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Council looks to put ‘tiff’ over SANDAG nomination behind them

ENCINITAS — A week after the City Council harmoniously selected a new deputy mayor during the council’s post-election reorganization, tensions flared over who should represent the council in a coveted position on the county’s chief regional board.

The drama ensued after newly elected Mayor Kristin Gaspar, in her first use of the elected mayoral authority, nominated herself to replace Lisa Shaffer as the city’s representative on the board of the San Diego Association of Governments.

As the elected mayor, Gaspar has the sole authority to nominate her fellow council members to regional boards as well as commission appointments, with the City Council’s endorsement, with the exception of the SANDAG and the North County Transit District, which are ratified by the entire council.

Shaffer had been Encinitas’ representative to the county’s transportation and metropolitan planning agency since her election in 2012.

Gaspar said her nomination was not a reflection on Shaffer’s performance, but a desire for the city’s first directly elected mayor to represent the city in the biggest regional seat, which is common practice for many of the county’s cities. Gaspar and Councilman Mark Muir, who supported Gaspar’s recommendation, said that at least 70 percent of the city’s 18 cities have their mayors represent their city on the SANDAG board.

Shaffer said she took the recommendation as a demotion and argued that it was akin to a vote of no confidence in her representation on the board. She pointed to several cities where the mayor is not the city’s representative. In particular, Santee appointed Councilman Jack Dale, who serves as SANDAG’s chair, to represent the city.

Shaffer, Tony Kranz and newly elected Councilwoman Catherine Blakespear voted down the nomination and ultimately cast the votes to reappoint Shaffer to the post, but not before council members traded accusations of rumors of politics playing a role in the appointment process.

Kranz said that he believed Gaspar’s political allies had applied pressure on her to take the position, which Gaspar flatly denied. Muir then said that he had heard speculation that the council majority had already decided to reinstall Shaffer, a charge that Shaffer and Kranz both denied as well.

In the end, the council said after the meeting that they believed the members would be able to move on from the tiff. In addition to Shaffer, Kranz will serve as first alternate and Gaspar second alternate.

“We will be fine,” Kranz said. “I think everyone will put it behind them.”