CARLSBAD — Residents recently caught a glimpse of where five of the six City Council candidates stand on some of the most pressing issues in the city.
During a public forum on Sept. 13 at the Dove Library, all four District 1 candidates — Linda Breen, Tracy Carmichael, Barbara Hamilton and Dave McGee — along with Priya Bhat-Patel in District 3, discussed their positions. Corrine Busta, who is running against Bhat-Patel, could not attend due to a scheduling conflict.
A forum for the mayoral race featuring incumbent Matt Hall and Councilwoman Cori Schumacher is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at North Coast Calvary Chapel.
The candidates, meanwhile, were asked a range of questions and their thoughts concerning numerous topics, such as the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan update, district voting, license plate readers, the homeless, a Linear Park, the Village and Barrio Master Plan and affordable housing and how to prevent the state from jamming through legislation.
Two of the most controversial issues highlighted were the license plate readers and airport.
With the license plate readers, McGee said he has concerns with privacy and would advocate for hiring more police officers. He said he is concerned others may abuse the technology outside of the agreements the Carlsbad Police Department has with other agencies.
Carmichael, though, said she is an advocate for more technology in law enforcement and described how her sister-in-law was murdered in a small town lacking some of those resources. She said if the agency had such tools, the killer might have been caught or at least some information discovered to lead to an arrest.
Breen and Bhat-Patel said their discussions with officers has eased privacy concerns, but said the department is understaffed. Hamilton echoed the staff concerns, saying the department is losing officers to other agencies after spending $200,000 to train them. She said better incentives must be included to retain the officers Carlsbad trains.
“We have to pay competitively or they move,” Hamilton said. “That’s what’s happening.”
As for the airport, all the candidates said the City Council did right by hiring Kaplan Kirsch and Rothwell, the Denver-based law firm to review the master plan and provide guidance. Hamilton, though, said a recent study by Booz Allen Hamilton showed a decrease between 18 and 26 percent in property values if the airport expands and air traffic doubles.
McGee, meanwhile, said he wants to see cheaper flights, getting a laugh from the audience.
The candidates also were asked to rate the City Council, which received unanimous praise for its overall work. Hamilton said developers used to be held accountable, while Bhat-Patel said there are situations where the body has failed to get in front of issues. Breen said she believes the city must communicate with residents to remove the perception it is not responsive to them and their concerns.
“We need to look 20 to 30 years into the future and look at it like that,” Bhat-Patel said. “A fresh perspective and diverse thinking is helpful.”
As for the new district requirements for City Council races (mayor is still at large), Carmichael said she did not favor the decision, but understood the city had no choice. She said it is the responsibility of an elected official to look at the city as a whole, versus focusing squarely on one area.
The other candidates, meanwhile, said they agreed with the districting concept and said it allows them a more personal touch, more people to run for office and is less expensive to run a campaign compared with an at-large system.
“You’re elected to look that the big picture,” Carmichael said. “Districting works very well in larger cities.”