MAD: Advisory or Oversight Committee?

The acronym for Greater Golden Hill Maintenance Assessment District, MAD, could be used as a lesson in irony. The monthly meeting, inside the Balboa Park Clubhouse on June 16th, was yet again full of wild disorder and anger from both the MAD board and frustrated residents in attendance.

MAD members say they are an Oversight Committee; elected to oversee the functions of the CDC, as was originally promised to Greater Golden Hill's voters. Some on the committee claim to have been silenced by, in the words of a community resident, the "unyielding dictatorship" the CDC has assumed. Critics point to the CDC's hiring of a project manager without the MAD board's input as an example.

"The CDC is marginalizing the role of the committee, so that they can control the money," says John Kroll, MAD board member, "for example budgeting $1000 a month for an additional office for a new staff member. This is a classic example of empire building and is a battle for control of the neighborhood. Is the neighborhood controlled by the CDC, an unelected private-public group with close ties to the city's development arm? Or is it under the control of an elected group of neighborhood residents?"

The two opposing views have forced the city to get involved. Deputy director for San Diego's economic development division, Scott Kessler, spoke to board members in an attempt to clarify the role of the MAD board, though only seemed to worsen matters by referring to the committee as an advisory body to the CDC.

"You mean Oversight Committee right?" Said one board member.

"Advisory and Oversight mean the same thing to us," responded Kessler.

Many in the community believe this is further evidence that both the city and the CDC only wish to limit the role of the MAD board. "The CDC was intended to have a limited role as the conduit through which money was channeled. Now the city wants the committee (MAD) to be no more than "advisory" and subject to decisions made by the CDC," says Kroll.

After nearly 45 minutes of addressing the board's questions, with little resolution, Kessler was interrupted and the meeting was adjourned. No other items on the agenda for Greater Golden Hill's Maintenance Assessment District were discussed.

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Thanks for this story: it says it all. Mr. Kessler was evasive, dishonest, unbelievable, and refused to answer any question to which he had no ready lie. In the latter case, he kept repeating, "I don't understand the question. I don't understand the question." As he shrank further and further into the wall behind him, he became more and more defensive and ridiculous. The last thing he threw out was an accusation that "some committee member" who was at the Pacific Beach MAD meeting that went down in flames last week told him personally that their goal was to destroy the Golden Hill MAD. Aha! Proof that this committee is not REALLY being disenfranchised, but WANTS to be disenfranchised! But when someone from the crowd asked Kessler to say who, and expose the scoundrel, pointing out that he was making a serious allegation, he smirked "I'd rather not say." This is pretty pathetic for someone who is supposed to be a trusted City employee (and oddly, Kessler volunteered that he had been under an ethics violation investigation, but never said he'd been cleared). [cont]

[cont] So, well, what are the facts about this accusation from the Deputy Director of the Economic Development division (and, surprise, the former President of ...the Golden Hill CDC, though he didn't mention that at the meeting!)? OK, here we go: the only person from the Golden Hill committee who was at the PB MAD flame-out was Golden Hill CDC plant on the GH oversight Committee, Ben Nicholls, CDC/Kessler loyalist (in addition to being the loser PB MAD puppet master and executive director). Mr. Nicholls' goal is to destroy democracy and to use his beloved power to spend other peoples' tax dollars, cuz that's all he knows how to do. His statement at the Golden Hill meeting was that he just wants to spend our tax money: "spend the money!!" He has no concern whether the committee he is on has the autonomy that is legally its right. Advice to the City: hire smarter operators in the future. Nicholls and Kessler are just lame. [cont]

[cont] Then this was good: Two CDC members who were positioned in the back of the room stood up and read (yes, read! they are that obvious and that incompetent) fawning, adoring, obsequious statements about how much they love and need their CDC and their assessment. Nice. Then two other CDC plants took turns saying things that show they don't have the vaguest idea of what an assessment district is, what ours is or should be, and who properly benefits. One chick was bussed in from the Kessler mini-kingdom-for-hire, El Cajon Business Improvement District, to proclaim the bounties that could be experienced from being assessed. Uh, we're not a business district assessment: Sorry - back to El Cajon Blvd, girl. Then a crazy Golden Hill business owner started screaming, "clean up the town! ... There are leaves in my gutter! I'm having a house fair and people are coming and we've spent a lot of money advertising and you promised you'd clean the leaves!" Ugh. City, Kessler: that didn't go over the way you must have envisioned. Should have had rehearsal on that one, and definitely recast the actress. By the way, lady, I know where your business is, and those aren't LEAVES, they are flowers, yellow flowers. The fall profusely, every second of the day, and won't stop till they are ready to stop. They will be all over your house fair guests, in their hair, eyes, nose, and mouth. Get over it. You are now known as the "leave no leaf behind" lady. [cont]

