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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.

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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