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

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.  


  1. You left out the other pro-Caruso supporter who identified herself as an "environmentalist" but who also happens to be a member of the Planning Commission and the campaign manager for one of the councilmembers. Disingenuous at best...

    1. Yes, I know I left her out. Couldn't find the spelling of her name and didn't want to make a guess. I can add that if you give me her name.

  2. Thank you for your excellent coverage of this issue!

  3. Thank you for your excellent coverage of this issue!

  4. Also wondering how Mr. Peterson can say that Caruso is going to "create 175 acres of open space". I mean I know the guy is rich, but when did he become God? All these people keep claiming that open space is only open if people are allowed to walk on it after this guy builds his mall (and supposedly some trails, maybe). Why can't open space just be open space? You know, like the open space between their ears?

  5. Suggestion for Dr. Packard. Close the prayer/invocation with...my Lord Rick Caruso. Oh wait, maybe it's Matt Hall's turn to do the prayer next time.

  6. I keep seeing people compliment Hall and Packard about how polite they are. I'd rather have rude but honest any day.

  7. See the update with Kerrie Siekmann. Thanks for pointing that out, Don

  8. My pleasure. Happy to help those seeking to spread the truth.
    Just more of the same lies, deception, and chicanery from the usual suspects, but we've come to expect that from them and are being vigilant. I wonder if 18/20 is enough of a majority for them to listen to us? Back in August $500,000 for a special election was a waste of money, but all of a sudden it is a wonderful idea to these buffoons. They're fooling nobody but themselves.

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