[last chapter] Ah. Truth and lies. But: the good news: the City posted the CDC's budget on the Council docket today, so that Council can rubber stamp it on June 23 (be there!). (See Item-202; see page 12 of http://docs.sandiego.gov/councildockets/dkt2008/dkt20080623.pdf and part 2 of the back-up materials.) Guess what? In the new 08/09 budget, CDC is budgeting a whopping, humongous $338,364/year for powerwashing sidewalks and clock maintenance and for unspecified "equipment and infrastructure." Since we know that assessments can't be used to repair or replace streets and sidewalks, any guesses as to where that money is going to blow? Oh, and the budget for all this in 07/08 was only $45,500. What a giant leap! Why such a huge increase? Are they buying a fleet of powerwashing hummers? How did they get all that money? Oh, oh, oh, I see: they didn't spend the collected taxes in 07/08, they just TOOK them. Why? They didn't have the right to spend them, because the City didn't sign a contract allowing them to take and spend them until April of 2008. So, what's the right thing to do here, for no work performed, but charged for? Give it back for 07/08: that's what the law says can be done. Give it back or credit it and take none next year! Law? Who cares about laws in San Diego? Hey, PB people: how did you get Faulconer to pull your MAD off the docket and bury it forever? It was just like ours, and we are stiffed.

"Reader" readers, writers and editors:

1st– This article is not balanced news. Lengthy quotes from community member, John Kroll, who's been angry about the very idea of a Maintenance Assessment District for years, were not balanced by quotes from community members who worked for years to get the MAD established for the benefit of Greater Golden Hill. To make matters worse, his statement, as usual, are incorrect (to be diplomatic). Isn't it the responsibility of the media to check facts and present balanced articles – or was this a misplaced & misnamed editorial or opinion piece?

2nd– The comment by BlueIsland (who is ??? and related to the community how? and affected by the MAD how? and gets or makes up his/her "information" where?) contains many additional incorrect statements and insults as well. FYI, some of the most vocal dissenters own income property, but do not live in GH. Just so I avoid being anonymous, I've put in countless volunteer hours, working side by side with many other community members, since 1974 to help make Greater Golden Hill an even nicer place to live. I, too, own income property so my annual assessment, and that of many other MAD supporters, is significantly larger than that of many of the disrupters/dissenters–none of whom have been in the large cadre of volunteers that I've grown acquainted with over these many years.

3rd– From this one-sided article and the tone of the BlueIsland comment, rational readers can tell why MAD meeting are sometimes rancorous (maddeningly so). A small number of people try to force their will on others by being so disruptive that business cannot be carried on. Readers, please visit the GGHCDC web site regularly for the truth about the Greater Golden Hill Maintenance Assessment District: http://www.goldenhillcdc.org.

Thank you for showing this interest in our community. The real issue isn't control, of course; the issue is the money. Of the $116,000 NOT being carried forward to next year, only $1000. was spent for services. Nobody knows where the rest went. Details are not provided. Even more serious is the question: Can the services promised in the ballot be provided for the assessment? No background on how those numbers were determined is available. This question has never been answered. Although the meeting was all about control, the money and the services are the bottom line. The budget for next year will be presented Monday at 2:00 at the San Diego City Council. I hope you can be there!

"Just so I avoid being anonymous, I've put in countless volunteer hours,"

That's the kind of absurd reasoning that is so objected to in the community by those who only wish for total honesty, transparency, and proper process. The CDC has schemed only to access a new source of easy money in this time of diminishing state and federal grant dollars, to which CDC had grown so accustomed. You are one of the main ringleaders and are still calling the shots and pushing the malleable young people you install to do what you want. Thanks for coming out.

You couldn't have revealed yourself better. And you do know me: We volunteered to do many similar things for OUR (not just YOUR) community over the years, going way back. Unfortunately, the CDC's record of disregard for process, and the CDC's willingness to use its 501(c)(3) status further the self-interest of its small group of members, has always limited its membership to a group not unlike yourself. I'm sure that the sidewalks in front of your property will be powerwashed and powerwashed until you can eat pizza right off of them without fear of a single germ. But out in zone 2, the residential areas that get little but contribute the most so that your business frontage can be spit-shined, I will clean my own sidewalks, like I've always done.

You used your personal relationship with a City official to get him to push your little money-making scheme through. But it isn't going to be a cake walk. You will have to keep anwering and keep answering questions, until you get honest. Pat yourself on the back over that.

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