EDITORIAL: Muir on the right side of Encinitas council vote

North Coast Current

What qualifies someone to be appointed to the Encinitas City Council? Two or three years living in the city with little public footprint outside a brief stint on the Parks and Recreation Commission. The one sitting council member to question this? Mark Muir.

As a troika of City Council members — Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz and Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath — voted to appoint resident Joe Mosca out of 13 applicants to a vacant seat on the dais Jan. 11, Muir stood out as the one member willing to stand outside the majority in the name of community experience and continuity.

Muir’s logical motion to appoint Tony Brandenburg — a politically active member of the community for decades who received nearly 11,000 votes for council himself in November — was quietly stopped as the rest of the council pushed for Mosca, despite some of their own questions about Mosca’s temperament and a potential conflict of interest.

Brandenburg and Mosca draw a sharp contrast in community experience.

Brandenburg, a retired judge and an Encinitas resident for more than 50 years, has extensive community experience, including seats on the Olivenhain Town Council, Encinitas Planning Commission and Encinitas Union School District Board of Trustees.

Mosca served two years on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. The number of years he has lived in Encinitas has been the subject of debate. Some critics and news reports put the number of years at two or nearly three. Mosca himself corrected Muir on Jan. 11, saying “a few years.”

Brandenburg served as a judge for nearly two decades in the San Diego Municipal and Superior Courts, and has also served as chief judge of the Intertribal Court of Southern California, which resolves disputes in a culturally sensitive process among participating tribes. His work in that effort earned him Eastern Connecticut University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award and an honorary degree, according to a university profile.

“Tony, you mentioned in your campaign deep community roots. By God, I’ve got ’em,” Brandenburg told the council, nodding to Tony Kranz.

The North Coast Current keeps an open mind as Mosca joins the council. As a resident here, he has just as much right to seek office as anyone, whether he has lived here for two years or 20.

So the question, then, isn’t his length of time in the city. The question is whether he has a significant grasp of the community’s issues and whether he has the proper temperament for office.

That remains unclear.

The fact that Mosca was elected twice to the City Council of Sierra Madre, near Los Angeles, is not an automatic qualifier for City Council in Encinitas. Process should not trump substance.

On Jan. 11, Kranz asked Mosca about a potential conflict of interest as an employee of San Diego Gas & Electric at a time when the council mulls the idea of pursuing community choice energy, which would offer more choices in providers than the just the main utility.

Mosca’s response: “We’re all employed. We all have jobs.”

Blakespear, following up on questioning by Muir, asked Mosca about “playing well with others,” in reference to Sierra Madre City Council meeting videos circulated by critics claiming they show he lacks the proper temperament for office.

Mosca’s response: “My approach in terms of negative politics, I’ve always tried to go above, rise above.”

Both responses, in the Current’s opinion, are at best boilerplate, as was his beginning statement to the council: “I’m passionate about our wonderful community.”

Mosca may well make a fine City Council member — and there is optimism that he will — but the Current must question how a few years of Encinitas residency, which encompasses work on one commission, qualifies him for appointment without the vetting of a campaign where voters can weigh such issues for themselves.

Ultimately, the winner in this non-election is Councilman Mark Muir, who was willing to go against his colleagues and put forth a choice, Tony Brandenburg, with a clear track record of experience to back him up — in Encinitas.

Editorials solely represent the opinions of North Coast Current ownership. The Current welcomes letters to the editor and longer commentaries sharing opposing points of view.