our news website, while Mayor Madrid opted for a radio interview.   You can hear the full radio interview here  (it takes a few moments to load),  read highlights from our interview with Mayor Madrid here  and highlights of our interview with Dr. Arapostathis here.


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Hilarious, the suggestion

"Hilarious" the suggestion that term limits is a foreign concept being forced on an unsuspecting citizenry by a devious cabal of political outsiders. In fact, term limits is one of the very few political ideas overwhelmingingly popular with all Americans, regardless of political persuasion. The reasons are simple: Americans know that 1) career politicians are highly vulnerable to either complacency and/or corruption; and, 2) That for reasons of financial advantage, name recognition and political connectedness, etc., they have nearly unbeatable odds at the ballot box. America's founders never intended for her to be run by a separate, untouchable political caste. On the contrary, we are a nation "of the people, by the people and for the people. Term limits help keep it that way. On Nov. 4, please vote "Yes on Term Limits," and "Yes on K."


Well, neither me nor Mr. Maxwell are "anonymous". Given we usually post on term limits, I am guessing Highlander (whom I suspect is Mr. Mc Ivor) thinks it's us. I think that a quick check by the editor of the IP addresses associated with the posts could help you resolve that issue. As much as you may wish to demonize us for speaking out on issues when you disagree, it's pretty low to insinuate that we are posting anonymously. I know when I post I want you to know it's me (for the record, previous posts over the years have usually been signed by me and also I would say in the body that I was a Councilperson so you knew it was me, I figured everyone knew Gattobello is me)! I happen to like your coverage. Your are one of the few news sources out there that covers the environmental issues very important to me. I don't like what I perceive to be a bias in reporting on the Mayor's race though. I think I have conveyed that. Kristine C. Alessio, Member La Mesa City Council

Mayoral mud

Kristine - We did post a story on the negative mailer sent by Mayor Madrid and a very detailed response from Councilman Arapostathis with his point-by-point counter to the mailer, which contained some inaccuracies. Rest assured we ARE trying to be fair and not biased in this race. Here is a link to the new story: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/mud-flies-la-mesa-mayoral-race. I didn't post it sooner only because I wanted to reach out and give Councilman Arapostathis time to respond, which he has now done. I also wanted time to verify with the Mayor that his official campaign was behind the mailer, which he confirmed. Personally I see strengths in both candidates and believe both want the best for their communities. I am glad we agree on the importance of covering the major environmental issues in our region, and I apologize if you were not the "anonymous" person who posted. By the way I'm pretty sure Highlander is not Mr. McIvor. I would like to learn how to check addresses, and appreciate your transparency in posting under your real name. Our policy here is to allow non-public citizens to post under pseudonyms if they wish, as long as the posts are respectful and follow our rules - since we know some folks have jobs where they may not want their politics known, or have other privacy concerns. With public figures, if they wish to comment on something not relevant to the office they hold or jurisdiction they represent, (ie, if a local official wanted to post a comment on a movie review) we wouldn't be too concerned, but if they want to post comments on people they might be serving with or issues that impact their consituents, then we believe as elected officials they should be transparent on such matters. I certainly value Craig's insights into environmental issues and sharing his eyewitness accounts during the fire at Cuyamaca -- everyone in our community is welcome to comment and contribute to robust discussions on the issues that affect us all here in East County!

Do not use this magazine for political & social issues.

An encouragement to this magazine's readers - use it for what it is good for, and ignore the rest. ECM is a GOOD source for local community events and goings on. It is an extremely POOR source for journalism that is balanced, fair, and well researched - especially in the political and social issues realms. This magazine very obviously has an extreme LIBERAL bias. Read any story pitting a Democrat against a Republican or liberal issue against a conservative one and the Democrat / liberal side always has the advantage in this magazine. Take a look at past stories, you will clearly see the extreme liberal bias pattern. Conservative / Republican candidates and even Independent candidates will often decline being interviewed by the ECM Editor or ECM reporters because they know it will not be reported fairly and balanced. Bottom line fellow readers, just use the magazine for finding out what is happening in community events, and do not get wrapped up in the liberal viewpoints here. Go to other local news sources for balanced reporting of politics, social issues, business issues, etc. We can only hope that a shift to other news sources by ECM readers will influence the thinking of this ECM editor and their financial supporters, to move to practicing fair and balanced journalism. Until then, readers should just ignore the ECM voice.

