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Mayor, Councilman Ewin Play Hardball Over Lost Softball in Testy Meeting

Pair were at odds on a variety of issues, including Art Madrid’s Fair Trade Town declaration.

A decade ago, a La Mesa Senior Softball League team won a national tournament in Louisiana and made a triumphant return—presenting a plaque and softball to Mayor Art Madrid.

On Tuesday, Councilman Ernie Ewin called on Madrid to produce the souvenirs, since he said the team is hoping to use them in applying for exhibit space at the San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park.

“Oh, the baseball,” Madrid said.

That issue—first brought up at the Nov. 13 council meeting—was one of several points of contention between Ewin and Madrid at a meeting that lasted a little more than an hour.

When Ewin asked Madrid if he’d found the plaque and ball, Madrid said no.

Ewin said the group may have access to a backup plaque and baseball from the San Diego Senior Games Association.

“Currently it’s in the process of being provided to the family of a deceased player,” Ewin said. “If they can procure that, that would help them in terms of their Hall of Champions application.”

Then began a minutes-long back-and-forth about the ball and council policies:

Ewin: “I think that it’s important, and I don’t want to be rude or inappropriate, but if any of us have the chance to receive something on behalf of the city, it belongs to the city. And I think there comes a custodianship assigned to that. If there’s anything else, or any other way you can check again, because I think this is important to the families to keep this as a memorial.

Madrid: “Well, Mr. Ewin, your comments are slightly askew. Let me just suggest that that picture that you showed at the last meeting, that presentation of the glove and the ball was made to the entire council. I have no need to go ahead and hoard that personally.  All of those plaques (points to the wall) are presented to us individually or collectively. I do not know what happened to the glove or the ball that afternoon, that night, or the day after. So I contend that if I wanted to have a ball or have it autographed, I would go out and buy one.”

Ewin: “You’re missing the point.”

Madrid: “No, I’m not missing the point. The allegation is that I have the plaque.”

Ewin: “No, the allegation is not allegation. It’s the fact that it was given to you, and we need a procedure, which accounts for things that are given to the city, through any one of us, including you, so that these things don’t get lost.”

Madrid: “Well, I think we’re dealing in semantics. It was presented to me, in front of the council, as mayor, and everything goes right into the conference room, and it was left there. So end of discussion from my perspective. But I’m glad that you were able to find a backstop.”

The National Senior Games were held in Baton Rouge, noted Lawrence Blankenship, a manager and historian of the La Mesa Senior Softball League.

(The year was 2001, according to the National Senior Games Association.)

Blankenship told Patch on Wednesday night: “It was a one-time shot down in Louisiana” and not worth a Hall of Champions exhibit.

“I would not endorse it personally, because I don’t thing it’s that big a thing,” he said of the Baton Rouge victory. “And I think Art Madrid would probably feel the same way.”

Blankenship, who turns 89 in December and is the oldest player in the league, couldn’t recall when the plaque-and-ball presentation was made, but said: “It was a goodwill gesture that the city won down there. It was kind of a publicity thing. But I don’t think it was that big a game, though.”

He said “anything that would bring glory to La Mesa” is fine, but didn’t consider the 2001 title worth much, noting a player whose six titles were more worthy of recognition.

Blankenship’s theory is that Ewin is a friend of former senior player Jim Campbell, “and Jim Campbell might be the one pushing [the Hall of Champions] exhibit.” 

But Campbell caused some hard feelings with the senior softball league, Blankenship said in a phone interview.

“He’s done nothing for senior softball,” Blankenship said.

Asked for further comment on Campbell and details of the Hall of Champions exhibit, Ewin said via email Wednesday night: “More to take place and be confirmed. At this point no one knows where the plaque with a signed ball was given to the city via the mayor is. As I indicated, there are some other options to be completed and secured before anything moves forward to the next step—which I am not driving.”

Earlier in the meeting, Madrid made a report on the National League of Cities Conference Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Boston, which Madrid will attend.

At the Nov. 13 meeting, the discussion centered on Madrid’s declaration of La Mesa as a “Fair Trade Town.” That commendation, while within Madrid’s legal authority, sparked a debate on an individual’s (in this case Madrid’s) declarative power as it relates to being a representative of the city.

That theme continued Tuesday as Ewin said that since the council did not have time to review Madrid’s report before he left town, and perhaps give input or direction to him as the city’s voting representative at the conference, “that if there are any other resolutions that come up that your credentials allow you to vote on, you should track how you vote on behalf of the city and report back to us.”

Madrid agreed and went on to discuss his intentions to vote on the issue of “fracking,” a method of extracting natural gas or oil from the earth.

