Editor’s note: Each of the candidates has received the same 10 questions. Their responses have been unedited and will be posted online as they are returned.
Name: Mike Bawany
Previous government experience:
Worked for defense contractors and aerospace companies on government projects
An engineering career of more than 35 years, worked for some of the most reputable world-class multi-national companies with experience in the design, development and manufacture of high technology products and implementation of innovative technologies. Some of the job functions are listed below;
- Directed and managed Engineering Departments
• Directed and managed large cross-functional development teams
• Managed numerous technical projects and product development programs
• Managed and tracked multi-million dollar development budgets
• Designed and developed products, circuits and systems
- Conducted technology research and implemented innovative technologies
• Conducted technical seminars and taught engineering courses at UCSD.
Worked for the following companies;
• Sony Corporation
• Panasonic – Matsushita Electric Company of Japan
• Abbott Laboratories
• Alcon Surgical (A Nestle’ Company)
• Allied-Signal Aerospace Corporation
• Eastman-Kodak Company
• Litton Data Systems (Now Northrop-Grumman)
• Xerox Corporation (Memory Products and Medical Systems Divisions of Xerox)
Answers to Questions
Answer 1. I am running for Mayor because of my commitment to Encinitas and the desire to preserve the things that make it a wonderful place. I have lived in Encinitas for 28 years. My wife and I raised two children in this lovely community and over the years our family has thoroughly enjoyed all the wonderful things this city has to offer. And now, after so many years of joyful experience, I felt it is time to give back to the community. I want to preserve the things that make Encinitas so wonderful also provide leadership and bring discipline to the city council
Answer 2. The three biggest priorities for the next city council as I see are (1) Public Safety, (2) Fiscal Responsibility and (3) Quality Education in our schools
- Public Safety: The public safety focus should be on (a) safe neighborhoods (b) traffic safety and (c) emergency services. All this can be achieved through effective law enforcement, fast responding fire and paramedics and adequately maintained streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, signs and signals.
As a Mayor, I will ensure that our law enforcement and emergency personnel have the proper equipment and training necessary to handle any and every kind of situation in an expeditious and professional manner. As for the safety related issues pertaining to streets, sidewalks, crosswalks and signals, the city staff and the sheriff department must team together and conduct a thorough study on the conditions of all of our city streets and sidewalks and the adequacy of our crosswalks and signals. They must also pay particular attention to safety related complaints from our community members and come up with a detailed report and a concrete prioritized plan on how each safety related issue will be addressed whether it be the road conditions or the need for proper sidewalks, crosswalks, signals and signs. The city has not done a good job on this matter of public safety.
As a side note to this, I must say that on September 8th, I attended a special meeting of the city council at the Community Center that was exclusively scheduled to address the ongoing public safety issues. All of the city council members, the city manager, city attorney, city staff, members from sheriff department, members of the planning commissions and some special guests of the city attended and participated in that meeting. I was shocked to find out that with all the high-ranking officials present there nobody had any idea on how to address some of the ongoing safety issues. They were going back and forth asking questions to one another and nobody had any clue who was supposed to do what. I know of one such traffic safety issue that has been tossed around since 2009, because it is in my neighborhood at the crossing of Saxony and Sea Crest near YMCA. It is a very dangerous intersection with high-speed traffic on Saxony against cross-traffic from the residential neighborhood and YMCA. There are no crosswalks, no stop signs, no speed limit signs and no signals. There have been many close calls between cars and pedestrians going in and out of this residential neighborhood. Several complaints have been made to the city but nothing has been done. It is a tragedy waiting to happen! I don’t know how long that meeting lasted for but I was there for a couple of hours and thought I wasted my time.
- Fiscal Responsibility: Our city council needs some discipline and restraint when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money. One example that we all know of is the purchase of Pacific View School. Although I am not against its purchase by the city, the property had been abandoned since 2003 and could have been purchased for far less than the $10M the city paid for it. The property was originally appraised for $4.5M but EUSD wanted $9.5M for it. Rather than negotiating with EUSD to reduce their price close to its appraised value, the city turn around and paid $10M, which is $500,000 more than the asking price! This defies all logic, and to make matters worse, the council members had no idea how they were going to finance it nor did they have any plans as to what they were going use that property for. The property also has a host of other serious issues like the easement rights for adjacent homes that will cut 0.4 acres of its 2.8 acres. It has asbestos, lead based paint, termites and some structural problems. There was some talk about temporarily renting out the space while the city decides on what to do next, perhaps to turn it into an Arts Center. As it stands now, there is not much of a chance to use the property for any purpose whatsoever let alone for it to be an Arts Center anytime soon without the remediation of hazards and fixing it up. No one would want to rent it as is. This means the city would have to come up with additional funds that they do not have and it is likely that the property may remain useless for a long time while the taxpayers foot the bill on the property tax and debt financing.
