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Downtown PBID Lauded, Lashed at Contentious City Council Meeting

Council members signal skepticism about benefits of Village business-improvement district.

Updated at 9:28 a.m. Feb. 29, 2012

Answering critics of a proposed business-improvement district, Jim Wieboldt on Tuesday declared: “The PBID is not dead.”

“The PBID effort remains strong. We have petitions coming in daily [calling for a vote on the district],” travel agency owner Wieboldt told the La Mesa City Council on a night when the issue got its first detailed airing at City Hall.

But in response to a council question, Wieboldt conceded that PBID advocates were about $100,000 short of the $189,050.01 in petitioners’ assessed valuation needed to permit a vote on raising their own property taxes.

That means the fate of the petition—and ultimately the PBID itself—could rest with the City Council. 

The city controls 15.9 percent of the district’s valuation, and a council vote expected by early April may be decisive.

Mayor Art Madrid stressed that Tuesday’s discussion was informational, with no vote scheduled on whether City Hall as a downtown property owner should sign the petition in circulation for almost two months.

But the council and a succession of speakers spent two hours debating the PBID, which would cost the La Mesa General Fund $60,000 a year.

One was Brian Marshall, superintendent of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, whose Date Avenue headquarters would be assessed $7,000 a year.

Marshall said the PBID’s only benefit to the K-8 district would be yearly* power-washings, and suggested it likewise would do the Civic Center little good.

“I urge the council to not sign the PBID petition and support the call for the [PBID] Formation Committee to redesign the PBID with input from all who would be impacted,” Marshall said, reflecting his school board’s ire about not being contacted on the issue until December 2011.

Madrid responded by noting that many longtime La Mesans pay “school tax” as part of their property taxes, but have no children attending schools and get no benefit. So why should the school district object?

Smiling, Marshall replied: “It’s a great question, and luckily I was an economics major at UCSD and I have a great answer.”

He noted how some segments of society benefit all segments—especially public education, which trains doctors, police and firefighters that aid La Mesans.

“You receive a benefit to having an educated citizenry,” Marshall said, but contrasted that with the PBID: “I don’t see personally and as a district the benefit of this PBID to La Mesa-Spring Valley children.”

Madrid countered by arguing that the PBID would make The Village safer—leading to more people wanting to move to La Mesa, bringing children to local schools and boosting ADA [average-daily attendance] funding for the district.

Dawn Marie Tol mocked the mayor’s reasoning.

“I don’t know anyone who feels unsafe in The Village,” she told the council. “That’s a silly proposition.”

She and others called on the council to set a deadline for the gathering of ballot petition signatures.  But Ed Henning, the city’s PBID consultant, said state law requires no deadline—and that the process could last 18 months.

Councilman Dave Allan, stepping down at the end of his term in 2012, quipped: “I hope it will take 18 months. I’ll be out of office.” But later he said: “Seems to me there should be some kind of deadline.”

Council members Ruth Sterling and Ernie Ewin asked questions suggesting they had doubts about the benefits of the PBID to the Civic Center property.

“What am I [as a property owner] going to get beyond what the city provides me?” she asked.

“Higher property taxes,” cried an older man in the front row of the council chamber—resulting in a lecture from Madrid against catcalls and disrespect of speakers.

Madrid later was criticized by an animated Scott McMillan, a downtown lawyer who accused the mayor of showing disrespect to “my representative” Sterling when the mayor interrupted her during a question, saying Ewin had the floor. (See attached video.)

Bookstore owner Deena While, a one-time member of the PBID study committee, said: “The PBID has tried to solve too many problems” and gotten “too big and too expensive.”

Patrick Dean, who noted he would like to be on the council someday, said: “I’d like to see a highly democratic and transparent process. A lot of people are shaking their heads [over the PBID].”

And Marie McLaughlin, who operates the La Mesa Antique Mall in The Village, called the PBID “extremely unfair for us retailers.”  She said: “I don’t know [how] my $4,000 [annual assessment] is going to improve my bottom line.”

