You've got a problem: kids on dirt bikes shatter ear drums and nearly knock preschoolers off their trikes. Or maybe you're not exactly thrilled about plans for a trash burning plant, a big condo project or a fast-food establishment in your neighborhood.
In big cities like San Diego, mayors are so busy, your pet peeve probably won't merit a direct audience, and a letter or phone call might take days to prompt a response, probably from an assistant.
But in North County, where the largest cities are Escondido (population 104,000) and Oceanside (population 130,000), you can expect more personal service. Not only are many mayors willing to sit down for a tete-a-tete over coffee in their office or favorite breakfast spot, but some answer mail personally, and many welcome phone calls at home.
All North County city governments have fax machines, and at least one has a computer bulletin board which fields public comments.
This is a guide to getting in touch with North County mayors. For phone numbers and addresses, see the accompanying list, then let your voice be heard.
Leave a phone message at City Hall and Del Mar Mayor Jan McMillan will call you back. Write her in care of City Hall.
McMillan, who receives a salary of $300, puts in plenty of time meeting with the public at places like Del Mar Danish and Carlos and Annie's.
"Remember, we're the smallest city around," said McMillan of her 5,200-population town. "But we also have one of the most involved constituencies."
Call Mayor Marion Dodson at her home or office, where she works as a property manager, or leave a message at City Hall. She'll return your call or meet personally with you.
'I'm always surprised I don't get more calls," she said, estimating she receives about a dozen per week.
Dodson holds informal Saturday meetings with constituents at places like Solana Donut House.
Hot topics: the city's view preservation ordinance and the question of where to locate a commuter railway station.
Between meetings and various public appearances, Encinitas Mayor Pam Slater estimates she has personal contact with 30 to 50 constituents each week. For $800 a month, Slater serves as mayor and sits on several city boards.
Until mid-afternoon most days, she teaches third through fifth grades at a private Montessori school.
Despite a packed agenda, Slater tries to accommodate public input, and is thinking of holding Saturday morning sessions at local malls, where she would be available to the public.
You can set up an appointment with her through the city manager's office, write her care of City Hall, call her at home or fax your message.
Recent issues: a beach allowing dogs, noisy air blowers used by gardeners and gripes about cars and trucks with megawatt stereos.
The strangest letter he ever received said that if he didn't sign and forward a chain letter on behalf of the homeless, all kinds of evil things would happen.
"I deep-sixed it," confessed Carlsbad Mayor Bud Lewis, who receives communications about illegal migrants, the water shortage and growth management.
Lewis puts in full-time hours teaching at Carlsbad High School, but still gives the city 35 to 45 hours each week for a modest monthly salary of $1,000.
He tries to return all phone calls personally and is happy to meet with constituents. Lewis figures he averages three to eight calls a day and 20 letters.
Taped New Age music greets a caller put on hold. In the city of Oceanside, the largest in North County, it's tougher to get a powerful person on the phone.
Mayor Larry Bagley, a 10-year veteran in the $20,000-a-year job, eventually called back. He receives 80 to 90 letters a week, but answers only 25% of them. The rest are passed on to city staffers.
Bagley said constituents will often get a quicker response by calling City Manager Ron Bradley.
Bagley meets with 10 or 12 citizens a week, he said. If you drop in at City Hall unannounced, he might even squeeze you in, if he's not busy.
Unlike many North County mayors, Vista Mayor Gloria McClellan has no other job. She spends a sizeable portion of each day on the job.
Call her at home and husband Mac will take a message if she's not there. McClellan estimates that she receives 40 calls a week from constituents. She meets with constituents at City Hall.
Letters are her favorite form of communication, because she then has a piece of paper she can forward to appropriate departments. She recently received 27 in less than a month, and she answers them personally.
Along with usual modes of communication, San Marcos is the first North County city to enter the computer age. Anyone with a personal computer and a modem can go "on line" between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m., leaving messages for the mayor and council. There's also a fax machine.
Constituents not plugged in can use other routes to access Mayor Lee Thibadeau, whose salary is "$600 a month and all the coffee I can drink."