Madrid said that he as a member of the EENR (Energy, Environment, Natural Resources) subcommittee at the conference, he would like to see regulations put in to limit the environmental degradation of this process.

“Whether it’s accurate or not, or whether it’s a public relations ploy, we are projecting that we will be energy independent in the next few years,” Madrid said. “And if you look at the price of gasoline, I think that’s exactly what we should shoot for. But I think that in the course of addressing that issue of becoming independent, that we don’t destroy the environment to the degree that we end up saying, ‘what was the value of that?’”

Ewin then cut Madrid off, saying: “I trust that when you are talking about we, you mean we collectively, as the council.”

“No, I mean ‘we’ as a society,” Madrid replied.

“Well, then you need to talk to your council,” Ewin responded.

In other action, the council:

  • Voted unanimously to ratify design review board reports making way for the interior renovations of Drew Hyundai (8850 Grossmont Blvd.) and Jack In the Box (5141 Jackson Drive)
  • Voted unanimously to approve an MOU between the City of La Mesa and the La Mesa Police Officers’ Association.
  • Voted unanimously to approve a plan to conduct an 800-respondent community survey about city services. The cost of the survey is $42,328. With only $30,000 budgeted for the survey in FY 2012-13, $12,500 will have to be appropriated from unallocated General Funds balance.
  • And heard Supervisor Ron Roberts make a presentation about the county’s new Emergency Mobile App. The app provides real time updates and news on emergency situations that take place around the county, as well as provide tips on evacuation plans and emergency kit preparation.
Donna Murico December 01, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Some people looking for any little thing to gripe about Art Madrid, is what I hear. A ten-year-old softball trophy, really? A fair trade declaration that forces nobody to do anything? And who on earth thinks fracking should be engaged in without ensuring it won't harm communities --except the people who expect to profit off it? Now, it that's the sole purpose of the travel and we're paying for it, I'll get mad too, but that's not what's been written.
Craig Maxwell December 01, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Quite right, Pat. Nor does he really care about nature. Witness, for example, his bandwagon criticisms of things like "fracking" when, at the same time, he and other "progressives" are doing unprecedented damage to the wilderness--burying it under wind-turbine and solar farms!--at a record setting pace. What he does care about is being allied with whatever is politically ascendant/fashionable. In the Eighties it was conservatism, and staunch "Reagan Republican" Art was right there. But the winds have shifted. Now it's Obama, the most left-wing president in American history, and where is Art? You guessed it.
Kevin George December 01, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Is that what you hear Donna? The point is the Mayors underhanded back door deals, not Fair Trade, fracking, or whatever. Did you keep track of the fair Trade debacle? Citizens came forward and voiced there opinions, the matter was discussed ad nauseum in two Council meetings. The matter was voted down 3-2 by the Council. So the Mayor takes it upon himself to go personally to the organization and subvert the will of the Council and the people and submit a document as " citizen Madrid. Then the organization changed there requirements to accept what was provided by the mayor. Not to mention the fact that the Mayor constantly encourages the Citizens to come forward and contribute. They did and the Mayor decided to do what he damned well pleased. Does that seem like a nice clean, above board and transparent act by the Mayor? As far as travel expenses, here's some hard data from the LMCOG website. http://lamesacitizenoversightgroup.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/fy11-12-travel-exp-year-ending-june.pdf http://lamesacitizenoversightgroup.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/fy10-11-travel-exp.pdf http://lamesacitizenoversightgroup.wordpress.com/about-us/
Craig Maxwell December 01, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Donna, Maybe if what he'd done were a little "closer to home"; maybe if, for example, you were one of those on La Mesa Boulevard whose business had been either threatened or actually harmed by the mayor, you'd be a little less critical of those who "gripe."
No Bad Government December 01, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Donna, Donna, Donna Why are you missing the bigger picture here? A Fair Trade declaration that only occurred because the Mayor "told Fair Trade they could officially declare themselves official" versus just thanking them for their efforts. That was a purposeful statement. Fair Trade forces no one to do anything. Exactly! So why do they need to declare La Mesa an Official Fair Trade Town!!!!!! Can't you see the underlying agenda here from this group? With regard to fracking, what does La Mesa care about fracking. That an issue affecting the areas producing oil and natural gas. Not our fight. Are we supposed to care about and have a position on every little environmental and social issue in every state and every part of the world? Do we want to take up a position on every cause in every other state that has nothing to do with us? This is government out of control and not sticking to what they were elected for. Art Madrid was not elected to vote on fracking in Texas!!!!! Does the Mayor need to go to every conference or maybe go every other year? Why does he attend more than any other Mayor in the region? Newsflash: I am more concerned about the drunk Mayor passed out in his own puke on the city sidewalk than voting on frickin fracking.

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