Don't be Fooled!

Anonymously <> It’s amazing to me to read your thoughts! First a group tries to convince La Mesa Voter to give up their right to Choose by encouraging the Voters to vote for Term Limits. Now you are trying to convince this same voter who they chose to read! Now that is real scary this is the same kind of thing that some other Neo Political Group tried to do in other parts of the Word! Come on Public take control you make these decision by your Actions; don’t let some one convince you what to do!

Anonymous, that's a lie.

Why are you ashamed to post your real name? We have won 76 journalism awards including the top awards in the business locally for news, investigative and political reporting, among others from the two major journalism organizations in town, as well as best media outlet award from the League of Women Voters for nonpartisan political coverage. Why are you making this complaint in a post about an article featuring TWO REPUBLICANS? How can that possibly be partisan when they are both in the same party? We have interviewed many candidates in both parties. Those who duck and dodge (in both parties) tend to be those who either have something to hide or are afraid of being asked questions that aren't softballs. Candidates should be willing to address questions on all issues, not just those of interest to one party or set of special interests. As for saying we should not cover political and social issues, that's ridiculous. Journalism is all about educating the public on issues of importance. To exclude politics and social issues would leave only fluff. If you want celebrity gossip or one-sided coverage, go somewhere else please. We have been equally tough in our reporting on both parties - Bob Filner and Juan Vargas being exhibits A and B in the Democratic party of people who had some negative coverage.We have had favorable coverage similarly of office holders in both parties. I suspect this post is the same person we asked NOT to post under a pseudonym previously on this same campaign. Any further threats or efforts to spread misinformation to our loyal readers will result in banning this account, too. Did you read our posting rules? We require civil discussions. Insults and defamation of character against anyone including me are grounds to be banned. If you don't want to read truth, go somewhere else. Our "financial supporters" are the PEOPLE in the communities we cover, not special interests. we have 5 million hits and 150,000 readers a month, which is growing steadily, so apparently your viewpoint of us is an extreme minority.

And by deleting my comments

And by deleting my comments you, Miriam, have the final word. How convenient. You claim my accusations are "unsubstantiated," but that's only because you have done nothing--intentionally, it is now plain--to investigate them. The substance of my charges--as subtle, as avoidable as the proverbial white elephant in the room-- is, of course, there in abundance. I have offered it to you, held it up in front of your face, invited you to speak with those involved, etc., done everything but beaten you over the head with it, and your response has been, consistently,...nothing. Silence. Or, in some cases, more baseless charges that my comments are "defamatory," or the even sillier suggestion that my comments have potentially exposed you to legal action. If your lawyer really told you that, you might want to consider replacing him/her. Miriam, I know as well as anyone that we live in a hyper-litigious society. And aside from the FACT that the status of the public figures I'm targeting, makes both of us virtually immune to slander and libel, I am VERY careful about what I say and write. Take, for example, the hit-and run incident you claim to know nothing about. I'll give you a little clue: Google "Don Uribe, Art Madrid, and "Harley Davidson." Presto! What do you see?-- a News 10 story about the incident I mentioned; the incident that everyone in La Mesa who knows anything about our public figures knows about, but about which you plead ignorance. Or howz'bout my claim that Art used the "c" word to describe his female council collegues? Tell you what, I'll arrange for YOU to MEET the individual who heard it. Is that good enough? And those friends of mine whose businesses were threatened? I'll introduce you to them, too. You want it? Evidence? You got it! Just say the word.

