“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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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?
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. 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.
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. 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.
As for the new city budget near $48 million, it looks like 52 percent of our tax dollars goes to city payrolls and another 44 percent goes to contract employees, leaving very little for discretionary spending, such as building a park.
It looks like without a financial bailout from private patrons and volunteers, the city won’t have funding for the Hall Property Park or a band for the 25th Silver Anniversary. Let’s hope the community can come through, since the council has not. Otherwise we all might soon be singing the Encinitas Silver Anniversary Blues.