As a City Council member and candidate for Mayor of Encinitas, I’ve been reflecting on the ideal qualities for our next Mayor. I’ve summed it up in three points:
1) An organized approach to preserving our paradise.
The Mayor needs a clear, instinctive understanding of what our Encinitas “paradise” means. This requires tireless attention to development-related decisions that affect our daily lives. My family’s nearly 100-year history in Encinitas gives me a deep local perspective.
It means going beyond planning and “visioning” to taking action. An example was the promotion and passing of an urban agriculture ordinance, which allows for a slower pace of development, reduces the carbon footprint, and enhances our quality of life.
Preserving our paradise also includes supporting the Pacific View property becoming a vibrant community arts center instead of high density condos. It includes creating safe routes to school and improved complete streets policies for bikers, pedestrians and drivers. It’s also manifested in the maintenance and improvement of our wonderful parks, beaches and tree canopy, as well as a rail corridor that preserves the lovely wild areas while providing for better connectivity between our towns and across the railroad tracks.
This requires an understanding of the nuances of public and private partnerships, how decisions are made, working with stakeholders, regional grant availability, and how to best steward our city’s finances now and in the future. Ultimately, our Mayor must lead with a strong sense of the heart and soul of Encinitas.
2) A willingness to make tough decisions and take political heat.
Our Mayor must be willing to guide and support the Council in making tough, sometimes unpopular decisions. A recent example is Measure T, which deals with zoning for future housing in Encinitas. All Council Members support Measure T, even though we know that many in the community oppose it.
We’ve put it on the ballot because it’s a legal requirement to have a state-compliant housing element. After 140 public meetings, opinions from hired experts, and vetting several different maps, Measure T is the city’s best effort toward a community-supported, state-compliant plan. It was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission, then re-adjusted after more community input.
No one opposed to it has yet to come forward with a proposal that would earn state certification. The most irresponsible decision for the City Council would have been to continue to snub state law and fight expensive, unwinnable lawsuits, hoping without reason that state laws will change, despite the clear message from Sacramento that housing policies are getting stricter for cities, not looser. If Measure T fails, we’ll still need to comply with these laws and work together as a community to get there.
If I’m elected Mayor, I’ll work to find consensus in Encinitas about creating more affordable housing for our teachers, firefighters and our adult children. We can do more to incentivize accessory units like granny flats and make sure that all new units are within each neighborhood’s character, with appropriate setbacks and parking. As I’ve already shown by advocating in Sacramento, we’ll need to continue to operate at the state level to maintain local control. Cities should not be forced to inevitably march toward an urban future.
3) Playing well with others.
To be successful at turning our vision for the future into action today, our Mayor must possess critical interpersonal skills. Cooperation, compromise, and engaged listening are the glue of good governance. No elected official accomplishes anything alone. I believe that the Mayor is in the middle of many intersecting circles, not someone at the top of a pyramid.
My background as an attorney, City Council Member and community leader with a long Encinitas family history uniquely qualifies me to effectively lead Encinitas as your next Mayor.
Catherine Blakespear is an Encinitas resident and candidate for mayor.