mayoral issues

Readers - Perhaps I was remiss in not linking to our prior coverage of Madrid's last race for reelection, which he won. Here is our story from 2010, which including details on the 2008 incident: http://eastcountymagazine.org/content/la-mesa-spotlight-incumbent-mayor-art-madrid Craig - Thanks for providing enough detail now for me to find that there apparently was a 2004 incident, that Mr. Uribe discussed with the UT in Feb. 2008 (6 months before East County Magazine began publication) hence I was not aware: http://www.10news.com/news/man-claims-la-mesa-mayor-involved-in-hit-and-run As stated, Madrid paid for damages to a motorcycle he hit, but there was no evidence that he had drank more than the level limit prior to that 10-year-old accident. I see that Kristine has posted below to clarify that she is the individual who claims the mayor made negative remarks to her. I appreciate her going public and will be happy to post information from anyone else who is an eyewitness who can corroborate or dispute those details. As for legalities, we do err on the side of caution and also in fairness just don't believe in posting third-hand innuendo. While is is more difficult for a public official to sue for slander it is not impossible, but mostly we just want to be fair to everyone. I've heard gossip that would raise ethical issues about another member of the council but have not published that, either, because it is hearsay about which I have no firsthand evidence. In short, we're not the bathroom wall here where people can scrawl off accusations against others without substantiation via either documentation, links to other reliable sources, or eyewitness accounts in which the witness is willing to publicly tell their story under their real name. If you friends wish to speak with me please give them my email address.

No, my friends do not wish to

No, my friends do not wish to speak with anyone about these incidents. They are not politically involved and are, naturally, somewhat afraid of the price they may pay for doing so--afraid of the Mayor's well known vindictiveness. HOWEVER, they will talk, I believe, if approached and questioned. Isn't that what journalists are supposed to do?

I'm not going to wander the entire town looking for these folks.

"Friends" is far too vague a term. Nobody's going to knock on every door in La Mesa or downtown. That would be akin to me saying I'm sure I read something in a book somewhere and asking why you as a bookstore owner won't research the project and read every book in your store. You challenged me to talk with them in your prior post and when I agreed, you failed to provide a single name. Thus there is still zero evidence to substantiate claims you've made through the years on various forums, and apparently no other editor has been able to find any substantiation either.

No one, very much including

No one, very much including you, has ever lifted a finger to investigate my claims. But I'll make it easy on you. Here are two names to begin with: 1) Ruth Sterling and, 2) Kristine Alissio.


"Claims" the Mayor made the statements to. How about did make them! I guess that insulting women is just fine and dandy with you, but it's not with me. He also said them about Councilwoman Sterling. Heaven knows who else. Why there is continued defense of this man, is really beyond me. Kristine C. Alessio, La Mesa City Council

Mayor denies claim

I asked Madrid about the four-letter world you said he called. He denied it, and challenged you to provide details of where and when this was supposedly said.

Oh course he denied it!

Of course he denied it. Just like Nixon denied Watergate, thank goodness we had Woodward and Bernstein to investigate the denial. If you want to investigate, set up an appointment with me, with my fellow Councilmen and we can tell about what he says about us and about others. The comment in question was said by him, to the best of my recollection, after the Council meeting when we denied his Vegas trip.

Art denied it?!?! What a

Art denied it?!?! What a shock. What did you think he'd say? Have you interviewed prominent city staff and Art's fellow councilmen? Have you asked them how he talks about them, or anyone else who's had the temerity to contradict or criticize him?

Insulting women is never acceptable, Kristine.

