(Editor’s note: This is one of a series of profiles on all candidates for Encinitas City Council.)
ENCINITAS — As the race for seats on City Council enters its final weeks, both Tony Brandenburg and Rachelle Collier hope to occupy a seat on the dais. The November election ballot will feature three sitting council members and six challengers vying for three seats.
Brandenburg, chief judge of the Intertribal Court of Southern California, is an Olivenhain resident. He said his motivation to run for City Council is to bring balance to a divided city government. “The council needs balance,” he said. “There’s a lot of divisiveness.” Brandenburg said that individually the current council members are “fine” but that “collectively they’re a train wreck.” He said he has the skills to bring people together.
Brandenburg said his platform can be summarized as “roots, resume and reputation.” He is a longtime member of the Olivenhain Town Council and has lived in the county for more than 50 years. He claims he has an excellent reputation that is uncompromised. “I don’t owe anyone,” he said alluding to special interest contributions made to other candidates.
Brandenburg said the overarching issue in the campaign is the need for the council to represent the best interests of the city. “The key issue is the council coming together,” he said. “After that, everything will fall into place.”
The candidate warned of tough fiscal times ahead and agreed with Collier’s call for a forensic, third-party audit of the city’s books. “We have to do everything we can to look at our finances,” he said. “Are we really that secure?” he asked. Brandenburg said he is unimpressed with the city’s reserve of approximately $10.2 million. “Do you know what $11 million will get you in this economy?” he asked.
He took a conciliatory tone when asked about his position on the Hall property park. “I think they (the issues) can be worked out to the benefit of the entire city,” he said. He also called for a harder look at personnel performance.
Brandenburg said he is not part of a slate of candidates even though his name appears on a flier from the Encinitas Hometown Alliance along with incumbent Maggie Houlihan and Collier and on yard signs from the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association along with Doug Long and incumbent Jerome Stocks. “I guess you could think of it like, ‘Gee, it looks like everyone wants me,’” he joked.
Collier is no stranger to local issues. The longtime Leucadia resident has been a board member of the Leucadia Town Council since 2001 and its president since 2006. She is also the secretary of the Leucadia 101 MainStreet Association. Collier said the motivation for her candidacy came over time watching the citizens’ needs and requests ignored. “I think we need change,” she said. “And I think we can do it better.”
Collier cited the municipal smoking ban on beaches and the city’s newly formed environmental committee as examples of City Council dragging its feet. “Even though large numbers of people came to the council to ask for the smoking ban, it still took three years to get it passed,” she said. “It took so long to form an environmental committee after the Blue Ribbon Environmental Committee recommended a permanent group in its 2002 report.” “I think we should really be listening to our residents. They have a lot of talent and expertise that could make the city an even better place.”
Collier said she supports development that fits the character of the community rather than trying to fit the community into the development. “The general plan has guidelines,” she said, “and we should follow them for each development.” Specifically, Collier said the state’s density bonus law — an incentive created to build affordable housing stock each time a developer seeks an increase in zoning density — did not benefit the city in many instances.
“A lot of times, we are actually loosing affordable housing,” she said. Applicants seeking to increase density thresholds set by the city’s general plan often agree to build up to two so-called affordable housing units in exchange for the increased density.
Instead of building units, some of which are never actually erected, Collier said she supports a so-called in-lieu fee structure that would allow developers to pay a set amount rather than build an additional unit.
Collier favors a Hall property park with less than five dedicated sports fields. “We need to respect the neighbors and the character of the neighborhood,” she said. “That site is not conducive to a sports park.”
Instead of continuing the stalemate over the construction of the park, Collier called for action. “We need to get the park built,” she said. “Everyone needs to work together in a way that values the city as a whole without undermining the community character.”