Malaise in La Mesa? Chris Lavin Essay Faults Chamber, Merchants, Leadership

Editor says: “La Mesa may still be the Jewel of the Hills, but to remain that way it needs a strategy, not just a motto.”

Is La Mesa falling short of its quaint-charm potential, mired in a leadership “miasma”? 

In an 1,800-word essay titled “Agenda for a Second Century,” La Mesa Today editor Chris Lavin suggests this and other afflictions.

“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?

Things I Learned February 08, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Komfort February 08, 2013 at 08:46 PM
Craig Maxwell February 09, 2013 at 04:45 PM
Though Lavin writes as if matters of personal "style" and "substantive issues" are separate categories, history shows that this distinction all but disappears at the broad intersection of personal character and public policy. For years, La Mesans have been reminded of this undeniable truth by the dishonorable conduct--personal and public--of their leading elected official: Mayor Art Madrid. How to fix it?--I don't know. Without term limits, politicians and other pension sucking parasites tend to dig-in like ticks. But, one thing's for sure, the job would be a lot easier with an honest and interested Fourth Estate--something La Mesa hasn't had in years. Take Lavin himself. I once told him all the gory details of Art's most egregious escapades on the Boulevard; specifically, the way he'd threatened the livelihoods of those who refused to play his way. His response? "Oh," he said, rolling his eyes and brushing away my concerns with a dismissive, world-weary wave of his hand, "those are just things politicians say." "Just things politicians say"?! Had Lavin forgotten the way Madrid and the city attorney had once very publicly threatened a resident with legal action for speaking out on a matter of public safety-- for exercising his First Amendment right? Not likely. "Just things politicians say"? On the contrary, this was but one example of the execrable things politicians like Madrid do when not under the eye of honest and interested investigative journalists.
No Bad Government February 10, 2013 at 03:39 AM
Since Chris doesn't know how to do real investigative journalism, looks like he has resorted to supposition blogging himself. There is so much BS in his editorial without any substantiations, it might just as well been a fiction piece. He got one thing right, the City needs vision and leadership but it has nothing to do with the Chamber or the Merchants Assoc. It all starts with the Mayor and Council and 18 years of Madrid and too many consecutive terms for the others has led us to where we are today. It is refreshing though to see the rest of the council finally standing up to the tyrant Mayor. Two more years and we get released from the shackles that bind us.
Scott H. Kidwell February 14, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Interesting that the Mayor who say he wants collaboration refuses now to attend La Mesa Chamber events. And as far as the "city's desire" goes, just what or who is "The City?" The City is not, in an of itself, a thinking entity. The City is simply a collection of people. The City is not previous Mayors, this Mayor or even the next Mayor. Most people would agree that there are some few things or services that are more effective through government. The fallacy here is that there continues to be proposed an underlying supposition that only a top down authoritarian leadership by government should mold and shape the city into some mythical utopia where equality and conformity of outcome or circumstance is a legislated edict and an individual person or business' version of a pursuit of happiness takes a back seat. Maybe the question to be asked is, "Will city government be a top down directing master of the people or a facilitating servant for the people?"


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