In other business, the council heard Police Chief Ed Aceves summarize his first quarterly operations report. (See attached PDF).

Despite a highly publicized series of October and November store robberies, Aceves said La Mesa’s crime rate in 2011—30.2 crimes per 1,000 residents—was the lowest since the 30.1 rate of 1966.

Aceves, the La Mesa native who succeeded Al Lanning as chief in October, also showed a chart indicating that of 950 county residents freed from state prison under Assembly Bill 109 as budget relief, only seven were La Mesans at their time of arrest.

But the La Mesa Police Department is monitoring 130 probationers within city limits, hoping for state budget help on supervisor staffing, Aceves said.

The council also delayed action on a staff suggestion to begin the process of raising sewer fees. Sterling suggested that be delayed until next year since residents may feel a pinch by having to pay the sewer bills twice a year with their property taxes rather than the traditional practice of billing every other month.

And by a 5-0 vote, the council adopted a 384-page “Bicycle Facilities and Alternative Transportation Plan”—made possible by a federal grant that aims to improve health, the environment and the city’s economy.  (See attached PDF.)

*Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the power washing would be monthly.

Jenna Zeledon March 04, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Deena we both know the PBID was posed to start at $225k before the Formation Committee began to meet, so as to include multiple components aside from maintenance. NOT $65k alone just for maintenance. Please clarify your statement... I think that's a fair request. Let's be honest and fairly educate one another! Also, would you please be so kind as to answer my question posed above? Happy Saturday!
P. Biddington van Harrizach III March 04, 2012 at 12:52 AM
I like the cut of your jib, STR. I meet every Thursday with an inclusive little representative group of stakeholders. Mayors, lackeys and indian chiefs, if you will. We always need more residents-at-large, and I daresay you fit the bill nicely. If you are sure you neither reside in nor own property in the Village, please stop by our next secret meeting. Our doors are occasionally open. Please keep this missive in the strictest confidence. ~P~
Deena While March 04, 2012 at 01:09 AM
When I say $65k -- I am talking about what the city council directed -- 'a mechanism in place to MAINTAIN the Streetscape Improvement Project. (I am not yelling the word 'maintain', I am emphasizing it). There was no direction to add all the extras - it was done during the first, very private Steering Committee phase, when not everyone was allowed to attend. Those numbers from the Steering Committee were suppose to be a "sample" but ended up, as you just said, being the solid starting point of the Formation Committee. As for your question about fake names -- I thought I was clear - I choose not to answer - that's why I haven't answered and no matter how many times you ask, I will not answer whether I know who they are. OK?
Komfort March 04, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Do you ever ask Ed Henning to clarify? You might start with the meeting where the commitee size was reduced. I think you were deceived.
No Bad Government March 04, 2012 at 02:32 AM
No matter how bad you are tortured Deena, don't give up the names. If you must sacrifice yourself for the good of all, then it must be done. Cut your tongue out if you must but don't give up the names! Today, it the names. Tomorrow TIL's youtube posts. God help us all!
Deena While March 04, 2012 at 03:22 AM
HaHa! I love the Patch community. Thanks for the support NBG (I think!) =D
Jenna Zeledon March 04, 2012 at 04:49 AM
I think Deena is far from being tortured :) Do you have proof of "very private" meetings? I don't think Bill did/was able to prove his case re: the Brown Act... will you be filing a complaint? Do you have dates? Do you have specific reference to details regarding the direction of City Council? Regarding your refusal to confirm/deny, do you think it's fair for one to utilize the guilty via lack of omission theory? Personally, I absolutely think you know and that's why you refuse and/or have continually ignored direct questions. It's always some screen name that comes to your defense and you rarely answer a direct question. Would you be willing to go on record as to whether you were privy to/an author of the letter that Bill (for the sake of giving it an author) said we could reference him as an author of the document? Why did you walk out of the Merchants Meeting where Lynn questioned the books? I just don't understand... if one has nothing to hide or be ashamed of, why hide or refuse to answer? Seems pretty black and white to me.
Super Terrific Response March 04, 2012 at 05:37 AM