"Claims" is the standard journalistic term when one person asserts something occurred for which the journalist has no solid proof. You shouldn't take offense at that. It sounds like some of the remarks you attribute to bullying by Art were made after you posted some inflammatory and insulting statements about him on another media site, under a pseudonym, specifically, your daughter's account. You used some fairly strong words there as I recall. So it's okay for you to publish insults on a public forum against him anonymously, but it's not okay for the mayor to respond by likening those attacks to a "virus" that has infected the council? Or for him to state that he's willing to be quoted on his opinion about the impacts of that negativity, rather than wage an anonymous attack? If he did use a four-letter word or off-color term I would ever condone that, regardless of whatever anyone said to provoke such strong sentiments. Look, I respect everyone here, but just ask that some civility be retained on our site. We are doing our best as nonprofit, nonpartisan media on a limited budget. We do not endorse any candidate in any race. We have many more races to cover this year and fewer volunteers to help out, so some of our coverage was less in depth than in prior years, ie not as much background and linking to all of our prior coverage of candidates (not just Art, we didn't link to past coverage in any races that I can recall this year). that's a reflection of budget, not bias. Incidentally,Mark Arapostathis has made clear that he does not wish to engage in negative campaigning or attacks on the Mayor, and that in his walks around La Mesa he's heard over and over from residents who say they are sick of negative campaigning in recent mayoral contests. Similarly the Mayor has not engaged in negative campaigning against Mark; each candidate wanted to focus on what they view as their positive accomplishments. Similarly we chose to focus on the positive attributes both candidates bring to the race, rather than digging up ancient history that we've covered over and over and over again in the past. I am frankly tired of the attacks on a nonprofit editor working mostly for free these days, for not taking extra hours to dig out every past link in every race. If people want that level of coverage in every race across East County, they need to start donating so we can afford to hire more researchers, writers and editors.

Check Your Facts

My daughter has every right to speak freely. I posted once on accident under her account. Posted the same thing under my account. That one comment was mine, the rest were hers. Its called the First Amendment, she has a right to express herself. You know these facts, yet believe the Mayor that I was continuously posting under a pseudonym. Did you ever ask my daughter? "Claim" would be an appropriate word for what you are saying I did. As for negatives, obviously you haven't seen the Mayor's latest mail piece on Dr. A. It came in yesterdays mail and is all over the internet. Any coverage or investigation coming? Kristine C. Alessio, La Mesa City Council

I have not seen the mailer.

I don't live in the city of La Mesa so am not on candidates' mailing lists there. If you wish to scan and e-mail it to me I'll be happy to take a look. Editor@eastcountymagazine.org

It may "sound like" the

It may "sound like" the sequence you outline above, Miriam. But, in fact, it isn't--quite the opposite. What mystifies me here is the suggestion that those of us who respond to Art's abuses as we do, those verbal and otherwise, are somehow the guilty parties. What should we do, say nothing? Or slather our reactions in soft-soap so as to avoid hurting the feelings of an amoral public official who has just smeared us with THE most vulgar four-letter unmentionables? Don't expect it from me.

not true

I never suggested anyone here is a "guilty party" Kristine. Just because there isn't proof (documents or eyewitnesses) doesn't mean something isn't true. It also doesn't mean it is true. There's just no independent way sometimes to verify something.


When has the Mayor been bullied by the Council? Please cite one example. He's done plenty of bullying himself though. Here are a few recent examples: He's called me a "virus" the exact quote is : "After re-reading the crap posted by Alessio (and blaming her daughter), it confirms everything I've always heard about her and have concluded that when she came to the council she brought a virus with her that's turned into a disease," Madrid said. "You can quote me on that.'' He called Councilman Ewin a liar multiple times during a hate filled diatribe at a Council meeting on September 12, 2014. It was embarrassing to watch. Privately it is worse. He has called me, and the other Councilmembers things that are not fit to print. Things that one should never say about other people. If these things are not bullying I don't know what is. This is intolerable behavior and why no one cares about it or thinks it's fine to do is really beyond me. At what point do we put aside allegiances and take a serious look at character ? At what time do we quite making excuses? The hit and run incident was widely reported in 2004. Here's an excerpt from an UT article referencing it that came out at the time the Mayor was found intoxicated and laying on the sidewalk: "Some speakers made reference to reports that Madrid was involved in a hit-and-run accident Aug. 4, 2004. Don Uribe, a former La Mesa resident, said Madrid drove away from Norm's Cocktails on El Cajon Boulevard that night and clipped his parked motorcycle. In an interview last night, Uribe said the mayor initially denied the incident in the weeks that followed, then agreed to have his insurance company reimburse Uribe about $4,800 for the damage. After last night's meeting, Madrid said he doesn't recall hitting anything with his Ford Explorer that night and that alcohol didn't play a role in any incident because he had consumed only “half a beer.” He said his insurance company paid Uribe about $2,000 because he wanted to avoid a protracted dispute." As I said before, character should count. But, I guess everyone has different standards. Kristine C. Alessio, La Mesa City Council

