On September 10, 2015, I received a developer's glossy mailer, urging me not to sign a petition to vote on his City Council-approved plan to build a shopping mall next to the city's Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The five beaming faces of Carlsbad's mayor and city council appeared above the headline: DON'T SIGN THE PETITION. A handy Signature Withdrawal Request card, addressed to City Hall, was attached, in case I'd already signed it. That was the day I decided not one of those elected officials deserved my vote in the next election.
Unfortunately, there are only two open seats on the November 8 ballot. The incumbents needing replacement this year are Keith Blackburn and Lorraine Wood. Check out their campaign websites here: Blackburn; Wood. You'll find the two say nothing about the need to regain the trust of the community.
Wood says she is, "dedicated to supporting the Village and the Village Master Plan because this special place is truly the heart of the community."
After taking credit for supporting it, Blackburn praises the Desalination Project for "assuming responsibility as the Agua Hedionda Lagoon’s steward," despite his attempt to surrender its stewardship to an L.A. real estate billionaire.
Wood and Blackburn are apparently satisfied with business as usual at City Hall, neither addressing the challenging issues facing the city on its way to build-out.
The four challengers are Ann Tanner, Cori Schumacher, Bill Fowler and Brandon Rowley.
Carlsbadians get to vote for two of the six. Incumbents benefit from at-large elections, with the most name recognition and number of previous supporters. Challengers are likely to split the votes of the disgruntled.
The September surprise in this election is Melanie Burkholder's withdrawal from the race on September 28, too late for her name to be removed from the ballot. She's the only candidate to list her party affiliation as "Republican" on the form she filed for this non-partisan office.
Blackburn and Wood report $100 payments from their campaigns for membership in the San Diego County GOP. Wood added an additional $360 for Carlsbad Republican Women Federated. Its satellite club, "Happy Hour Politics," was launched by Burkholder in 2014.
Conspiracy theorists might say Burkholder's candidacy was intended to benefit the two incumbents from the start, by drawing votes away from the four other challengers.
On October 12, two weeks after she had already dropped out of the race, the Oside News carried an Op-Ed Editorial announcing the San Diego County Gun Owners PAC endorsement of Burkholder. In a close race, the number of votes mistakenly cast for her could decide the election.
I'll be voting for Tanner and Schumacher (no relation to current Councilmember Michael Schumacher). I made my decision based on what I've learned about them in print, social media, streamed video of City Council meetings, and their campaign platforms. Click on their names below for links to their websites.
Ann Tanner, elected to the Carlsbad Unified School District Board of Trustees in 2010, served as president in 2014. During her four years on the board she had to address the divisive issues of balancing budgets, coping with funding cuts, and seeking consensus within the divergent views of her constituents.
I was impressed by Tanner's experience as an elected official and the comprehensiveness and specific priorities in her platform.
1. Require fiscal discipline, balanced budgets and prudent reserves. Deal with the city's $450 million unfunded pension liability by beginning now to fund pensions at 100 percent.
2. Develop support for entrepreneurs, small businesses and emerging technologies, making clean, high tech and research/development businesses a priority.
3. Restore trust and accountability in city government by giving all constituents equal access, providing explanations of all city council votes, and shining a light on campaign contributors' specific agendas.
4. Seek public opinion from all, not just "those who matter," about what to do when the land occupied by the Encina Power Plant is vacated, preferring it to be zoned Open Space for all to enjoy.
5. Return the 48-acre site near the lagoon to TR (Tourist Recreation) zoning, allowing green space for country trails, birding, lookout points, and picnic areas.
6. Reduce building height limit in Village/Barrio Plan back to 35 feet. Make the village walkable and bikeable.
Cori Schumacher, a charismatic leader in the campaign that stopped a developer from polluting a pristine landscape surrounding a city lagoon, she impressed me with her speeches about what was wrong with the developer's project. While the issue drew passionate feelings from both sides, Schumacher relied on facts, not emotions, to make her case.
As does Tanner, Schumacher goes beyond generalizations in describing her priorities.
1. Stop the Council's reliance on the seasonal and unpredictable tourism and hospitality industry. Instead, attract and retain the talent and businesses of the over $250 billion global clean tech industry.
2. Give voters, not developers, control over land use matters.
3. Amend the city's Growth Management Plan to define what amount of growth per 3-5 years is acceptable to decrease the impact of simultaneous, large scale developments.
4. Develop more creative and active methods of engaging residents, listening to them, rather than developers and real estate investors, to make decisions for our community.
5. Restore confidence in the competency and integrity of local government, with more openness, transparency and accountability.
6. Support a transition in Carlsbad to 100% renewable energy by 2035 by allowing residents more choices of energy providers through Community Choice Energy (e.g. See here for Q&A link for Sonoma Clean Power).
Bill Fowler says his reason for running is to stand up to a bully, the current City Council, promising, "I am ready to lead our great small city into a future where we protect our life style, protect our environment, keep our streets safe and have a City Council that listens to our citizens."
Those are excellent goals, but his platform and public comments are aimed mostly at attacking the Council, falling short of the vision of city growth and development described by Tanner and Schumacher.
Brandon Rowley, a 23 year-old recent graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo and San Diego Zoo employee, says he's running for office to "energize and empower young adults to become actively engaged in local government…and bring merit to the idea that younger voters matter in politics."
That's a worthy goal, especially in a city with a history of electing officials of a certain age only. Although Rowley's leadership experience falls short of my top two candidates, I hope he continues to be engaged in local politics. Both his resume and platform are impressive.
Business as usual is no longer acceptable in Carlsbad politics. Ann Tanner and Cori Schumacher have the experience, integrity and talent to begin replacing the elected officials who've been ignoring the best interests of their constituents.