North Coast Current

Current Q&A: Encinitas mayoral candidates discuss new post, pot shops, housing, pensions and media

Sandy Coronilla

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For the first time in the city’s history, Encinitas residents will cast their votes to elect a mayor on Nov. 4. The five qualified candidates include independent journalist Alex Fidel, current Mayor Kristin Gaspar, writer and former City Council member Sheila Cameron, current Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz and engineer Munawer “Mike” Bawany.

Four candidates agreed to participate in a North Coast Current question-and-answer survey designed to inform voters of each candidate’s positions on important civic issues. (Bawany did not respond to the request.) Here are their unedited answers in order of response time:

Leadership philosophy. This will be the first Encinitas City Council to operate under an elected mayor. How should the mayor and council interact? In general, how do you expect the dynamic between mayor and council to change now that the mayor will be elected and not appointed?

Alex FidelAlex Fidel: I expect the mayor to represent the people much better than is now. The Republican and Democrat should get 4th and 5th place no matter what the outcome is. Everyone who is currently on council is a corporate/banker puppet, so the mayor should be tough on them for not representing the people and the planet. Someone has to fight for our rights, but we should also never rely on one person for change. We The People have to peacefully rise up and start attending city council meetings in the hundreds and let these corporate puppets know what time it is.

Kristin GasparKristin Gaspar: The mayor and the council should establish a good working relationship based on mutual respect and tolerance for differences of opinion. There has been a civil and professional tone during my last several months as appointed Mayor. This will continue should the voters grant me the privilege of being our first elected Mayor.

 

Sheila CameronSheila Cameron: A good leader leads by example. It is important to find common ground with your colleagues to reach the best decision for the citizens who live here and want to continue to enjoy their quality of life.

A leader listens, learns, directs and influences. That is the function of every Mayoral position, whether that position is a rotation position or an elected position! That leadership philosophy has been lost over the last few years as current elected officials have handed over more power to the Staff bureaucracy and you the citizens have lost representation!

We are now standing at the juncture of two pathways — do you want a Mayor who leads this City into over development and is responsive to outside Developers?

Or do you want a Mayor who is responsive to you, the citizen who lives here and cares about keeping our community character of each of our communities and our quality of life?

I’ve lived here 40 years; helped Incorporate the City; served as a former Mayor and Council member — have stayed involved with issues in every community and know how to lead.

Tony KranzTony Kranz: I don’t expect interactions to be much different. The mayor will have one vote, just like the other four council members. Anything the mayor wants to accomplish will need the support of two council members. There will need to be a collaborative attitude in order to develop policies that work best for our community.

Measure F — Medical marijuana dispensaries. What is your stance on this particular issue?

Fidel: I wholeheartedly support Measure F. Democracy works up to the point of voting peoples’ rights away. Voting No on F is voting away the rights of sick people to self-medicate. As much as I abhor Big Pharma, I’m not running a campaign to ban your CVS, so what gives other people the right to ban plant-based medicine? Mob rule shouldn’t run our society. Peoples’ basic rights should be respected even if 50%+1 say no. To oppose cannabis is anti-science: watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN documentary Weed and see how cannabinoids cause kids with epilepsy to stop having seizures, after they were let go by the medical system and told to die. Instead of punishing the good actors for the actions of a few bad seeds, let’s punish legal dispensaries for selling to minors (which would be breaking the law) in the same way we go after liquor stores and cigarette sellers. We don’t shut down all liquor stores or cigarette retailers. The only groups that No on F benefits are the drug cartels and Big Pharma. This will make our community safer and allow people who want powerful plant-based medicine instead of synthetic chemicals the freedom to do so. What Measure F does is simply force the city council to abide by the medical cannabis law passed in 1996 that has yet to be fully realized as states like Colorado already have flourishing systems that respect the needs of patients and the concerns of the community. These are not ‘profit centers,’ as the CA law states that all caregivers must file under a non-profit medical cooperative status with Sacramento. To say that patients, many of whom are disabled or have no knowledge of organic gardening, should be forced to grow their own is an offensive injustice. They cannot grow their own while hanging on to their lives, so they will end up financing the cartels, who turn around and push drugs to our schoolchildren. Prohibitionists do not rely on science or compassion for their policies, just fear (Reefer Madness, a fictional movie) as well as the perpetuation of federal funding for DEA programs and private prisons. The War on Drugs is racist, and so is the healthcare system. Medical cannabis is far cheaper than most conventional meds, allowing poorer communities relief from the burden of high healthcare costs. Vote YES on F!

