Two-for-One Special on Mediators

It was business as usual during the first 30 minutes of the meeting for Greater Golden Hill’s Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) on August 18th. Back-and-forth squabbling over the purchase of 28 state-of-the-art trashcans with dog-bag dispensers nearly sent the entire meeting straight to the landfill.

“I don’t see any need for [trashcans] in the first place,” said MAD committee member Bill Hilsdorf. "A piggy-piggy person is a piggy-piggy person."

Fellow MAD committee member John Kroll had other concerns. He wanted reassurance from MAD program manager Alia Kanani that the board’s comments on the trashcans would be considered and not just tossed to the wayside.

“I wouldn’t ask for your comments if I didn’t want to hear them,” responded Kanani.

The program manager even agreed to accept individual emails from committee members, and not just from chair David Skillman. (“In this case I’d be willing to accept comments on this issue from the individual members,” said Kanani.)

The bickering did serve one purpose: it gave mediation specialists Barbara Filner and Robin Seigle, from the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC), a front-row seat to the difficulties with communication between the Greater Golden Hill CDC and MAD oversight committee.

A few months prior, members from the MAD oversight — scratch that — advisory committee, along with members from the Greater Golden Hill community, begged the city council to bring in a mediation team to help resolve the conflict. The city council concurred and councilmember Toni Atkins’s office asked Filner and Seigle to attend the Greater Golden Hill’s MAD meeting to see if the relations between the two community groups could be repaired.

Not all MAD members thought mediation was necessary.

“What is the conflict?” asked Hilsdorf. “I’m part of this, and I thought it was getting better. Now, how much is this going to cost us?”

Apparently, councilmember Atkins's office got a good deal at the local mediator market, a two-for-one reduced rate.

“We charge $300 an hour for each mediation specialist, though in this case we agreed to charge $250 for two mediators, for up to 20 hours,” said mediator Seigle.

The money will come from the city’s Economic Development Division.

“That’s all great, but I sit here once a month for nothing,” responded MAD member Hilsdorf.

“Yes, but you volunteered for this,” responded NCRC’s Barbara Filner.

Mediation will start on September 3rd when members of the MAD committee meet with Seigle. The Greater Golden Hill CDC will discuss the issue during this Thursday’s upcoming board meeting at 6:30pm at the Moose Lodge, located at 1648 30th Street. Meetings are open to the public.

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I've been trying to get trash cans for GH for years. I've called local TV networks and had them do an interview...I even put out one of my own trash cans for public use, but some grouch stole it. My street is littered with waste from the nearby Jack in the Box. We've decide to take pics and write to that bobble head guy Jack about sponsering trash cans for our block.. open to other suggestions...?

thanks for the update - and did someone really say this: A piggy-piggy person is a piggy-piggy person wow

The MAD Oversight Committee has been presented with a policy by the CDC which states that they are not to communicate directly. This is the directive from the CDC: "All communication from the Oversight Committee must be directed to the Oversight Chair and the chair will forward to the CDC/MAD Program Manager."

Oddly enough, some things require additional thought. Trash cans require someone to empty them. And please note that Mr. Hilsdorf was nominated to the MAD Committee by a CDC Board member. What a tangled web these CDCs weave.

I'm all in favor of mediation...but not in governmental functions.

Come on folks, we've allegedly got something called democracy. This system of government, you may recall from high school civics class, is NOT about agreeing with everyone and trying to be everyone's friend.

As a matter of fact, it's about DISAGREEMENTS and how they are openly discussed, debated, and finally voted on. There is supposed to be dissent.

Instead, here in San Diego, we seem to rely on something called "consensus". This is a crock, and highly un-American.

Consensus means either that a vocal minority bullies the majority into getting its way...or it means that anyone who dares voice opposition to a proposal gets steamrollered. In neither case does the issue get fully discussed, debated, and aired out in advance of a vote. Instead the honchos meet behind closed doors and make sweetheart arrangements so everyone can appear to be friendly and in agreement.

This is the root of so many of our recent fiascos in San Diego. Instead of having an honest debate about the pros and cons of, for example, building a ballpark for a billionaire, the honchos made the decision behind closed doors based on a flawed consensus, and went out and sold it to everyone as a wonderful idea. No debate. No discussion of who would actually pay for the deal. No provisions for making sure the city wouldn't get ripped-off by John Moores and his clever lawyers.

No, the issues between MAD and CDC are NOT a result of personality conflicts, but an honest attempt by those who disagree to air their points of view before policy gets made.

So while the mediators are, I'm sure, well intentioned, they are not helping the democratic process. Rather they are going to stiffle the democratic process by insisting that everyone "get along".

As to the CDC staffers arrogantly refusing communications with the members of the MAD...it's inexcusable. It's their JOB to take the heat, whether it is polite is irrelevant.

I see another snow job coming, where those who object to proposed policies are frozen out of the process so the privilaged staffers and insiders can get back to running things behind closed doors without the pesky public getting involved.

I urge the individuals involved to reject this "mediation" and continue doing what they are doing now...vocally objecting to plans they disagree with in public.

Mediation is just another way to stiffle open debate. It ought to be resisted as yet another ploy by the insiders to shut out the voice of the general public.



"I sit here once a month for nothing,” responded MAD member Hilsdorf.

“Yes, but you volunteered for this,” responded NCRC’s Barbara Filner.

If that is the type of response that this mediator will continue to provide, what is the point? It is a ridiculous response: the complaint is not about having to "sit" there: it's about being prohibited from serving the purpose of "sitting" there. If the mediator can't even understand that simple and obvious element of complaint, she might as well drop out of this now. Or maybe because Atkins and the Economic Development department brought her in and are paying her, she isn't really neutral.

