As the year heads toward a close, your Encinitas City Council is busy winding up several important projects.
Districting is a done deal
After three months of intense discussions about changing from citywide to district elections, the Encinitas City Council adopted a final election map last week on a 3-2 vote (see map above). Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz firmly opposed moving to district elections and abstained or voted in opposition to districting from the start. Councilmember Mark Muir didn’t support any of the 22 submitted maps, offer a map of his own before the deadline, nor suggest criteria for a map he could support.
So it fell to the other three elected officials to move the process forward over six meetings in 90 days to avoid a potential costly lawsuit. State law is written to allow jurisdictions the chance to move to district elections after receiving notice from a potential plaintiff if they complete the process within 90 days and adhere to other requirements.
As your elected mayor, I make many decisions based upon concern for the city’s budget and my commitment to a prudent use of public money. Avoiding a costly, expert-intense lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act is responsible governance. There are definitely circumstances that require battling it out in court, but this is not one of them. I believe we would not be doing our jobs serving you, the public, if we got the city embroiled in a lawsuit because we were trying to avoid electing councilmembers by district.
There are times when we may not like a law (as in this case), but we need to recognize the dominance of state law over local law and position the city to avoid unnecessary lawsuits.
In 2015, we were dealing with a lawsuit filed by the ACLU over our sign ordinance – essentially what size, height, and total square footage the city allowed campaign and other signs to occupy on private property. I asked the same question then: do we really need to be fighting a First Amendment lawsuit against the ACLU over this issue? Like every other city, let’s adopt a sign ordinance that complies with First Amendment protections and saves taxpayer money and everyone’s time.
At first, the city government appeared to feel self-righteous about its homegrown ordinance. Thankfully, we took a step back and looked at the big picture. We modified our sign ordinance, which settled that lawsuit. The same principles apply to districting; and hopefully will eventually apply to the lawsuits we’re facing over our housing element (although zoning changes require a vote of the people, making it more complicated).
There is more than one voting structure that supports the principles of democracy and good governance. District elections allow you to have your own City Council representative who represents about 15,000 Encinitans. Voters will each elect two people – their district’s city councilmember and their mayor.
Although there’s desire among some to try and undo this city process if it ever becomes possible because of legislative changes or legal challenges, I predict that once residents feel a closer connection to their own representative, they’ll oppose returning to an at-large system because they’ll feel their vote would be diluted.
In 2018, residents who live in the districts that include Cardiff (District 3, represented by Councilmember Mark Muir) and the district that includes Olivenhain (District 4, represented by Councilmember Joe Mosca) will vote in that district’s election; and all residents will vote for the mayor.
Here’s a good summary from the Coast News.
We’re finally moving forward with a Habitat for Humanity project for between two and four units of affordable housing on the northeast corner of Urania Avenue and Leucadia Boulevard (see photo above) after a 4-1 vote (Muir voting no). This remnant of city land is adjacent to a 13-home subdivision that is being built, and the construction cost of these affordable homes would benefit from moving forward at the same time.
Holding on to our property in Encinitas – by organizing our transactions as long-term leases instead of gifts or sales – positions the city better for the future. We never know what we may need the land for, and keeping it allows us to make these housing units affordable in perpetuity instead of having them escalate to fair market value homes after 55 years. Here’s the Coast News story.
Last week I was on a panel at a Community Choice Energy Summit in Santa Clara entitled The Next Generation of CCAs. Participating in these types of forums is exciting and rewarding because it gives me the opportunity to understand the complexities and nuances associated with moving Encinitas toward a 100% renewable energy future.
Our energy landscape was described as being similar to the telecom industry, which has evolved from single landline telephones with a central operator fielding requests, to the hand-held wireless devices we have now. Interim stages included deregulation, long-distance telephone charges based on per-minute use, wired infrastructure moving to wireless, and increased competition. Energy policy and implementation is very active and contested right now, with the future landscape remains unclear.
One immediate effect of the conference was to inspire me to request at our water board meeting that the director return to the board with ideas that would incentivize the use and implementation of gray water systems in more Encinitas homes. Local utilities, including local water agencies, give us more control over what incentives we have in our city. We could do more in the gray water area, I believe.
Public housing meeting at Community Center December 16
Given the importance of updating the city’s housing plan, the ongoing housing lawsuits and the recent changes in state housing laws that go into effect on January 1, I’ve cancelled our City Council meeting on December 13th and instead scheduled a single-item, “Housing Meeting” on Saturday, December 16th from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Encinitas Senior and Community Center. It will be a joint meeting of the Encinitas City Council and the ad-hoc housing task force.
In a less formal, round-table format similar to that used for our ad-hoc meetings, we’ll review every site in the city that is vacant or under-utilized. The inclusion of these sites in housing elements is a new requirement under state law. We’ll also hear a presentation on the changes in state law and how they affect us specifically. Please join us!
More interesting Encinitas items
And a time for gratitude
This Thanksgiving week, I give thanks for the embracing, engaged community that we all form together. In 1789, George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving observance in the newly formed United States of America. It is one of the first holidays we celebrated as a free and independent nation.
I love our city from the bottom of my heart, and I’m so thankful that you have entrusted me to be your mayor. Thanksgiving is a time for reflection, and a special day for gratitude, to count our blessings and renew our commitment to giving back.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the proclamation that I’ll be delivering (but didn’t write) for “Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve” at the San Dieguito United Methodist Church:
“We give thanks for the engaged Americans who serve their communities and for the brave men and women who protect our freedoms. We give thanks for the chance to live in a country founded on the belief that all of us are created equal, even as we are reminded that securing these freedoms and opportunities for all our people is an unfinished task. We must reflect on all we have been afforded while continuing the work of ensuring no one is left out or left behind because of who they are or where they come from.
For generations, our nation’s progress has been carried forward by those who act on the obligations we have to one another. On this day, we embrace the belief that every individual, even those we disagree with, is worthy of compassion and care. As we gather in the company of our friends, families, and communities — just as the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag did centuries ago — let us strive to lift up others, promote tolerance and inclusiveness, and give thanks for the joy and love that surround all of us.”
May you and your family have a wonderful, community-rich Thanksgiving!
In ongoing gratitude,