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Council Won't Consider Signing PBID Petition Without More Positive Support

The council voted 4-1 not to call for a downtown PBID vote until support for a ballot on a new assessment reaches "50 percent plus one" of allocated property owners.

Opponents of the proposed property-based business improvement district (PBID) for the downtown Village in La Mesa won a small victory Tuesday night, and the plan, as it is currently constructed, may be dying a slow death.

The City Council voted 4-1 (with Mark Arapostathis the dissenting vote) to approve a motion that would allow the PBID steering committee to continue its pursuit of the requisite votes necessary to move the project from the petition stage to the ballot stage.

Near the conclusion of the more than three-hour meeting, after council discussion and public comments from both proponents and opponents of that plan, it was decided that the steering committee would be allowed to continue to garner support for the PBID among property owners that would be affected by the proposal.

Vice Mayor Ernie Ewin said that he was apprehensive to move to approve the council’s role in the PBID because he is “looking for a little more substantial support,” than the PBID’s backers currently have.

Ewin indicated that substantial support means having at least “50 percent plus one” of the property owners supporting the PBID, which is what is required to move to the ballot phase.

“My concern is, and I’ve said this from the get-go, that I want to see a strong sense of support from the people that are going to be subject to these assessments,” he said. “It’s always been my understanding that we weren’t going to cast our vote until a time when the petition phase was completed. I do like PBIDs. I think they can be beneficial, but I also want to make sure that the process we get is appropriate.”

The majority of public speakers were against the PBID, many of whom have been outspoken opponents of the plan.

See also: La Mesa Village PBID Topic Page on Patch

Bill Stokes, a PM Master from the La Mesa Masonic Lodge, also spoke out against the proposal. He said that the Lodge does pay property taxes to the city, and at its current tax rate, he expects that they can remain in their current location on Date Avenue for about five to seven years.  He said that for property owners like the Lodge, will see no direct benefit from the plan.

“We have no way to generate revenue,” said Stokes. “With the PBID [assessments], it would only accelerate our leaving.”

Jim Wieboldt, a member of the PBID steering committee, spoke on behalf of the committee. He said that since the April 24 council meeting—in which the council’s making a decision on the PBID was postponed until Tuesday night—he and other committee members have been actively seeking more support.

When asked by Ewin how far along the support had come, Wieboldt did not answer with specifics.

“I have been advised by our counsel not to give specific dollar amounts or percentages at this time,” Wieboldt said, to which opponents of the PBID sitting in the crowd scoffed.

However, the committee’s efforts at gaining support apparently did not get a lot of traction, as Wieboldt revealed, “even if the city decides to vote for us, it will not put us over the top” in guaranteeing a vote of affected property owners.

The city of La Mesa is the largest property owner in the current PBID area.

One of the major points of contention for PBID opponents is that of the $65,000 allocated for service maintenance as part of the plan. Some property owners are upset, since they are already taxed as a way to pay for current maintenance known as baseline services.

As part of this form of the PBID, the money in the budget for service maintenance would either be for streetscape improvements that do not currently exist, or an increased frequency in maintenance that is currently being done.

Some council members are split on their support of the current form. Mayor Art Madrid, who serves as the council representative on the steering committee, wants the PBID established. Council member Ruth Sterling does not.

After hearing public comment, it was Sterling who first responded with her concerns of the project. Reading aloud from a list apparetnly prepared before the meeting, she stated the reasons she could not support the PBID. Among them was the inclusion of the school district and churches, which would not benefit as much as other retail shops.

Arapostathis agreed with this notion.

“When people talk about our downtown, they come for very specific reasons, but they’re not walking the downtown to go to their insurance agent, or to go to their realtor,” he said. “They’re going for retail.”

He also said that he thinks a PBID necessary, if it were to help improve the La Mesa streetscape.

“I think the downtown needs a cityscape and we need improvements, and we need a maintenance aspect,” he said. “We do need to consider something though, because if we do have a streetscape and we don’t have a mechanism to keep it improved, it’s not gonna be there.  And we’re gonna be right back where we started.”

After further discussion, Sterling asked, “So how does this work? When can this be dissolved?”

