For months, the rift between Mayor Art Madrid and councilmember Ernie Ewin has become more evident – and more public. At countless meetings in the second half of 2012 and on into the new year, the two men have publicly disagreed, and in some cases, been outright contentious, on a variety of issues.
From a lost softball and plaque, to opinions on "fracking," to responsibilities and requirements for city-related travel, Madrid and Ewin have lobbed shots back and forth across the dias.
Their spat reached a head at the last city council meeting on Feb. 12, when Madrid read aloud a prepared statement (see below) claiming Ewin lied on multiple occations, and made a motion to table three "council-initiated" agenda items that were brought forth by Ewin. The motion was defeated 3-2, with councilmembers Ewin, Arapostathis, and Alessio voting no.
Ewin responded to a Patch query for reaction on Thursday evening, saying via email: "So seems to me that Art is always entitled to his own opinions, and the 'entire City Council' has spoken by their subsequent votes on items – some even 5-0 – on topics easily from 12/11/12."
"I 'join' a great group of citizens and elected officials who have been called out publicly by Art," he said. "I've seen it from my council days during 1985-90 and 2002-13. When he does it to me, I just consider the source. When done to members of the public, I see it as bullying. This current behavior/banter is no more than Art calling himself out by example. Interesting leadership style!"
The following is Madrid's statement, verbatim, provided to Patch by the Mayor himself:
"My discussion points are all germane to the appointment process and related issues. Frankly, I debated about making these comments, however, after much thought I've concluded that this candid public discussion is long overdue.
There comes a time in everyone's life when one is forced to speak out. For me that time is now!
The specific resolution regarding council member appointments to outside boards or committees states that those appointments will be made at our first council meeting in January of each year. At the January 8, 2013 council meeting, nominations of individual council members for outside boards were made, discussed and voted on. Each nomination recommended was unanimously approved, 5-0.
Two weeks later, a council initiated item was placed on the January 22 agenda by Mr. Ewin, calling for the removal of the mayor from the two boards he was appointed by the council on January 8, with no explanation, reason or good cause given.
He just wants the mayor removed.
Because I couldn't attend the meeting on the 22nd, to participate in those discussions, I specifically requested a continuance of those items. A request for continuance of any agenda item by any council member is a normal practice and always honored.
I informed the city manager, city attorney and city clerk of my desire to have these items continued. I informed the vice mayor that he would be chairing the meeting on the 22nd, and requested that all council-initiated items be continued to the following meeting where I would be present.
I spoke with Mr. Ewin, regarding his council initiated items and asked to have them continued, and he agreed.
On Monday, January 28, 2013, while reviewing the recorded proceedings of the 22nd meeting for the purposes of evaluating the interviews of candidates applying for city boards and commissions, I was stunned to see the specific items I requested to be continued were under full discussion by Mr. Ewin, and he concluded with a motion to remove the mayor as the primary member of the Wastewater/JPS board "because he couldn't serve as the alternate."
Again, no reason, explanation or due cause given to justify the mayor's removal from that board; if Mr. Ewin can't serve as the alternate, he should resign so we can appointment his replacement. As a matter of fact, we don't need an alternate.
I want to address Mr. Ewin's goal to overturn the mayor's appointments made on January 8. There is something deeply troubling when a councilmember will do what ever he deems necessary to overturn a council decision that he doesn't like or agree with.
There is something deeply troubling when a councilmember uses these council chambers as his bully pulpit to reward or punish anyone he deems deserving of his praise or wrath.
There is something deeply troubling when a councilmember thinks he is above the law and attempts to impose his views, values and biases on all city council issues or city related matters.
There is something deeply troubling when a councilmember challenges the entire city council's authority, responsibility or wisdom for making any decision he doesn't agree with.
And there is something especially troubling when a councilmember openly lies at a public meeting and thinks nothing about it.
Mr. Ewin lied when he cast his vote on January 8, in support of the mayor's appointment to two boards. Mr. Ewin lied when he agreed to continue his January 22nd council initiated items and then proceeded with their full discussion.
Mr. Ewin lied in his response to Ms. Sterling's question that he didn't know he was being appointed to the losan (sic) board, thus his reason for rejecting his alternate designation on the Wastewater/JPA committee.
And Mr. Ewin lied when he continued his public inquisition during two separate council meetings, demanding that the mayor produce a softball and plaque because they were to be used for the induction of a senior softball championship team at the San Diego Hall of Champions.
I made a specific trip to the Hall of Champion's facility, and no one there knew anything about a pending induction. I subsequently spoke with one of the administrators and after he stopped laughing, he assured me that no such event was ever discussed, pending and doubted that it would even be considered. Another example of political gamesmanship by Mr. Ewin.
These are but a few of Mr. Ewin's ongoing efforts to embarrass, humiliate or debase anyone he considers an enemy.
The practice of distraction is an old political ploy used by those who are continually trying to manipulate the operations of any organization, including a city, to avoid dealing with the real issues at hand or challenges before them.
The city and council have more important issues to deal with in 2013 than to be mired in political games or personal vendettas.
As I mentioned in my annual audit report on January 8, 2013, the number of major issues and challenges this council and city prevailed during 2012 was because we focused on running the city and didn't allow ourselves to be distracted by irrelevant or personal agenda issues.
We need to be mindful that of the real important issues on the council and city's plate this year, for example:
• A full economic recovery is nowhere in sight and we continue to have a protracted impact on this city which needs monitoring.
• The sequestering of the national budget, if not resolved by March 1st could lead to another recession, with its attendant problems which will certainly impact our city.
• For many national retailers, this is the time of year when they evaluate which of their stores they will keep open or close because of profitability. A recent Wall Street survey showed that eight national retailers have announced projected store closures. Four of these eight have stores in La Mesa: Best Buy, Office Depot, Radio Shack and Barnes & Nobel; collectively these four chains plan on closing 1,690 of their stores. While none of the closure locations have been identified, we can all remember the 2007 recession that saw the closure of five national brand stores here in La Mesa creating a loss of sales tax and jobs.
• We are currently facing an unknown fine by another agency, which can be in the 6 or 7-figure range.
• The settlement of a lawsuit involving a valuable city parcel is still unresolved and is keeping us from going forward with its development that would generate additional property tax dollars.
• The 50-year lease at the Grossmont shopping center is about to expire and its future direction is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, that needs to be on our radar screen.
• Plans to upgrade Collier Park are in the development stage and will require focus in order to move forward in a positive direction.
• We have just acquired a nearly three-acre parcel of valuable land at the corner of Waite Drive and Murray Hill. The development of this parcel as a park has been a long held goal of councilmember Sterling, but we will need significant financial and staff resources to move ahead with this project.
• We are moving ahead with improvements to our Vista La Mesa park facility which has serious flooding issues each time it rains, and we are also making the necessary park improvements at that location.
• Our 50-year-old community swimming pool is need of serious and major repair work. We just completed a costly repair of the leaking pipes, and our next challenge is its overall repair and the source of funding.
These are but a few examples and reasons why we must stay focused on these pending issues and stop the constant deceitful attempts to be distracted and create issues where none exist or are warranted.
There were no illegal actions taken or policy violations regarding the councilmember appointments of January 8, which justify the review or rescinding the mayor's appointment to the two outside boards.
And there has been no abuse, malfeasances or violations of travel approved budgeted resources by any councilmember or the mayor while on city related business, which requires travel policy amendments. Therefore I move that the three remaining council initiated items on the agenda be tabled."