Gaspar: I am against Proposition F because it will cause more problems than it purports to solve. The citizens of Del Mar and Solana Beach rejected similar ballot proposals and I believe the vast majority of Encinitas citizens also do not consider local marijuana dispensaries necessary. Medical marijuana is already readily accessible through numerous, convenient sources in North County.

Cameron: I am against having marijuana Dispensaries located here in Encinitas, which is what Proposition F advocates. It is not good for our children, our families or our Communities to have dispensaries located here. If Marijuana is needed for medical reasons, patients will have prescriptions and can use a Courier Service to deliver that product to them directly and legitimately.

Kranz: I urge a NO vote on Measure F. Compassionate use marijuana is available by delivery through coop’s to patient’s holding a valid prescription. The law is not written well and making the city the place to go to shop for weed isn’t good for our community.

Housing plan update. The city is currently in the process of creating a plan that will be put to a public vote in 2016. How should Encinitas allow affordable housing? What is your stance on density bonuses that allow developers to build higher-density neighborhoods? How does Measure A, which requires a public vote on building heights and zoning changes, fit into the mix, in your opinion?

Fidel: Encinitas should oppose any state or federal housing mandates, whether for low, middle, or high income housing. The Federal Reserve, a private banking cartel, artificially injected credit into the economy over the past decade, resulting in more supply (homes) than demand (residents). The combination of monetary inflation and lack of demand caused prices to artificially rise, but the bubble eventually burst. All these new buildings, whether mcmansions or affordable communities, are fueling this economic recession, which is set to worsen. Pretty much every single city in America is taking part in this ponzi scheme that benefits the elite banking families that own the Federal Reserve, so it is best that at least one town, Encinitas, divests out of this economic suicide, sticking it to the bankers and the developers. Measure A is a good start, but money buys elections unfortunately because too many people still need to free their minds from mental slavery, therefore A doesn’t go far enough.

Gaspar: Encinitas is in the process of updating its Housing Element which must be compliant with state law and will be designed with the benefit of extensive citizen input, so that the plan has the least potential impact on our communities. Proposition A was passed by the citizens and is local law that should be followed unless changed by the voters as required. I am currently unable to comment on density bonus matters as the City was sued on Monday for allegedly not following the law.

Cameron: The current City Council and Staff have identified 95 areas in the Communities to consider for Up Zoning and Height increases in order to meet Affordable/Low income Housing needs. This is nothing but spot zoning! Please ask to see a copy of the Housing Element Update map, because it could be the property next to you.

Increased zoning densities and increased heights of buildings only bring more Traffic, Pollution, increased Green House Gases, noise, and loss of view and light. The Density Bonus Law has allowed exploitation of our own Zoning Code with little gain in Affordable Housing. It is a law written by developers and yielding little benefit.

An alternative to this is to revive the Amnesty Program for Accessory Units to be counted instead of building more projects. The Amnesty Program needs to have incentives that encourage owners to bring their units into the Affordable Housing program rather than punishing people with expensive fees and terms. This could add hundreds of Affordable Housing opportunities to our City without the need for additional building and undermining of Proposition A — the Right to Vote Initiative.

There is no question that the 2016 Housing Element Update will be accompanied by threats that if we don’t vote for all the up zones and increased density, that we will not receive money from the State. Those threats will be BOGUS and a way to undermine the protection afforded by Prop A.

That’s an example of why you need an elected Mayor, who understands what is hidden and what is real, and whose word you can trust!

Kranz: Proposition A made it a requirement that any up zoning is voted on by the public, so the Housing Element, which is intended to meet state requirements for the city to have plans for our share of low and very-low income housing, will be put to a vote. Density bonus projects in Encinitas have impacted community character negatively and that is something I would like to see changed.

Pension system. What is your position on the state of the city’s pension system?

Fidel: It is unsustainable for current workers and future workers. Reforming it isn’t a question of fulfilling contracts, because the contracts will not be fulfilled no matter what, whether it is the pension fund going bust or the people rising up to force this city to truly reform pensions. I do not take a traditional approach to pension reform like dogmatic Republicans do. I am not a Republican nor a Democrat, I am a principled independent. (Carl) DeMaio’s 401k-style plan is not a good fix. Pensions shouldn’t be tethered to gambling on Wall St. investments at all; it should be pay in, pay out like Social Security, except for the fact that SS has been looted to pay for illegal wars of aggression and interest on the debt over the years. I am not anti-labor, however, I support private sector unions far more than public sector, due to the unsustainable path that pensions have been set on because corrupt politicians allow for public unions to have more headroom because of the ability of the government to go into debt and make promises they cannot keep — I blame politicians more than labor leaders for that reason. I am completely against police unions because they allow killer cops to remain on the force for killing unarmed black teenagers.

