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After 35 years in public education as a high school English teacher and university administrator, I began my second life as a freelance writer, winning San Diego Society of Professional Journalist awards for my opinion columns in the former San Diego daily North County Times and the San Diego Free Press.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Rise of the Little People

A Carlsbad Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in the land of pink-tiled roofs, the clueless King Hallmat of the Village-by-the-Sea was troubled as he sat on his throne. The Little People were at the castle gates, carrying torches and pitchforks, chanting, "Down with the king! Down with the king!" His subjects were angry because he brought to the village the slippery Sir Caresnot, the black knight of Tinsel Gridloc, the largest kingdom in the land, 1,000 furlongs to the north.

A stonemason by trade, the black knight was known for despoiling one-of-a-kind villages with identical temple squares honoring Plutus, the god of wealth. His grandest, The Grovel at Tinsel Gridloc, brought streams of carriage traffic from beyond what the eye could see.

Sir Caresnot's growing homage to Plutus rewarded him handsomely. His fortune of one billion gold coins was built atop a generous inheritance from his father, Sir Ornery of Gridloc, once sent to the dungeon for a year as punishment for lying to buyers of the carriages he sold them. The black knight had evidently inherited more than gold from his father.

Sir Caresnot rubbed his hands together and smiled at the thought of visiting the sleepy little Village By The Sea. He knew its Little People were ruled by King Hallmat the Clueless and his Dim Knights of the Rectangle, known as the happiest rulers in the land because they always agreed with one another on the answer to every question brought before them.

Sadly, as if by habit, upon every opportunity the Little People pledged their loyalty to their self-satisfied superiors.

Sir Caresnot wanted to build his temple to Plutus on land the Little People set aside for its scenic splendor. To do so he would have to woo the King and his Dim Knights, while hiding the truth from the Little People that his temple square would destroy forever the beauty of the land they loved.

The black knight knew it would be easy to gain the friendship of the village rulers. He'd simply show them how his temple would bring great wealth to the village without costing them a single gold coin.

But he also knew it would take more cunning to win over the Little People. He would have to dress wolves in sheep's clothing and send them from cottage to cottage to ask the villagers to "help save the ground on which their precious berries made of straw were grown." He'd promise they could find out more about his plan and speak up about it before he would go near their protected land.

Sir Caresnot's falsehood went unchallenged by King Hallmat and his Dim Knights. They were so smitten with his promises they didn't bother to find out how he planned to keep them.

But what everyone failed to foresee was the rising up of the Little People who, after discovering they'd been tricked, demanded that the King and his beknighted underlings allow all villagers to speak their minds for or against Sir Caresnot's devious plan.

And speak they did. The black knight was banished from the Village-by-the-Sea. He returned to Tinsel Gridloc, where he was welcomed home with open arms.  

And so it came to pass that the happiest rulers in the land of pink-tiled roofs found themselves out of work. The Little People found less jolly, but much wiser, rulers who helped them keep the beauty of their protected land the truly right way...so they could live happily ever after.
At its meeting on Tuesday, November 17, the Carlsbad City Council will be bound by a successful citizen's referendum to repeal their August 25 approval of a developer's plan to build a mega-mall on the shore of one of the city's three lagoons, or

#1. Put the plan before city voters in a Special Election in not less than 88 days, or
#2. Place it on the ballot of the 2016 General Election.    

Friday, November 6, 2015

Public Prayer Challenges Council's Credibility

Carlsbad Leaders Hear from Referendum Winners

"Okay, ladies and gentlemen, we're off to a good start," said Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall, after Councilmember Mark Packard's opening prayer spurred murmurs from the audience, one member declaring, "Separation of church and state, Dr. Packard!" That led to Dr. Packard's stern reproach from the dais, "Do not take offense when none is intended."

The closing words of Packard's prayer, "We pray for these things in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," were what stoked up the crowd. Mayor Hall, realizing his rosy greeting was premature, wisely called for a ten-minute break.