Deena, In my original post from earlier today I ran out of space, but I wanted to mention that my mother sometimes requires the use of a wheelchair. It is on these occassions when we take her to dinner at Centifonti's or Gio's that we prefer to park on the street as near to the restaurant as possible. Having to push a wheelchair around the circular street tree planters AND navigating over the uneven pavers and sometimes cracked curbs can make for an uncomfortable trip from car to restaurant. The point I'm trying to make is that the Village streets and sidewalks must be redone in order to make for a more pleasant visit for all the customers. Members of my family have patronized Village restaurants for years. My brother swears he was one of the first customers at Mario's near the Adult Center; and one of my favorites is San Fillipo's near Date Ave. But as we are getting up to middle age (and above) we do have other options that are more hospitable to wheelchair ccess. My family loves Casa de Pico and BJ's at Grossmont Center. I also like Lake Murray Cafe and the Outback on Baltimore. Is the "Streetscape Improvement Project" you mentioned a merchant-driven project or a city-driven project? Whichever the case, is this Project expected to get underway before the PBID process is completed or after? And finally, is the city as involved in other parts of La Mesa as they are in the Village? There are certainly other parts of town deserving of attention and money. Andrew
Deena While March 04, 2012 at 06:05 AM
Love to hear your questions STR! The Streetscape Improvement Project is available on the city website to view. It's a city project. Its scope is a total re-do of street and sidewalks. It will plant trees in the sidewalk/curb and not in the street. It will have more street lights, wider sidewalks, narrow streets. The link to see this project is: http://www.cityoflamesa.com/index.aspx?NID=885 There are two concept drawings to see the project. The PBID is not paying for any of that project. The PBID was originally intended to pay for sidewalk sweeping, wiping down park benches, power washing the sidewalks. The wayward PBID ended up including $60,000 rent-a-cops $100,000 marketing $50,000 in amendities $103,000 for Administration These items put the cost way over the top, $378k. That's where we differ in the support of this PBID. The city website has a timeline for the Streetscape Improvement Project. I think it will begin in January 2013. The PBID on the other hand might not begin at the same time, since we are still arguing over what is in the shopping cart. I agree there are other parts of the city that need attention too. Since the village is viewed as a historical part of La Mesa, and because there has been no maintenance since the 1970s, it has finally made it's way up to the top of the priority list.
Deena While March 04, 2012 at 06:13 AM
Jenna, Read the emails that have been posted on Patch. City staff explains why I, Deena While, was excluded from the Steering Committee meetings. (the meetings were for an elite group, hand-selected by the city staff). As for the rest of your comments I do not feel compelled to reply.
Norman D. Ploomb March 04, 2012 at 08:29 AM
Sometimes free speech needs to be controlled if we are ever to get anything done. It is all well and good to allow people to give voice to their opinions but when they say things that sow confusion it becomes impossible to govern well. I am concerned that Patch allows people to "speak their minds" to our detriment. I find this often happens when people are allowed to shield themselves in the virtual anonymity of the Inter-net. Modern life is extremely complex. I don't know about you, but I don't have time to study all the issues. We are lucky that very smart people who DO study the issues are willing to watch over us. That's why I always wait to see who is on which side before I make important decisions. Letting people hide their names forces me to think for myself and sometimes I'm too busy for that. It's easier to know which side is right when I know who is on each side. If bloggers won't censor themselves then I call on Patch to restrict the cacophony. Ending anonymity is a good first step. This is America, not the Soviet Union. If you won't attach your name to your statements then you don't deserve the freedoms our ancestors died for.
Komfort March 04, 2012 at 01:05 PM
RULE 12: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." I cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. I go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
Scott H. Kidwell March 04, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Using pseudonyms in the writing of political opinion, or literature, has an old and rich history. Being fixated on knowing whom has said what might be said to be a sign trying to ascribe a certain preconceived motive to the comments and thus be able to dismiss them due to the source, or creating an enemies list.
