10 years later, and still no Hall Park

Youth sports teach personal ownership for actions.  As a boy, when I prepared to play for the Little League championship my dad Hank and our coach Mr. Moody told us kids “Excuses don’t win championships.”

I thought of my dad as I watched Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks being interviewed by Michael Turko on KUSI who wanted to know why, after 10 years and committing $46 million dollars, Hall Park hadn’t been built.  Mayor Stocks blamed others, pointing his finger at county regulators. It was an interesting choice.

In 2001 Stocks and the council bought the contaminated property without voter approval.  Because the council failed to perform adequate due diligence, residents asked the city to perform an environmental assessment to make sure the park was safe. Stocks and then-Mayor Bond refused.

Rather than perform the requested assessment they wasted money, paying lawyers to argue against residents.

They lost and a judge ordered the assessment.

The report showed that the property was contaminated; the city was required to file a treatment plan. Both time and money were wasted at a cost of close to $1 million to taxpayers.

The fact is the park was approved to be built years ago but the city doesn’t have the money. Money that should have gone to the park was spent on the wrong things. City unions that supported Stocks got pay raises.

The Fire Unions that supported Stocks got new fire stations. Union members like ex-fire chief and current un-elected council member Mark Muir, who directed efforts to elect Stocks, got pension raises. Meanwhile a generation of kids lost out on using the park and their taxpaying parents will foot the bill for new fire stations and pensions like Muir’s estimated at $170,000 dollars annually.  A 7-year-old little leaguer in 2001 is now 18 and off to college.  Fire unions got paid and residents got hosed.

Initial estimates to build the park were $40 million.  Now the number is $18 million for a reduced, bare bones, phase-one only park and the city still doesn’t even have the money for that. Mayor Stocks and the city have known for 10 years the cost of the park, but have only saved $9 million.

People who have benefited from Hall Park are politicians who have used it as a tool to bully the public and scare up votes. During their re-election campaigns of 2004 and 2008 Stocks and Bond gained advantage from flyers using youth sports as political pawns. Stocks and Bond promised phase-one and delivered “phase-none.”

Because 2012 is an election year and Stocks is seeking votes, we might see staged political pageantry like a ribbon cutting or shovel turning ceremony at the park.

The city might move some dirt around and call it grading.  Such staged political progress could provide Stocks and un-elected council member Muir with a self-serving photo opportunity while giving the public the illusion of false progress. Watch for it.

Prior to the 2010 election, five mounds of dirt were placed on the Hall property in a staged effort to show progress and make Dan Dalager look election-worthy.  The public wasn’t buying it and voted Dalager out.


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