As a Mayor, I will not let this kind of situation to ever occur again in the future. I am a strong believer of planned and managed developments to keep us from wasting taxpayers’ money. I will promote fiscal responsibility and ensure that the city’s resources are spent wisely and that we are getting the best deals from our suppliers and contractors through skillful negotiations and properly drafted contracts with adequate built-in protections so the taxpayers can get most for their money.
- Quality Education in Our Schools: The school districts are independent agencies that serve our community schools. Quality education will need good and properly trained teachers, teaching tools, equipment and adequate facilities. Overcrowding also adversely affects quality education. With the passage of Proposition-P and Proposition-AA, the school districts have secured adequate funding that will help to upgrade the school system in the years to come. As a Mayor, with the help of our community, I will encourage the city and the school districts to work together as a team and upgrade our school system to higher standards that meet our needs and ensure that our students are getting world-class quality education that is keeping up with the evolving technologies and changing needs of our society and providing them with needed skills to be productive members of our society.
Answer 3.First it is important to understand what Housing Element is all about. The California Housing Element is a State law that was enacted back in 1969. It requires all local communities, including Encinitas, to provide periodic updates to the State on their community housing needs based on changing demographics every 5 years (now every 8 years). Encinitas has not provided the State with any updates on housing plans since 1990 and failed on this very important responsibility. Now we are forced to comply and have a very limited time to plan. There is also the density bonus State law that allows the builders to pack more homes in a given parcel of land than what would normally be allowed if they were to build one or more low cost affordable units in the mix for low-income residents. The builders also do not have to adhere to any of the local building standards and ordinances. All this amounts to a carte-blanche loophole for builders to override local zoning. It is a slippery slope that will have to be handled very carefully because this can undermine our building rules and ordinances. It is also a threat to our community character. Remember, this is our city and our problem and it is for us to deal with such issues. The State and Federal laws may have good intentions but are not a perfect solution for every situation. “One size does not fit all”. Therefore, it is imperative for us to closely work with State and Federal authorities to amend the laws or at least negotiate and get as many waivers and concessions possible to minimize the impact of such laws.
Here are some of my thoughts on what should be done;
- The city should first conduct a thorough community survey and get a good feel for the types of housing that will be needed in the next 8 to 10 years based on growth and demographics and I think there is already a plan in place.
- Next, figure out how much of a capacity we have to accommodate such housing based on projected growth, available infrastructure and available land.
- Base on the above, make a conservative plan for future build-ups with limits for moratorium if necessary regardless of State mandates. Remember, the city cannot keep accommodating growth at the expense of our quality of life and community character. We live here because this is what we like and this is what fits our character. We should not be forced to accept what the government wants. Instead, we must closely work with the authorities on this.
- Our plan for future housing development must not change the existing housing establishments or impact the beach communities This should be our goal for preservation of the community character.
- The available undeveloped land outside of the existing communities should be allocated or designated into sections, each in accordance with the type of housing units it will have. In other words each section should have like housing, for example, multi-family units, condos, apartments, compact SFH, or large estates, for the purpose of homogeneity.
- Closely work with State and Federal authorities to amend laws if possible or negotiate to obtain waivers and concessions that best fit our needs and minimizes the impact of such laws.
- The city is on the right track for legalizing granny flats through its amnesty program to count them towards the State mandated quota for low cost housing. The construction has to meet safety codes and the rents must remain low for a certain time period. This will also bring extra revenue for the city from permit fees. However, this should only be a one-time deal. The city must clamp down on on all future illegal construction.
- The city also did the right thing by changing the zoning laws for density bonus by rounding down on the numbers that can be built per parcel and by setting minimum standards on size and market value for the low income units and excluding areas for drainage.
