One should be careful about taking this Lamentational editorial on its face as a sure diagnosis and blue print remedy for what supposedly ails La Mesa. Notable are the terms used to set up one opinion that La Mesa must have a strong and authoritative top leader in masterful control. We read terms like:
"...for all its charms, La Mesa does not move easily within its harness."
"...like all City Manager cities, (La Mesa) can lack the sort of decisive, collective thinking and action that seem to be generated by a more directly engaged elected class."
"...La Mesa continues to show signs that it may not have matured enough to handle the pressures and challenges it is increasingly facing."
There is some detail to explain that we somehow need a strong mayor form of government to stop the likes of, oh me and my ilk for instance, from gumming up the works of righteous progress with our petty "all you do is complain" mentality. The underlying premise is that it is only natural and right in this modern society that that we should have a strong parent-like leader to overcome the ongoing squabbles of we citizen children. Does this sound eerily similar to the recent comment of comedian Chris Rock about President Obama being the Dad of the United States? (A psychological analysis of Chris Rock, and others who exhibit a disturbing desire for themselves and others to have elected officials be obeyed without question as small children would their father or mother, is another subject for another time)
What looks like on the surface as a formula for smooth running city is more closely out of the Wilsonian progressive mold of creating a top down educated and enlightened elected ruling class that is superior to citizen rights, rule and engagement, except for that brief period at election time where we select a parent figure that will provide specific guidance for the next four years or so. It appears this writer is frustrated that the likes of myself are using the new local media sources, like LMT and LMP, to expose, discuss, slow or even stop things that just a few short years ago would likely have been completely under the public radar and breezed through the city council without so much as a whimper. Maybe to borrow from President Obama’s lexicon, we in the La Mesa Citizen Oversight Group are laying speed bumps on the road to fundamentally changing La Mesa government. If this is true, I will proudly stand up and defend the inherent rights of citizens as clarified well in the pre-amble to the State of California Ralph M. Brown act which states:
“Public commissions, boards, councils and other legislative bodies of local government agencies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. The people do not yield their sovereignty to the bodies that serve them. The people insist on remaining informed to retain control over the legislative bodies they have created.”
Of course there are challenges ahead, but we must not relinquish citizen sovereignty in the name of ease, frugality or progress. The better comment was tucked in the middle of the piece where La Mesa council member Ernie Ewin was quoted as;
"There are local communities that are finding solutions to the challenge of strengthening our business/retail/professional mixes. We need to complete an analysis of our strengths/ weaknesses/opportunities and external threats and make sure our government is helping with the process.''
Meaning, I think, that government (in the United States) is supposed to be a tool for the people to provide only what a government can provide and really no more than is minimally required and not the other way around. People, and their wealth (that's right, it their wealth and not that of the collective), should not be easily used as tools for a government entrenched elite in crafting, molding and shaping society to its vision. And, yes, the wheels of a citizen run government are supposed to turn slowly and with great effort, notwithstanding the wailing and gnashing of teeth by those who want action now! This is one of the ways to guard against abuse on any few and a tyranny by any majority.
I think there is no doubt that the majority of the city council has, in the past, been all too often capitulatory towards the office of the Mayor. Those days appear to be waning. This may mean there will be more split votes and more vigorous debates in city council chambers than has been seen over the past 20 years. We should be cheering this and not lamenting that we don’t have a local city Father or Mother telling us the way things will be!
While instituting a strong mayor form of government may streamline some government action, the down side needs to be considered too. If we move away from a mostly ceremonial head and the current 5 co-equal voting elected officials we can expect more aggressive and expensive elections dominated by outside of La Mesa money backed partisans and political party machines looking to control the single most influential elected office.
I do not see the city entering into a malaise. Rather, I see us coming out of one and into a time where many more citizens are becoming aware of the workings and dealing of all aspects of La Mesa City Government and a time where the full city council is recognizing and reasserting its true co-equal authority.