City Council must avoid cronyism

The Encinitas city council must avoid the appearance of cronyism in appointing a new council member. Governments that look like they are based on “having friends in high places” undermine the public trust and create doubt.
A number of applicants have pledged not to run in 2012, like local business owners Ken Harrison and Joann Hoffman. Robert Campbell, vice chair of the Senior Commission and a CFO, has pledged not to run and to donate any pay he gets for the council back to the citizens.
These intentions benefit the public.
Other applicants seeming to have few ties to the current council are David Drielsma, who seeks open government, Kent Mesplay who wants to protect community character, Alan Lerchbacker who has been a CEO; Robert Schneider who hopes an outsider is appointed and Jed King who wants to preserve Houlihan’s legacy.
Two applicants having the support of Houlihan are Tony Kranz and Lisa Shaffer. Each has connections to council member Teresa Barth. Kranz regularly speaks at city hall against closed government. Shaffer has an MBA and degree in Environmental studies and is a pro-business candidate for the 2012 council. Appointing either could end claims of cronyism. Kranz is rumored to run for office in 2012.
Applicant Tony Brandenberg is a planning commissioner. Brandenberg ran for council in 2008 and might use an appointment to run in 2012. I would not consider him an outsider.
Applicants Alice Jacobson and Mark Muir have connections to Mayor James Bond and Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks. Jacobson is a former Planning Commissioner and ran for council in 2004 receiving support from special interests. She has a pro- development record and could give the council a 4-1 super-majority.
Earlier this year the council majority appointed Jacobson to the Environmental commission over Shaffer. Appointing Jacobson would strengthen claims that cronyism runs city hall. For the good of the community the council should avoid her controversial appointment. She can run in 2012.
Muir is the city’s fire chief. Encinitas resident Steve Mieche emailed me an old campaign flyer with Muir’s name on it that endorsed Bond and Stocks for council. The email contained a city policy suggesting employees avoid actions that look like conflicts of interests. Muir was appointed to his position by among others Bond and Stocks. Muir has associations with the government agency SANDAG and Stocks is the president of SANDAG. SANDAG is suggesting policies to increase density in the General Plan Update that is opposed by residents.
Appointing Muir could result in a council super-majority, promoting SANDAG’s interests. I fear if Muir is appointed residents might file for a recall or lawsuit. Actions the city should avoid. According to Meiche, if Muir is appointed he begins collecting $11,000 to $14,000 in a monthly pension plus being paid as a council member. Campbell won’t take money if appointed and Muir will cost us more money. Muir should run in 2012 if he wants the seat.
Encinitas resident Bob Bonde told me he thinks Muir is sure to be appointed. He thinks the process is a smokescreen and asked why the council never discussed a by mail ballot allowing everyone to vote.
The political futures of Bond, Stocks and Gaspar may also hang in the balance.
Gaspar could hold the key. By avoiding the appearance of cronyism she would appeal to future voters. There is nothing for her to gain by appointing a controversial applicant and the move could alienate voters.
Stocks is up for re-election in 2012. Appointing someone like Campbell could help Stocks gain votes with the Senior community. Appointing Shaffer or Kranz allows Stocks to appeal to the thousands of voters who voted for Houlihan. Both wise moves.
For Bond appointing someone like Kranz or Shaffer could leave the public with a lasting positive image of him. Appointing a controversial applicant could have him remembered as the man who supported cronyism. A legacy he doesn’t want, a reality we don’t need, and an action that’s just what the special interests are hoping for.
(Correction — In the Oct. 7 North County Times it was reported that Martha Cox, who attends Encinitas Council meetings as an observer for the League of Woman Voters, asked the council to appoint a person who would not run for office in 2012. In my first 2 columns on this subject I incorrectly attributed Ms. Cox’s personal comment to the League of Woman Voters).


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