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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.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Carlsbad's Bogus State of the City Video

Carlsbad's elected officials like to describe their city as a special place, where scenic beauty mirrors civic harmony. Unlike other city leaders, there’s no need for our Mayor to summarize, in a public address, the city’s achievements and challenges the previous year, identify opportunities and threats in the years ahead, and outline the titular city leader’s plans to address them.

In North County’s Camelot, a 15-minute video, rolled out at a pricey Chamber of Commerce dutch treat luncheon, is designed to show there’s simply not a more congenial spot than right here in our Village by the Sea.

This year’s State of the City Luncheon will be held at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa on August 18. You may reserve a seat at the table now for $59, or pay $99 at the door. If you are a Chamber member you merit a more modest $69 late fee. Members may also claim a table for ten for $625, no late fee required.

The Chamber’s website says the event is co-hosted by the city and that you can join the city Council and Chamber business leaders to get a “progress report on current and future city programs and projects.”

You won’t find any mention of the luncheon on the city website. The event is evidently only a Chamber fundraiser and yearly opportunity for Council incumbents to scout for campaign donors. One of the five sponsors of the 2013 event was Caruso Affiliated, the L.A. developer’s firm that won the Council’s unanimous endorsement of an unsuccessful campaign to bring a mega-mall to the South Shore of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

What you will find on the city’s website is an invitation to attend the public viewing of the video, free of charge, at the Dove library, ironically scheduled for the evening of the day of the solar eclipse, August 21.

Unlike the Chamber event, there’s no promise Council members will attend the viewing. The Ruby G. Schulman Auditorium has a seating capacity of only 215. You are invited to R.S.V.P., but there’s no offer of a seat reservation. I’d say get there early.

If you miss those two opportunities, you will be able to watch the video at home after its release on the city website.

If the content of this year’s video is anything like the feel-good versions of the previous three years, you won’t find any information in it that has not been posted in more detail in January on the city website.

Here’s my pie chart analysis of the content of last year’s video.


More than 10 minutes of the 15-minute production depicts the beauty of the city, chronicles the history of growth management, and describes the six City Council goals for the year. All of that, absent the hyperbole, could be found on the city website eight months earlier.

Two minutes are given to local businesses and their executives, who take turns praising city leaders.

The environment and city services get less than two minutes.

Less than a minute is given to tourism numbers.

Measure A gets only 48 seconds of air time, featuring each council member, with the exception of Mayor Matt Hall, putting a positive spin on the outcome, despite their unanimous opposition to the Measure. In an extraordinary show of chutzpah, given his battle to prevent it, Councilmember Keith Blackburn excitedly boasts, “We had a tremendous turnout!”

There is too much self-satisfaction, too little introspection in Carlsbad’s yearly State of the City videos. The parade of beautiful natural settings, happy residents, and elected officials boasting of their own accomplishments, suggests the video is designed for a different audience. Maybe it should be titled, “Why Carlsbad? A Travel Guide for Arizona Emigrants!”

In the 2010 election Mayor Matt Hall was reelected with 46% of the vote. Keith Blackburn had 41%. There were two other candidates. Had there been a runoff for that at-large seat, it’s likely Carlsbad would have had a different Mayor over the last seven years, maybe a Mayor who would not have to hide behind a Chamber of Commerce luncheon video to deliver his state of the city report.

The 2018 election by district should include the requirement of a mayoral runoff election in the event no candidate gets a majority of the vote.

Carlsbad has a registered voter population of over 90,000. To help them decide who to vote for they deserve to get more than a yearly State of the City puff piece.