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Cooperative spirit is emerging in La Jolla

It’s an old idea being done in a new way, as leaders of La Jolla’s five community planning organizations are meeting monthly with First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner to explore ways to work together for the community’s betterment.

The five planning bodies involved are La Jolla Town Council, La Jolla Community Planning Association, Bird Rock Community Council, La Jolla Shores Association and Promote La Jolla, the community’s Business Improvement District. The heads of the five groups started meeting at rotating locales one day a month with Lightner or her staffers.

At last week’s Promote La Jolla meeting, someone even suggested adding the presidents of local service organizations to the discussions.

This newfound spirit of cooperation, say those involved, is as necessary as it is overdue.

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“I think it’s already happening,” said Rick Wildman, new president of Promote La Jolla, about the new collaborative partnership. “I don’t think it’s because of the (economic) downturn. It’s that people have decided it’s time for them to get more involved in their community.”

The cooperative effort is all about finding ways to be creative and rising to meet challenges, said Town Council president Darcy Ashley. “With the financial situation the city and country are in, we all need to find ways to work together and pool our resources.”

Ashley cited the annual Christmas parade, which takes scores of volunteers months to plan and execute, as one example. The same approach could be used to address other community needs: forming nonprofit, fundraising 501c3s or providing public services like trash collection or community beautification, she said.

Scott Peters, La Jolla’s last councilman, had met quarterly with members of the five groups. Early on, he also proposed linking them somehow within the framework of an overarching group, a proposal that never gained purchase.

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Jim Heaton, chair of La Jolla Shores Association, said he believes the new, more informal gathering of the heads of the five groups allows for interaction and cooperation while preserving the integrity and purview of each.

“There are different needs for the different communities, though we need to work closer together to protect the residences of the shores’ communities,” he said Friday.

Heaton pointed to eroding city services like pickup of coastal trash and downed palm fronds, as problem areas requiring planner collaboration.

“If we don’t work together,” he said, “I think we’ll see system reductions in services as the city looks to fix their financial malaise.”

Town Council election upcoming

At its February meeting, the La Jolla Town Council opted to spend approximately $500 to mail ballots to the group’s membership to fill several trustee positions which are opening up soon on the 18-member board.

Nine people announced their candidacy for the planning group including financial adviser John Weinstein, community activist Ann Kerr, Debby Dorsey, biochemist Sharon Wampler, Melissa Stevens, incumbent Realtor J.R. Sullivan, banker Robert Hilt, incumbent group president Darcy Ashley and Travelodge operator Egon Kafka.

Trent Bonner reported the town council currently has 459 paid members including 313 residents and 146 businesses.