(Editor’s note: Encinitas Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks asked for the opportunity to address some of the assertions made in Andrew Audet’s column, “We’ve got the Encinitas Silver Anniversary Blues,” which ran in the June 3 edition of The Coast News. We have printed Mr. Stocks’ comments as they were provided to us.)
Audet writes: “We got 44 acres, We got an old vacant lot we can’t use, We got these 44 acres, We got this $46 million dollar contaminated lot we can’t use, We ain’t got no park or no band for our 25th birthday, We got us the Encinitas Silver Anniversary Blues.” As Encinitas approaches its 25th birthday, residents aren’t listening to the city’s song, painting a rosy financial picture, and instead are singing The Encinitas Silver Anniversary Blues.
My response: The Encinitas Community Park property can and will be used, and will cost $21 million, not $46 million to purchase. The payments on the loan do not add to your property tax bill. They’re just a line item expense out of the city general fund. Mr. Audet is probably adding the interest and principle times the 30-year payment schedule to get to the misleading number. Furthermore, the city is going out for bids to construct Phase One of the park before the end of this month.
Audet writes: The city’s finances are judged by what can be seen. What residents see is a 44-acre vacant lot that we can’t use, bought in 2001 costing nearly $46 million dollars with total interest and fees. In 2008 it was reported the park would cost another $36 million to build and $500,000 to operate.
My response: Mr. Audet again repeats false claims regarding the park. Furthermore, the city’s budget should be based upon the audited results of our balanced annual budget, not the status of any one project.
Audet writes: That year, the city only had $9 million for construction and last week, the city said it has $172,000 to operate the park in late 2012. If finances are great, why hasn’t the park been built? If finances are good, why is the operating budget going backward? The park cleared all hurdles and could have been built two years ago. Mayor Bond, Deputy Mayor Stocks and the council promised us Phase One and have delivered Phase None.
My response: This statement singles out Bond and I in a ridiculous manner, and I can’t figure out any logic in his assumption regarding the operation of the park. The number was logically reduced because the park would not be operational for the entire fiscal year. Additionally, the city pays about the same $500,000 to operate the Community Center, so hanging that number out without reference is, again, misleading.
Audet writes: It looks like Bond, Stocks and the council spent all our money. The city finance department says they have money but the council’s actions say otherwise. Stocks is trying to sell the parks naming rights. Some are saying maybe Stocks can sell the naming rights to the new library to pay for the shoddy HVAC system and to the future Olivenhain fire station residents want because the city can’t deliver timely services. Councilwoman Teresa Barth said the skate park and dog park need sponsors, and Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar is talking with a group called “Patrons of Encinitas Parks.” If the city didn’t have the money to complete the park when they bought it, the residents should have been told.
My response: Again, this statement singles out Bond and I in a ridiculous manner and makes ludicrous assumptions regarding the naming rights. It’s the same policy the city has for our library and Community Center, as well as placing names on park benches. It’s not because the city is broke.
Audet writes: After spending $46 million with nothing to show for it, the council seems to be saying they need a sugar daddy and a financial bailout to fund the park. Some fear everything in Encinitas is for sale.
My response: This is another reference to the $46 million, which is misleading and incorrect. Was the price of your house the purchase price, or the addition of all your payments over the 30-year mortgage? Encinitas won’t have spent $46 million for another 20 years as we haven’t yet sent in 30 years worth of payments.
Audet writes: Stocks recently suggested auctioning off the “Surfing Madonna” to whoever raises the most money. Self-reliant taxpayers who want control of their own park are asking, “where’s our money, where’s our park, who’s our daddy?” What’s next, the Hall Property park bake sale?
My response: This singles me out for a unanimous City Council consensus decision.
Audet writes: The Silver Anniversary Celebration Committee presented a budget of $5,750. Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan said, “the Silver Anniversary only comes around once.” Residents are concerned there’s no money to pay a local band. She suggested the committee work to stay within budget and asked council for a contingency increase of $1,750, if needed, saying the 25th anniversary “needs to be as special as our history.”
In denying the $1,750, Bond said, “staying within the budget is appropriate.” Stocks said, “give us the bare essentials” and Gaspar asked, “why are we paying for a band?” saying the committee should seek volunteers.
Houlihan thought the city should support residents and pay local musicians. Gaspar thought local musicians should support government and play for free. Is it the role of government to serve the people, or should the people serve the government? All five council members supported working with volunteer groups. The penny pinching of the council is notable. A few years ago Stocks and the council increased pensions and raised city salaries.
My response: Houlihan and Bond voted the same way on pension increases, so why are they not credited? There was not a plan put forth by Houlihan or Barth (or, for that matter, by Mr. Audet) at the meeting or since to show why adding $1,750 to the committee recommended budget was the correct amount to add.
Audet writes: In 2008, lacking confidence in Stocks and former Mayor Dan Dalager to represent the city before the Coastal Commission, the council paid a lobbyist $25,000 to lobby for the very same park the city now can’t afford to build.
My response: This is another incorrect statement. Dan Dalager testified successfully before the Coastal Commission. I was there. He repeats the incorrect assertion regarding building the park.
Audet writes: More recently the council hired a new city manager for close to a quarter million dollars and gave an outgoing city manager an extra $8,300.
My response: This is an irrational connection between things not related. The new manager is to be paid $210,000 per year, not a quarter million.
Audet writes: For many, $1,750 for a local band seems modest, 30 minutes of the high priced lobbyist’s time or a day-and-half of the extra pay that Stocks, Bond and Gaspar approved for the outgoing manager. It seems, in Encinitas, there is taxpayer money for special interests, but little money for taxpayers.
My response: Again, there was not a plan put forth by Houlihan or Barth (or, for that matter by Mr. Audet) at the meeting or since to show why adding $1,750 to the committee recommended budget was the correct amount to add.
And I still don’t understand why Barth made the budget recommendation she did as chair of that committee, then voted against her own recommendation.
Thank you for this opportunity to respond. Weekly newspapers like The Coast News can play an important role in building a sense of community. And while a variety of opinions and perspectives can breed healthy debate, incorrect, extremely slanted, and/or misleading data can also harm healthy public discourse.