Our elected committee is supposed to control every decision about how our assessment money is spent. Every taxpayer assessment dollar that is spent should be spent on something that the community asked the committee to spend it on, after polling on what the community wants. If we don't want garbage cans, we aren't forced to have garbage cans. Our committee is our community voice, and, yes, the committee members are volunteers. The CDC are paid flacks who instigated the assessment district formation, knowing that they could help themselves to 20% off the top. The CDC views the property owners' assessment money as as the CDC's personal honey pot, and neither consults the community nor allows the committeee any input on what it will be spent on. The big role that excites the CDC, like it did for their good friend Nancy Graham, ex-CCDC head, is to bestow taxpayer money on whomever the CDC chooses, for contracts; this power to hand out our assessment money cultivates the CDC empire and establishes leverage in the circles in which the CDC hopes to be a big player. CDC gets millions of other dollars, but moving into this little game of taking half a million from the property owners is something they don't have to work for year after year: they now automatically get access to our money, and can play contract maker and power broker, no matter how pitifully wasteful and unnecessary.

The cdc are paid flacks? What is a flack? Most (if not all) are volunteers working very hard to do something good for there neighborhood. They are cool. It takes a lot of time and effort. It is thankless work. These people get to make decisions because they have taken the time to do all the work and are informed. They have a solid understanding of what needs to be done. They obviously invite your input. They are not professional politicians nor do they want to be. Mistakes will be made. They seem to be forthright when they make one. Show some class. Help.

You are very wrong: the CDC has always consisted of money-hungry self-righteous people who run around claiming that they live to improve the quality of your life. They invite no input that conflicts with their goal of total control and secrecy. They know where to go to get their hands on public money. That's all they do. They pay themselves and their minions salaries and bennies out of the taxpayer money they get. Sure, some of them volunteered to do what it took to lasso in half a mill of taxpayer money for perpetuity. Boy, that took a lot of self-sacrifice. Their biggest expertise is getting money. Look at their newsletter: they hold fundraisers for themselves, not for the community. Were you one of the attendees of their summer-long S$125-per-meal dinners? Do your research and dig up all of their grant money applications and financial records, from every nook and corner of the federal, state, and local government. It has long been their dream to get their hands on money that they don't have to work for by writing grant propsals year after year; maybe you haven't been here long enough to know their history. It isn't pretty.

I repeat, nobody is taking money home with them. It did take a lot of self sacrifice to get that money for the community. It sounds like you have some pet project that hasn't been funded or you were against the MAD (as I was and am) and are now just being an obstructionist. The money is there. Do something good with it. In my understanding, because we pay that small tax, the city gives us back matching funds. Sounds like a good deal to me. When I was younger my mother would make me put X dollars into my college fund and she would match it. I complained then but the sense of it dawned on me when I was hit with my first bill for textbooks. You may have opinions about what to do with the MAD money but there is a forum for that. That does not mean you will always get your way, nor do the paranoid personal attacks help.

Your understanding is pretty flawed. Do your reseach, for goodness sake. You are really sadly misinformed, deluded, or confused, dude. There are no matching funds! This is a special assessment added to your property bill, to be used to provide "special and proportional benefit to each property" above and beyond what is provided by the city. As required by State Constitutional law. Dog poop bags provide no special benefit to any property. Garbage cans provide no special benefit. And the Economic Development department takes a 4% cut, right from your assessment, so I guess the mediation costs are being paid by you, me, and 3999 other property owners. And there are NO matching funds! Where on earth would you get such a propagandistic idea? Maybe the CDC?


Barbara Houlton, a member of the MAD committee, was one of the main proponents of Mediation. The purpose is to improve communication and promote cooperation, not to stifle any opinions.

South Park,

"I sit here once a month for nothing,” responded MAD member Hilsdorf.

“Yes, but you volunteered for this,” responded NCRC’s Barbara Filner.

is a drastic misquote.

Bill said "I sit here once a month for free,” when asking how much mediation would cost and why it wasn't free. Barbara didn't answer, Robin did and her full answer was "Yes, but you are a volunteer, I am a paid consultant."


Thanks for your comments and support. SouthPark is correct about there being no matching funds. You were correct on your other statements. No-one on the CDC board is paid and if improvements to the community bring them any benefits they are equally shared by all residents and business owners in the community.

One of the main misunderstandings is that the CDC staff is responsible for everything that goes on in the neighborhood from code compliance to crime issues. People get angry when they call the CDC about a sign going up that is to large or a neighbors property getting run down. They blame the CDC. The staff and board try to route that information to the proper agencies but cannot enforce results on most of these issues. Just like with prejudice, people get angry at what they don't understand.

I understand that it is not a dollar for dollar matching fund. The city is paying into the assessment for the properties that are city owned and within the district boundaries. In addition, several other grant opportunities are available for our neighborhood because of the MAD. In other words, state and private agencies are more apt to provide funding for infrastructure when there is a mechanism for maintaining it. Got it... dude? About the Garbage containers providing no special benefit: Have you noticed the city has drastically reduced the number of public garbage containers and the frequency with which they are serviced? It is vile. I said to one CDC staffer: "Why are there the administration fees? Why aren't volunteers doing all that?" She said "Good question! We'll see you down here tomorrow and get you started!" Well that shut me right up! Again, I'm all for a spirited debate on what to spend the money on. Attend meetings. Respect one another. Take part in a civil discussion. Help or get out of the way.

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