Thrilled with bold move

I am thrilled that the city of Encinitas made the bold decision to buy the Pacific View property. Thank you to Tony Kranz, Lisa Shaffer and Teresa Barth for your positive leadership in making this happen.

It should have been a unanimous decision but election year politics jumped in just when the city should have been celebrating a wonderful future for the arts.  (Kristin Gaspar and Mark Muir voted no on the decision to buy the property.) We all know it was a hefty price: $10 million was extracted from the city by the questionable “leadership” of Encinitas Union School District.

Instead of reaching a reasonable agreement with the city of Encinitas for the benefit of the community, the superintendent of EUSD used unprofessional behavior to force the city to pay more money than was necessary. All those EUSD board members who supported his actions should be voted out of office at the next opportunity and Maureen Muir should be applauded for standing up to his bullying and opposing him.

When the City Council committed to borrow money to buy a piece of greenhouse property off Santa Fe Drive in February 2001, there was not community consensus on what to do with the land.  It was used as a political tool for several council elections.

There were claims that the city paid too much. More than 10 years passed before the city put together the funding to build what is now known as the Encinitas Community Park … (even though many question the “community” nature of the park.)

A total of over $40 million will have been spent by the time the park opens later this year.

In 2011-12, with a General Fund balance of $1.1 million, a total of $7 million was committed to the park, taking away funding for fire station construction ($1.6 million), railroad quiet zone, trails, and City Hall maintenance, among other items. The park was the priority and the park is being built.  Supporters of the park dismissed the criticism, promoted the idea of borrowing when money was cheap, and funded a park plan that included many amenities that serve only small segments of the community in the name of public service and quality of life.

Now the final opportunity to purchase Pacific View has presented itself. The very people who approved of the approach to funding the park are suddenly calling the same approach (for Pacific View) irresponsible and dangerous.

But just as Encinitas has a strong sports and outdoors ethos, we also have a very large and engaged arts community. I witnessed group after group who came forward at city council meetings to describe the shortage of space for arts education, for studios and rehearsal space, and for performance venues.

During my years as an arts commissioner for Encinitas I saw study after study documenting the critical role of the arts in creating vibrant communities and strong economies. People want to live in Encinitas in part because of our arts and culture.

Contrary to what Mark Muir has asserted, there is no need to cut public services or implement a hiring freeze of city employees, (except fire fighters, of course. Muir is our former fire chief), to pay for Pacific View.

We don’t need to budget the future from a position of fear and scarcity. We can maintain our fiscal responsibility and pay for Pacific View. Encinitas did well relatively through the last recession.

There is a reserve fund of 20 percent of the general fund to address unanticipated problems. Revenues are up and we have already budgeted for increasing pension obligations.

Even with additional borrowing to fund the purchase, Encinitas will still have a debt ratio that maintains our excellent financial rating.

Unlike the park, the Pacific View property has the potential for short-term revenues without a significant investment while we engage the community in defining the ultimate vision for its use. Plus the arts community is more likely to be successful at fundraising than the sports community has been. The Pacific View property is an asset that will pay back in quality of life and economic terms for many years to come.

I was quite upset to see the cheap theatrics of Councilmember Kristin Gaspar at the “State of the City” ceremony a few weeks ago. What should have been a love-fest for the city of Encinitas was turned into a negative, doom and gloom tirade about what will happen to our charming city because of Pacific View.

Kristin is running for council again.  This was not the time to turn a positive event into a poorly thought out campaign launch using a fear mongering lecture straight out of a Fox News strategy playbook.

Spreading messages of fear, implying that core services will somehow be sacrificed to make this investment, and attempting to return us to divisive partisan squabbling does not serve the citizens of Encinitas.

Rather than pit one part of town against another, or foment conflict between sports patrons and arts patrons, let’s work together to promote both healthy active lifestyles and a vibrant arts and culture environment.

We can afford Pacific View.  In fact, we can’t afford not to go forward with it if we truly want to preserve and promote what makes Encinitas such a special place.

Ron Ranson is a former Encinitas arts commissioner and a Leucadia resident   since 1979.

 

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