Houlihan replacement process has prospect of council super-majority

Encinitas residents who fear that a City Council super-majority could increase density without a vote of the people packed City Hall during a council meeting to discuss filling the vacant seat held by Maggie Houlihan, who passed away after battling cancer.
Houlihan was the top vote getter in 2004 and 2008. Whoever fills her seat will cast votes affecting the residents who voted for her.
In packed chambers, residents told the council that Houlihan’s seat should be filled by a person who will stand up for Houlihan’s positions to protect property rights, preserve community character and heed her warning against a council super-majority that could change zoning without a vote of the people.
Some suggested that Tony Kranz, who was the next top vote-getter in the last election, and who received the support of Houlihan would be a good choice.
In a video, Houlihan recommended Lisa Shaffer. Shaffer, who has an MBA and a Master’s in Public Policy and Environmental sustainability, recently got Houlihan’s vote to be appointed to the City Environmental Commission.
The council majority of Mayor Bond, Deputy Mayor Stocks and Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar instead appointed a former City Planning Commissioner, who some residents say had little environmental experience.
The process to fill Houlihan’s seat has gotten off to a rocky start. Prior to the meeting residents made requests to Mayor Bond and City Manager Gus Vina that the meeting be televised and video recorded for all to see. The mayor and city manager denied the request.
Why? Some say it is because a video of Houlihan was to be shown. A video of the meeting was made by residents and is posted for all to see at theleucadiablog.com.
In denying the request Bond sent residents a form e-mail saying “it is to be a meeting where no decision other than pursuing a legal process to fill the vacant seat will take place.” That is a big decision, filling a vacant seat, and is why the meeting needed to be televised.
Bond and Vina, turning a deaf ear to residents only validates the public’s fear that the selection process might not reflect the wishes of residents. Excuses by city staff that it is not protocol to televise or record special meetings ignores the fact that there is no protocol for a meeting to discuss filling a vacant council seat. It has never happened before.
The council appointed a sub-committee of councilmembers Teresa Barth and Gaspar to “study what steps” need to be taken. Deputy Mayor Stocks said that Barth and Gaspar would merely recommend a process and that the full council would ask people to submit applications and choose someone.
What recommendations can Barth and Gaspar offer if Stocks has already decided what the process will be? Why appoint a sub-committee if Stocks has determined the next steps? Encinitas residents need to be represented by the Encinitas City Council, not just Deputy Mayor Stocks.
While it’s early in the process, some residents speculate that a person who will give the council majority a super-majority has already been selected. Others remain hopeful a person honoring the views of Houlihan will be appointed. While they often vote as a bloc, the council majority of Bond, Stocks and Gaspar must put aside their own interests and select a person who represents the interests of the 13,000 residents who voted for Houlihan. Many think that Gaspar will be the swing vote.
At stake are property values, community character and quality of life. Residents are watching the process to fill Houlihan’s seat closely. Let’s hope it is televised for all to see. Residents deserve that.


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