Twenty Carlsbad residents lined up to speak about the city council's receipt of the report by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters of a sufficient number of signatures on the referendum to overturn the Carlsbad city council's August 25 approval of the 85/15 Agua Hedionda South Shore Specific Plan for 85% Open Space and 15% Retail Initiative.

Only two speakers were supportive of the council's rubber stamp of the shopping center on the lagoon. Here's an edited sample of comments from Carlsbad residents who supported, and the two who opposed, the referendum for a vote by the people as promised by the initiative.

Roseanne Bentley
Gathering signatures for the referendum was one of the scariest times in my 30 years of living in Carlsbad. I was followed by Caruso employees. I was yelled at, I was afraid. Put the referendum on the 2016 ballot. Don't make the taxpayers pay for a special election and then blame us.

Vickie Syage
I've lived in Carlsbad for 24 years. I am also a very prolific Nordstrom shopper. You said you couldn't justify a half million dollars for a special election. The only beneficiary of a special election now is the developer.

Ronald Peterson
How could so many citizens want to block this outstanding project if they really studied the specifics of it? I attended your Citizens Academy. That project would create 175 acres of open space. And none of this is open to the public now and won't be in the future if we don't go forward with the project.

Linda Breen
Each of us paid for our own petitions. To raise money we organized garage sales and fundraisers. We had to listen to two lies in one sentence, "Outside interests are trying to destroy my strawberry business." Operatives from outside Carlsbad circulated fake petitions to get people to think they had already signed our referendum.

De'Ann Weimer
President of Citizens for North County
The city should spend the $500,000 for a special election on something else, like trail access now to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. (Quoting a previous speaker to the council on Innovate 78) "Without the quality of life in Carlsbad we are a very expensive place to live and we are less competitive." How will this project affect the quality of life in Carlsbad, and how much of a disadvantage will be to our competitive position in the county?

Cori Schumacher
Quoted the City Charter, approved 1/9/2008
The intent of this Charter is to allow the City Council and the voters to exercise the maximum degree of control over land use matters within the City of Carlsbad.

Fred Sandquist
President, Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation
The voters have spoken. Either suspend the plan or put it on the ballot in the 2016 General Election.

Susan Cratty
You agreed with the developer that he knows how to preserve open space the right way. But if it was the right way, a bait and switch initiative would not have been necessary. We were caught sleeping. We have been empowered by your refusal to acknowledge our concerns. We encourage you to listen to our voice because Carlsbad votes.

Kerry Siekmann 
I'm here as a resident of Carlsbad and also as an environmentalist. (She fails to mention she's also a member of the Planning Commission and voted to approve the city's General Plan Update). I have been an environmentalist for the city of Carlsbad since 2007. I support this project. I am thrilled to get an endowment for this land that we haven't been able to use. It's a mess. Something is going to be built there. And we couldn't be more lucky than to have this project, rather than a Walmart, or Target or a strip mall, because this place has been zoned commercial, so something is going to go in there. I think we should get this election done as soon as possible.

The city council meets next to address this issue on November 17. At that time they will decide whether to reject the developer's plan, hold a special election within 90 days, or put it on the 2016 General Election ballot. Word on the street is that Caruso is developing his marketing spin for the special election. We'll see what influence that has on the council's decision.

The audience reaction to the meeting's opening prayer and the failure of Mayor Hall and Councilmember Packard to understand why some were offended it may be a clue to why the Council's credibility has been questioned by their unanimous approval of a deceptive developer's attempt to bypass voters.

Dr. Packard is free to pray in any way he wishes, of course. But when he does so aloud, as a representative of the city, he needs to be aware of the diversity of those listening. He was, after all, identified as the leader of a group prayer. He did not say, "I pray for these things in the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." It may be legal to profess your faith publicly in the way he did, but it's both bad manners and even worse politics.