No Bad Government March 04, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Norm: Really??? Free speech needs to be controlled? Last time I checked, we still live in the land of the free. Your argument is contradictory. Living in the Soviet Union means I couldn't say the things we want to say without fear of being jailed or killed whether penned name or not. They censor you there but you want to censor us here? Dissenting and questioning voices often uncover truths that would otherwise not be known. Journalists are not required to reveal their sources but you have no problem with that! Consider us all amateur journalists. Your government lies to you day and night (high speed rail, no more earmarks, pension reform, gun running, bail outs, illegal immigration etc) and you really expect us to trust them? Do you think most of your politicians do what is good for their country or state or what is good to get themselves re-elected? Local elections don't go quite to that level but none the less, they have to earn our trust and with the Mayor behind all this, there is lots to distrust. Sorry you are too busy to think for yourself. That is a shame. You can choose to believe all that is told to you without thinking for yourself or doing some of your own investigation but there is a saying " believe none of what you hear and half of what you see". FYI, I deserve the same freedoms those idiot Occupy people got except I am not tearing up property and crapping in the streets.
No Bad Government March 04, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Hey Jenna: You never mentioned whether you thought it odd for Lynn McRae to cc the Mayor, Chris G. and Jim W on her memo request to the Merchants for financials all during the time of PBID dissent. By the way, my real name is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.
Jimmy Sanders March 04, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Hey NBG! John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt? Really? That name is my real name too! Whenever I go out I can hear the people shout ...........................!
Komfort March 04, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I think "nom de plume" was making a funny, NBG.
B. Herringbone von Sazerac March 04, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Huzzah, nay, double huzzah, Mr. Ploomb! Let me stress that I speak as a total stranger. I have never met you before, Norman, but I must say we are in perfect agreement here. I only know what I read about this (PBID is it?) for which your respected civic leaders have so nobly given of themselves. It appears quite the boon. Just the shot in the arm we need. How sad that people don't know what is good for them even when it arrives fully-formed, like Botticelli's Venus, as it were. As I don't know anyone in the Village's Thursday club personally, being a stranger, I can only imagine their indignation. They've lost months - years! - relegated to backrooms. I shudder in awe when reflecting upon the sacrifices they've endured. You can hardly understand the hash this has made of our social calendars! Now they must endure the outrageous taunts of hoi polloi? I don't think the problem lies in the Inter-net. Other journals about town recognize their important gatekeeping role. Is it something in the drinking water at Patch that encourages this vulgar conceit that "everyone" should have his say? Once again, I don't know you, dear sir, nor you, me. I'm sure we could not pick each other from a lineup (as if that would ever come to pass!) Still, I see in you a kindred spirit. You recognize that rights entail responsibilities. ~B~
B. Herringbone von Sazerac March 04, 2012 at 06:01 PM
"Their"! "Their social calendars"! I curse this Inter-net! "Democratizing" indeed! Hayate! Come quickly! We must retrieve a "blog".
Jenna Zeledon March 04, 2012 at 06:40 PM
How can I find something odd when it isn't the truth? Once again, you're wrong. She did not CC any of those people... in fact, she didn't CC anyone at all. She actually forwarded her email to Jim, Art and Chris. No different, really than if she had had a conversation in passing with them to the effect of "oh by the way, I did ask for backup". Did they ever get her the documents requested? Did they even respond to her email? Maybe Deena or Laura can answer as I know they are on the Patch as bloggers and commenters.
Selina Forte March 04, 2012 at 06:43 PM
@Jenna - Just for the record, I choose to use my real name when I comment. I am not sure why I was one of the people that was singled out... Unless you have a specific issue you would like to address with me?
Selina Forte March 04, 2012 at 06:43 PM
@Jenna - Just for the record, I choose to use my real name when I comment. I am not sure why I was one of the people that was singled out... Unless you have a specific issue you would like to address with me?
