Is La Mesa falling short of its quaint-charm potential, mired in a leadership “miasma”?
“It is fair to say that, for all its charms, La Mesa does not move easily within its harness,” Lavin writes. “If La Mesa Village is this city’s symbolic heart and core, it stands as a testament to this fractious nature. The Village Merchants Association is a small, dedicated band of entrepreneurs who carry the weight for a majority of business owners whose engagement in civic affairs largely stop at their store’s front doors.”
Lavin also faults the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce, saying “its accomplishments in assisting local business or generating a common voice for the small business owner frankly runs the gamut from A to B.”
And Lavin—a former features editor at U-T San Diego who manages PR for La Jolla Country Day School—muses that the city manager form of government adds to the malaise.
He says the Jewel of the Hills’ paid management is “highly professional and efficient,” but says “it can lack the sort of decisive, collective thinking and action that seem to be generated by a more directly engaged elected class.”
Lavin quoted Mayor Art Madrid, whom he calls the city’s “titular leader,” as saying: “The city’s desire, over many years, to work collaboratively with [the chamber and village merchants] organizations has fallen on deaf ears and continues to receive false promises.”
Noting the conclusion of La Mesa’s centennial year, Lavin writes: “At this key time in its history, La Mesa seems stuck in a leadership miasma. Its political class is small and can look reactive instead of visionary. Nobody responds more quickly to complaints than this set of elected officials, but wait for a clear expression of the city’s direction and ambitions and you might be waiting a long while.”
What should be done then? Who needs to step up, and how?