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Guest commentary: La Jolla Town Council made some big strides in the past year and missed some opportunities

Former La Jolla Town Council President James Rudolph
Former La Jolla Town Council President James Rudolph writes that the organization achieved greater presence on social media and in the community during his term.
(Courtesy of James Rudolph)

Transitions are a time for reflection and a time for looking forward. With my time as president of the La Jolla Town Council at an end, I find myself in that position.

On the one hand, I’m looking back over the year at what was accomplished and how we grew. Naturally, this reflection also settles on missed opportunities and areas of improvement.

On the other hand, I’m looking prospectively at how LJTC might mature and develop as an institution.

First and foremost, LJTC had no real social media presence when I took over as president. As I stated in an earlier guest commentary, my goal was to fill the gap and ensure a real presence in the community. As of today, the Instagram page has almost 900 followers. Countless businesses have engaged with our posts and come to rely on them for information.

Our page is connected to lajolla.ca, and we have co-sponsored beach cleanups with them and others on several occasions.

On my watch, LJTC also developed a presence on nextdoor.com, which allowed us to reach more people with relevant updates.

Moreover, I wanted to encourage a more robust version of “retail politics,” so I went on behalf of LJTC to the Kiwanis pancake breakfast, the La Jolla Half Marathon and La Jolla Youth Baseball. I’m particularly proud of our association with LJYB President Scott Blumenthal, whose vision of positive outreach and apolitical public service aligns neatly with LJTC’s vision and raison d'être. We as an organization had never volunteered with or for LJYB, and now, after flipping hundreds of hamburgers and displaying a beautiful banner, we are a known entity.

There were some missed opportunities. I wish we had cultivated a better presence at the La Jolla Open Aire Market. It’s a great place to engage in glad-handing and conversations with locals.

I also wish I had had more time to organize events that dealt specifically with problems locals face every day. For example, we could have hosted an event to truly and openly discuss the pros and cons of metered parking in La Jolla. Many — if not most — merchants are opposed to the idea, and LJTC never took a public stance one way or the other. We should, at the very least, have brought together a panel of experts to discuss the topic. Being afraid of addressing seemingly intractable problems will not get us closer to a resolution. The same goes for the closure of Point La Jolla or the burgeoning problem of unlicensed and unregulated street vending.

Taking over during COVID restrictions presented some unique and unprecedented problems for a group dedicated to increasing human connections, and the challenge of restarting in-person meetings was real. But this inspired our hybrid form of meetings, in which members of the public could join either in person or virtually. There were technological challenges at the outset, to be sure, but this led to new devices being installed at the Recreation Center. The result has been an increase in participation and membership. (New trustees recently were sworn in and website/Zoom traffic has jumped.)

All of this leads naturally to the final part of the transition. Where does LJTC go from here? First and foremost, I’m not going anywhere. True, I left for several reasons, the most important of which is connected to my obligations as the founder of a new law firm in town. But our bylaws make me the past president and a member of the executive committee for one year, so I look forward to serving with our new team and our new president, Jerri Hunt. I have no doubt Jerri will increase outreach with her Hometown Heroes event and others we haven’t even imagined.

It’s been said that the major responsibility of democracy is participation. I couldn’t agree more. LJTC will mature as an organization if it harnesses the increased technological and human connections established over the past year while simultaneously remaining committed to its core values: giving people a feeling of involvement, allowing them to form associations and empowering them to freely and fully participate.

To our new trustees, I leave you with the words of William Ward: “Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than dream: work.” You now have a real opportunity to make a positive difference, and I encourage you to seize it.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as president of the La Jolla Town Council, and I’ll be forever thankful. I look forward to seeing you around town or at one of our meetings. ◆