Strong City Manager = Part-time Mayor

In La Mesa, we have a City Manager form of government, not a "strong Mayor" form. Therefore, we don't need someone sitting at City Hall 60-70 hours a week. That's why the Mayor and Council positions are part-time. There's no need for it. Also, following the Mayor's "logic", only independently wealthy citizens or retirees would be qualified to hold the part-time position. I think La Mesans deserve broader representation than that. Dr. A has consistently stated that he believes in the strength of the City Manager and he understands that the Mayor's position is in large part ceremonial to the day to day operations of the City of La Mesa. That's one of many reasons why he gets my endorsement and my vote. He will not treat City hall as his personal kingdom nor will he burden our staff with items that are not germane to the operations of the City. Recognition of the job description and what it means and what is needed is a huge difference between Dr. A and the Mayor. There are other distinctions as well in the record. Dr. A recognizes the needs of all citizens, everyone from the proverbial "soccer moms" to seniors, to businesses. One example os his voting help our citizens by enacting the free parking during the streets cape project (on a trial basis), which the Mayor did not support. He's innovative and forward thinking. Again, we don't need a full-time mayor in a part-time position. We need a real leader and a consensus builder who doesn't play games with his fellow council members or the citizens. That person is Dr. A. Kristine C. Alessio, La Mesa City Council

Note to all posters

We have removed comments in this thread that violated our site rules. We do not allow unsubstantiated accusations against anyone on our site, private citizens or public figures, to avoid defamation of character or libel issues per our attorney. Negative statements that could potentially be defamatory need to be documented with links to documents such as transcripts, other news articles, etc. or be first-hand eyewitness accounts, not hearsay or speculation. Also we do not allow public officials to post anonymously on our site, particularly when talking about candidates or other officials in public office. We also don't allow racist remarks, threats, or anything that violates copyright either, though these was not the issues in the posts removed. We do welcome a robust discussion of facts and opinions on all sides of the political aisle, but please avoid unsubstantiated attacks. If the posters wish to amend their remarks and repost with facts substantiated, that's fine.

Drunk driving, hit-and-run,

Drunk driving, hit-and-run, illicit legal threats and all manner of strong-arming and bullying both his constituents and council colleagues--Art Madrid is easily the most scandal-ridden politician in East County history. Yet this article says nothing. Why? Are these things irrelevant? Where's ECM's investigative spirit?


Art was never accused of drunk driving or hit and run. In the old incident you refer to, he was a passenger when someone else was arrested for driving under the influence. That's at worst poor judgment, not a crime. He has since been re-elected despite this, so apparently the voters weren't too concerned, and his current opponent has opted not to make this a campaign issue. We focused on the past election cycle for our background check of mayoral candidates and nothing new came up on either candidate during that time period. As for strong-arming and bullying, some have argued that Madrid has himself been a victim of that by others on the current council, though it is true that his critics have contended he has been overbearing. That's more a matter of opinion. I would disagree with your contention that Madrid is the most scandal-prone politician. He was never arrested, charged, or convicted of anything, has no bankruptcies or tax liens, or any of the legion of scandals plaguing many others. Who is the most scandal ridden? Senator Anderson was fined huge amounts and had to give back illegal campaign donations that violated state law, and also has several tax liens he never paid off. Congressman Juan Vargas was arrested for drunk driving. Mayor Mark Lewis was driven to resign over remarks some viewed as racist. The majority on the Grossmont Union High School District Board defied a grand jury and now face a related lawsuit. Assemblyman Brian Jones lost a home to foreclosure. Several current council candidates in La Mesa have had tax liens, foreclosures, etc. Congressman Duncan Hunter was voted by Washingtontonian magazine as the biggest "party animal" on Capitol Hill. Several recent judicial candidates had scandals including false information on ballot statements and investigations by the state bar on apparent ethics violations (ie Gosselin); one last election cycle had posted Facebook posts about cases before him,a clear violation of judicial ethics. Any of those could be construed as far more serious offenses, if you look at it objectively.