- With regard to the Desert Rose project in Olivenhain, it was wrong for the city council to override the Planning Commission’s previous rejection of the builder’s plan to build 16 high-density homes with a 3 to 0 votes. And as I understand, this was done to avoid any lawsuits against the city but I think it will come to haunt us in the future. I would never let the threat of a lawsuit influence our decision because, no matter what decisions the council makes, there will always be someone who would want to bring a lawsuit against the city. But if you do the right thing there is nothing to worry because someone who wants to sue you will think twice. Lawsuits are costly and time consuming and if your decisions were for the right reasons, it will deter them.
Answer 4. Answered this under Q3 above.
Answer 5. I have always been against having too many bars within the small region of the Encinitas downtown. Even though the complaints have decreased because of the stepped-up enforcement, nonetheless it is an unnecessary burden on city’s resources. Also, it does not come as a surprise that two of the largest alcohol serving establishments, Union and Shelter, are not in compliance. It has to do with the nature of the business, the bigger the business, the bigger the problem and harder it is to control it. As for what should be done, I would recommend imposing fines and penalties on these establishments. The fines should increase with each new violation up to a certain number, for example, allowing a maximum of 5 violations after which the city should shut down the establishment. Also, all of the bars should chip in and pay for the stepped up law enforcement.
Answer 6. As mentioned before, the city paid way too much for the Pacific View property. The property had been abandoned since 2003 and was originally appraised for $4.5M. The city could have purchased it for much less than the $10M they paid. Or better yet, since both, the EUSD and the City Council serve the people of Encinitas, and since the school property was originally donated to the EUSD, it would have been in the best interest of the people if EUSD had just given it away to the city, or at least charged the city no more than its original appraised value. The city had the opportunity to negotiate with EUSD, but our council members failed on this. Now, since the city has already purchased the property, they should quickly put together plans to fix it up for temporary rental to raise some revenues and work on long term plans to convert it into an Art Center or whatever other use it can be put to. As for the money to fix the property and for future improvements, the city has to aggressively work with foundations and corporations in the local community and raise enough to get started.
Answer 7. The city dropped the ball on the maintenance of roads and infrastructure. Some of our roads are in bad condition and in need of immediate repair. The city needs to get their priorities straight. There is not enough money allocated for fixing them because a lot of money was wasted due to lack of planning. As for the maintenance of sidewalks, historically the city has been spending $1.3M to $1.4M every year but for some reason, this year the city issued $2.23M contract to TC Construction just to maintain sidewalks; it does not cover re-paving. I am also concerned about the quality of work done on some sidewalks. I have noticed that every two to three years they tear up and re-pave the sidewalks in the downtown area from Encinitas Blvd to Swami and they have also done such a lousy job that the pieces are never leveled and have to be shaved to avoid people from tripping on them. And sometimes they also get large cracks running through them. There seems to be no accountability for this lousy job and we are footing the bill. Building sidewalks is not a rocket science. A properly paved sidewalk is supposed to last at least 25 to 30 years. In some ancient European cities, they have sidewalks that were built centuries ago and they are still in decent shape.
As a Mayor, I would put a high priority on roads and infrastructure including the quality of water we get from San Dieguito Water District because of the impact on public safety
Answer 8. The crossing in Leucadia is a safety issue and should have a high priority for the city council. Both, lowering the tracks or bridging them would have substantial cost associated with it. It is for the city council to study the pros and cons and decide which will be the best solution.
Answer 9. The role of an elected Mayor is not going to be any different than what it is now. Being an elected position, it may have more leverage. As a Mayor, I will bring an effective leadership and discipline to the city council and promote teamwork.
Answer 10. Each high-ranking city staff member has a significant impact on the functioning of city’s business. These are talented individuals with special skills and the city depends on them but they also cost a lot of money to the city. There has been a lot of negative talk about the performance of some of these staff members but as an outsider, not only is it difficult for me to judge their performance but it is also not fair to criticize them for lack of it. It is the responsibility of the city council to direct them, set goals for them and then hold them accountable for their performance. Our city council seems to lack that leadership. Sometimes you can have the best team of talented people at your disposal but because of lack of leadership you cannot get much out of them. You need a good leader in the city council who can foster teamwork and create a powerful force with a common goal to be able to handle any kind of difficult situation that comes up. Even though I do not have any political experience, but as a community member, I know what is right and what is not. And as a professional engineer, I have had my challenges of handling the most difficult situations and have successfully resolved them and also solved some of the toughest problems. I know I will be a good Mayor for the people of Encinitas. Once they look me up, I am sure they will feel confident and trust me with their vote.