Legally, there is no time frame or statute that the steering committee must adhere to, in its attempt to garner the necessary support for the PBID. Pondering this, councilmember Dave Allan asked a poignant question.

“If [the council] can’t stop this, how long will [the committee’s search for support] continue?” he asked.

In truth, there is no right answer to this question. As long as the steering committee wants to continue to try and talk to property owners and advocate for their plan, they have legal grounds to do so. Realistically, it could be two weeks or six months or 10 years.

But whereas before, when the issue was tabled at the April council meeting, with no clear resolution, the committee has a specific goal in mind: 50 percent plus one. If and when that percentage is reached, only then will the PBID move forward.

Madrid is optimistic that it will happen, though he contends, it may take some time. He mentioned that two major property owners have yet to sign the petition, due to logistics and chain-of-command mandates. Having these  owners onboard will go a long way toward getting to the magic number.

“Fifty plus one. If that’s the case, I think we can achieve that goal,” he said. “The council cannot, as Ms. Sterling was suggesting, just eliminate the committee. So now we have to deal with a more aggressive campaign.”

Kevin George July 25, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Due to this ridiculous situation of an open ended, infinitely long petition process, it looks as if we will have to return this zombie to the grave at regular intervals.
Komfort July 25, 2012 at 04:57 PM
"“I have been advised by our counsel not to give specific dollar amounts or percentages at this time,” Wieboldt said," If the spine is yellow For this fellow Then the act that's Brown Gets flushed down
Marie McLaughlin July 25, 2012 at 06:12 PM
The majority of property owners appear to be opponents of the PBID process mainly because of the exorbitant assessment fees. With the proposed PBID fees being ten times greater than the average San Diego Improvement District, few of us would see a return on our "investment." Councilwoman Sterling pointed out the 54% allotted toward administrative costs. That is a major sticking point. Although I appreciate the hard work the PBID Committee has put into this, I'm not anxious to see them go back to the bargaining table. Deena had suggested to them all along that this monster was getting too big. Hopefully David can still defeat Goliath.
Scott H. Kidwell July 25, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Just a couple days ago we heard: “I will insist that we still follow the current Brown Act guidelines and regulations," (Madrid) said via email Wednesday. "Credibility is our mantra." Then last night it took around an hour for the Brown Act committment at the start of the council meeting to be awash in swirling water. The Mayor sits on a board as the City representative and that group refuses to share information with the rest of the elected officials. WOW! Most of us thought the word "Mantra" as used in the context of the above quote meant "a word or motto that embodies a principle or guide to action of an individual or group." Looks like we were wrong and the actual meaning intended was "an expression or idea that is repeated, often without thinking about it!" I wonder if the city elected official travel schedule included trips to the Nancy Pelosi School of Rhetoric for Gullible Constituents?
Jenna Zeledon July 25, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Marie... just wanted to clarify your statement vs. what was actually stated. Councilwoman Sterling stated that 54% of the total budget is comprised of not just administrative costs but also that of the marketing and promotional budgeted monies.
Just what the struggling business owners trying to make a living in this economy need...uncertainty. Isn't anyone watching what is happening in our Country with all the uncertainty of whether our tax cuts will expire and what happens when the health care mandate kicks in? Businesses need to be able to plan, and feel optimistic, not waiting for the next shoe to drop. Why didn't Council take a vote and put this to bed?
Kevin George July 25, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Jenna, I also missed that part. Would you please supply us with your numbers because I didn't hear her say " marketing and promotional budget". I may have just missed it so please fill us in.
Kevin George July 25, 2012 at 06:53 PM
From what I understand of the convoluted procedure last night it is beyond their scope of authority to kill the beast created by the PBID Formation Committee.
Too big to fail or kill...
Jenna Zeledon July 25, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Details can be found on page 13 of the management plan. However the breakdown is: Marketing: $100,000.00 • Costs were budgeted using actuals and doing research on what it would cost for such things as banners, radio/tv ads, billboards, holiday decorations, etc. and factored in using licensed companies to handle all aspects where applicable. Operations and Administration: $103,100.00 • After hearing from Ed Henning and other guest speakers (including people who currently run organizations such as the PBID), it was factored that to hire a third party, non-partisan person to oversee all aspects of the PBID would run approximately $62,500/year including salary, gas, a cell phone, etc. This is actually on the low end of what most individuals are compensated for the same type of position • Direct Operating Expenses budgeted at $34,100 for an office that would be open to the public factoring in rent, utilities, office supplies, furniture, etc. (essentially the cost of running a business in the village) • FF&E of $6,500
