All posts by Catherine Blakespear

7/7/19: Mayors’ Conference Inspires, and Cardiff School’s Rebirth Begins

Summer is well underway, with the sun shining like it’s supposed to here in beautiful Encinitas!

An inspiring gathering of mayors

I recently returned from joining over 200 of our nation’s mayors at the 87th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Honolulu, where I presented on two topics. The first was the city’s innovative permit-ready “Housing for Generations” granny flat program. The mayor of Boston told me after the presentation that he loved the idea and would have his housing staff contact us for more details. This person-to-person information sharing is valuable, but I love telling interested people that literally every detail of the plan to build a “permit-ready” accessory unit can be found here on our city website

My second presentation was on a panel titled “Toward a Carbon-Free Economy,” about the San Diego region’s transportation plan that will build more transit, and result in less dependence on driving in single-occupancy vehicles, plus the city’s emerging Community Choice Energy program.

I was delighted to attend the conference with other local San Diego County mayors, including two pictured above, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina and National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. A resolution related to the ongoing Tijuana River Valley sewage catastrophe drew several mayors and staffers from our county’s southern cities to the conference.  

I have to tell you, I’m tremendously inspired by other mayors from across this diverse country. I’m an avid student of the role mayors play in governing, and I love seeing mayors acting on the values of broad, inclusive leadership.

Mayors tackle the great moral and practical issues of our time. They offer me insight into how they articulate their responsibilities, what problems that face, and how they work to inspire their communities. Seeing them embracing the spirit of action feeds my soul – honestly, it reduces me to a pool of gratitude that I’ve been chosen to represent our beloved city of Encinitas in such a profound and important role.

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy and the granddaughter of a former Boston mayor, addressed the mayoral conference during a keynote event. Her father spoke at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Honolulu back in 1963, just five months before he was assassinated.

Among many other things, she noted that “racism is still the unfinished business of the United States.” And she had a wry but true observation: “Everyone knows who the mayor is, so everyone knows who to be mad at, especially when you do the right thing!”

Thoughts on our nation’s birthday

I was back in Encinitas for our nation’s 243rd birthday on the Fourth of July. As we do at our children’s family birthday celebrations, we looked backward at where we came from as a nation, and forward to where we are going.

Our country’s founders said that each generation fights for and enlarges the meaning of freedom. I believe in that mandate and the call to push forward with progress for a better tomorrow, especially when it comes to tackling the environmental catastrophe of a warming planet and the fight for humane treatment of all humans at our southern border.

When this 10-wheel Marine Corps vehicle showed up parked outside our home the day after the Fourth of July, I thought it was a gift to the Encinitas mayor from Trump’s military parade. Alas, a few hours later our neighbor’s son fired it up to drive off, apparently having purchased it from an auction to resell. It’s somewhat amazing that our government sells these things (this one appeared in excellent condition) at public auction to be driven around our streets. Ironically, a bumper sticker on the back said, “I identify as a Prius.”

Cardiff School’s end of an era; rebirth begins

Cardiff School is currently being torn down to make way for a new school that Cardiff voters approved in the last election by supporting the Cardiff school bond. My grandpa, Milton Smith, the principal in my grandparents’ Smith Construction Company, built the 1950 school buildings 69 years ago on that campus. He said at the time, as quoted in local media, that he built the school to be the safest, state-of-the-art campus for his four children and other local families to begin their education.

I feel grateful that my grandpa was able to contribute to this community with a sturdy school that ably educated my mom and her three siblings, my own two children and thousands of other families’ kids for nearly 70 years. 

It’s hard to say goodbye to a place that is so intimately tied to my own family history. And yet, I know that change and rebirth are part of our necessary cycle and that what gets built will be a leap forward for the next generations of our children. I personally wish that we had a culture and an incentive structure where, as a society, we preserved more of our history in the ongoing reconstruction of the built environment.

With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been nice if my grandpa had incorporated more than just the school bell from the 1913 Cullen School into his 1950s school buildings, and if this new school incorporated some elements of the 1950s school into the 2019 buildings. But it seems like it’s always cheaper and easier to scrape things and start afresh – so that’s what happens. At least that original school bell will still hang in a belfry on the new campus. 

The Cardiff School District is entirely separate from the city, with the elected school board and administration accountable to Cardiff residents directly through their elections. The city is not funding, designing, overseeing or building the new school.

My family isn’t the only one with deep roots into the Cardiff School. This Encinitas Advocate story includes a current teacher, Ms. Stone, who taught my son Oliver just four years ago. Not only did she attend Cardiff School, but her grandma attended the original Cullen School! Amazing local history. If anyone wants to do a more detailed history of the Cardiff School trajectory, talking with Ms. Stone’s family would be a must. 

Make time to visit the beach this summer if you haven’t yet! It’s amazing. 

With ongoing gratitude,