Gaspar: In 2011, the council was able to negotiate significant improvements in employee contributions to their own retirement plans and create a second tier in our pension system with reduced benefits for new hires. That was a good start, but we should pursue methods ensuring that the public sector wages and benefits do not continue to outpace private sector wages and benefits.

Cameron: The current Pension System of the City of Encinitas is a 3 Tier system, that is probably not going to accomplish what the current Council thought it would. When you hire new people in at a higher rate than those previously in the position — it makes little difference in the future pension results … which may take 30 years to show up. I do not think the City really wants to deal with this issue — it is the preverbal can that gets kicked down the road.

Kranz: The city now has three “tiers” of pensions as a result of contract negotiations and a statewide initiative that recently passed. CalPERS has been making adjustments to the actuarial calculations based upon more reasonable projections for returns on the investment pool, so the city has been having to pay more to make up for previous years when earnings weren’t what was projected. We are developing a policy to establish a Pension Reserve Fund in order to have money set aside for the times when CalPERS asks for even more money to cover pension obligations. This is something I support.

Local media environment. With four news outlets now based out of Encinitas (North Coast Current, Seaside Courier, Coast News and Encinitas Advocate), as well as several activist blogs, how do you rate the media coverage of the community’s civic issues? Do you see partisan bents to any of the publications? What is your philosophy on open access to media and constituents? Do you feel the current City Council is transparent?

Fidel: Compared to the national corporate media, which is completely propaganda to sell war, as Malcolm X said, causing you to love the oppressor and hate those who are being oppressed, local media is incredibly fair. I was surprised, honestly. The Commission on Presidential Debates is a private corporation that colludes with corporate media to guarantee a two-party system be imposed on the minds of millions of Americans, so I thought I would get excluded from the process like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. I have been treated very fairly with little exceptions. The Seaside Courier has been fair to me on the editorial level, even though one of their writers is extremely out of touch and the publication is owned by Jim Madaffer, who owns a consulting firm for governments, who stands to benefit by Gaspar winning (they have endorsed her). I used to be an independent journalist before running, and the cardinal rule is cui bono? Who benefits? Follow the money. It saddens me when white-owned media like the U-T supports the perpetuation of drug prohibition, which is why America has the largest incarceration rate in the world, made up disproportionally of minorities, which is why drug prohibition and private prisons are the new Jim Crow. Hunter Thompson was right when he said that objectivity is impossible — you can either be biased towards the establishment or towards the people, truth, and justice. It’s our children & grandchildren’s futures at stake, and the sooner we as journalists start working for their future, the more honest our world will be.

Gaspar: Overall, I am pleased with both the quality and quantity of media coverage in our City. Encinitas is a vibrant and diverse place, which affords readers the opportunity to seek information from a variety of sources for the latest news, happenings, and opinions around town. There are certainly partisan bents to most publications and blogs, and Encinitas publications are no different in that regard. I believe that Council members should do their best to be accessible to the media and to the public. During my first four years in office, I have maintained a policy of meeting with anyone who requests to meet with me. Lastly, I believe the current City Council has worked to be transparent — but there is always room for future improvement. I have advocated for city policies encouraging an open exchange of dialogue and ideas, while opposing closed-session meetings of the Council other than for tightly defined matters regarding personal and litigation.

Cameron: It is good so far — because all the new news outlets are competing with the long established coastal newspaper, the Coast News. You are asking questions and genuinely seem to want to know answers. Whether our results fits with your editorial board’s bias will determine how you handle the information. Absolutely! The Seaside Courier is unabashedly representing big developers in their

biased support of Kristen Gaspar and now, Alan Lerchbacker — they established that precedent early on! That is the purpose of their existence — to put people who will vote for the big developers on every Council and particularly this one in Encinitas!

So far, the Coast News, north coast Current, and Encinitas Advocate have remained fair.

The job of media is to inquire, to report without prejudice. If a media chooses to support candidates, let it be on the merits and character of those candidates and not the big money that is behind them. I think the meaning of the word Transparency has gotten lost with this Council.

Kranz: Yes, we’re transparent. Much more information is available online. Media coverage is pretty good. Partisanship, yes.

Sandy Coronilla is a San Diego freelance writer

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Current Q&A: Encinitas mayoral candidates discuss new post, pot shops, housing, pensions and media