Bill Jaynes July 25, 2012 at 07:51 PM
I think Ms Sterling did say that, Kevin. She also mentioned the 15% slush fund that the committee can move around to fill holes as needed at the expense of the so-called benefits TeamPBID prefers to emphasize. Jenna, may I ask you why we should not be appalled at the "Action" Committee's outright refusal to provide any numbers to the City Council last night. Shouldn't we be concerned given how much money the City has spent thus far? Don't you think we have a right to know what is being done in our names with our money? After all, not only did the Council commit around $30,000 to Project Engineer (nee "consultant") Ed Henning, but when you add up all the staff time over the last few years, the direct expenses such as covering copying costs, etc., and the in-kind contributions like providing rooms in the Community Center that most private groups would have to pay market rates to rent, aren't you uncomfortable telling us that not only will you not make public your proceedings and asserted progress, but that you want the Council to bind all La Mesa residents to your scheme by signing a blank check with no meaningful oversight? I'd be concerned that by not holding any public meeting since October 26, 2011, that I might be validating my opponent's concerns over lack of transparency and deception. I'd be even more concerned if a member of City staff who still works intimately with the Committee had received this email from Ed Henning on November 30 of last year:
Kevin George July 25, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Thank you Jenna. It appears your appraisal is correct
Bill Jaynes July 25, 2012 at 08:09 PM
"I'd imagine that the anti- PBID group will be demanding a mailing list or label templates once they figure out that the pro-PBID has/will be given these resources. Also will I be providing the Action Committee with documents directly or should they all go through my Client - the City? We should discuss these sorts of things as well." I've attached Mr. Henning's email so you can read it in its entirety, should you be concerned that I am twisting his words into "misinformation." This reminds me that I haven't filed a Public Records Act request lately, so I should get on that. Did you know that after the first one that you asked me to file, I received hundreds of email copies? Here's the odd thing, however: when I filed the second one I received barely a dozen. I've been honing the rough draft of my next PRA request for a few months, and I expect it to be more fruitful. Thank you for coming back to defend PBID on Patch. May I renew my offer to debate you, Parking Commissioner James Wieboldt, or any designee of the "Action" Committee's choosing, regarding the purported benefits and manifest flaws of PBID? You may pick the rules, venue, anything you wish to finally have an open discussion where we can get at the pure and honest facts. Perhaps the City will provide us a room free of charge! Bill Jaynes ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BRITISH 619 464 2298 (proudly purveying "2% markup" Cadbury chocolate bars at the same location in the heart of the Village for over 30 years)
Scott H. Kidwell July 25, 2012 at 10:17 PM
The big story last night was not the PBID itself but rather the withholding of information from the majority of the city council by a group that looks to have included at least one city official! So much for open government! A La Mesa city manager was eventully let go for withholding information from the city council during labor negotiations a some years ago. How is it the Mayor can expect the other council members to vote on something, in good faith to their constituents, if they are not provided ALL relevant information. http://lamesacitizenoversightgroup.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/city-managers-actions-during-labor-talks-prompted-demand-for-resignation.pdf
Craig Maxwell July 26, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Exactly, Scott. Their secretiveness is symbolic of this whole shady deal. As I just told a friend, my Texas Grandma sum up messes like this one by saying, "You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear." The PBID proponents started out with a questionable product and a very unforthright way of putting it together and selling it to the community. It's little wonder they've encountered so much resistance. Honestly really is the best policy, but politicians like Art are so addicted to doing things their own dishonest way that they take that path even when it's completely unnecessary. Too, bad. It just winds up wasting everyone's time.
Marie McLaughlin July 26, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Bill, do you know if an engineering company was hired to configure all the assessments? That couldn't have been cheap either. I researched parcels numbers with their assessments and was surprised at how low so many were compared to mine.
Things I Learned July 26, 2012 at 05:33 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-ALH051HX0

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