No Bad Government March 04, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Jenna: I say cc, you say forward. I say tomato, you say tomahto, Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Really, Chris Gonzalez needed to be "forwarded" on this? Just like a regular conversation? Why didn't she "forward" to the rest of the council? Why only those three? Let's see, Art who hates the Merchants Assoc. Jim W. who also hates the Merchants Assoc who he used to head and Chris who is involved heavily with the PBID who the Merchants have been opposing. Common thread, all three people who were CC'd plus Lynn all support the PBID. Are you really that naive? Jenna, it is ok to be in the pro PBID camp. I am too, just not he way they are going about it. As far as whether they ever got her the documents, that is between her and the Merchants. None of my business or yours unless you are in the Merchants Association and have a dog in the fight..
No Bad Government March 04, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Norm: I humbly apologize for missing your sarcastic humor. Caught up in the moment.
Dee Leety March 04, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Well Deena, high five for you at least acknowledging that I asked you direct questions this time instead of ignoring me or pretending like I didn't ask and/or depending on other pen-name patch commentators to answer/not answer for you. However it's my opinion based on your literal refusal to even acknowledge something that leads me to believe that you do know the identities of posters such as NBG, Komfort, etc. and that you do have something to hide, or else you'd at least have answered the question about the LMVMA accounting issues. Did those emailed by Lynn ever get her the data she requested as a paying member of LMVMA? As stated and reiterated numerous times, there weren't "Secret Meetings", Deena. Wouldn't it be considered a "secret meeting" when you, Bill and Craig went on the radio and blasted fellow neighbors, the mayor, the PBID, etc.? I'm sure you three had to have met and talked about it prior... I highly doubt three people randomly showed up at the same place and time to randomly be on the same talk radio show. It almost makes me laugh thinking about it :) I'm done commenting for a while again; obviously some people don't grow up or change how they act and treat one another. Nor are my fellow La Mesans being honest and owning up to their own words via using pen names. Then again, as already said I comment you for at least responding to me even if you're pleading the 5th on my questions instead of pretending like they weren't asked.
Craig Maxwell March 04, 2012 at 09:23 PM
There were, of course, secret PBID meetings, and we know this now because we know about both those meetings to which we-the-sovereign-public were cordially not invited, and those into which we were denied entry after learning of their existence. PS--Private citizens like Deena, Craig and Bill can talk (secretly or otherwise) as often as they like. Quasi-governmental "committees" like the PBID rubber-stamp club are another matter. We choose our targets carefully. Hitting people like Art Madrid is a little like hitting the broadside of a barn door. Those who deny our marksmanship thereby incriminate themselves.
Kevin George March 06, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Jenna, I don't give a flying rip about people identifying themselves. I do know the identities of some of the pseudonyms, and some of them have much to lose by identifying themselves. You don't hear this much anymore but...........it's a free Country and Ken has the right to run his website the way he sees fit and the commenters have the right to use it in the manner which it is presented. I am always on the side of freedom.
P. Biddington van Harrizach III March 06, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Dearest Mr. George, May I confess to finding myself nonplussed by your admission that you consort with these bad sports? In fact, I must say that I am, yes, vexed. Vexed, good sir. We fail to understand the scorn with which our efforts are received. In light of your confessed ignorance, please allow me to illustrate--in language you'll understand-- what you and your friends may expect when our efforts come to fruition: http://www.tubechop.com/watch/292075 With apologies for my intemperate outburst and in gentle remonstrance, ~P~
P. Biddington van Harrizach III March 06, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Ye Gods! This machine must be sent from Hades to torment me! Please ignore the last, "link" is it?, which shall be retrieved by my gentleman forthwith. Here, sir, as clear as I can translate it into the vulgar tongue, will you find what we bestow upon you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYGCpGzFWh0 ~P~

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