CARLSBAD — The first mayoral forum did not disappoint.
Mayor Matt Hall and challenger Councilwoman Cori Schumacher outlined their visions for the city during a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters in front of a standing-room-only audience at North Coast Calvary Chapel on Sept. 24.
After trading barbs and demonstrating no love lost between the two, one thing is still clear: Measure A is still an issue.
Schumacher railed against Hall for supporting the proposed mall on the north shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, and for when he and Assistant City Manager Gary Barberio spoke in favor of the proposal to the California Coastal Commission several months after the measure was defeated in the February 2016 special election.
She used the example as a lack of transparency within the council as a reason she is running for mayor.
Hall was exasperated by the continuous bombardment of Measure A, asking residents to move on toward the future and stop revisiting the past.
“It was an initiative to be sent to the voters, that was the vote,” Schumacher said. “So if I was asked if I were to vote on that vote today … I would vote to submit it to the voters because it’s your quality of life that’s impacted.”
Hall, meanwhile, countered by saying Schumacher lacks business experience and overseeing multi-million dollar budgets. He said the last deficit the city accrued was in 1993 and since then the city has had a surplus every year leading to nearly $100 million in reserves.
Additionally, Hall said since he was first elected mayor in 2010 (he was elected to the council in 1994), the city’s balance sheet has increased by more than $200 million and it has paid down the pension debt liability. He also said he oversees the second most valuable city in San Diego County. Carlsbad has a valuation of $2 billion, only behind San Diego.
Schumacher, though, brushed off those assertions saying the mayor and council has little input into the budget, as the work is done by city staff.
“I am the only one … that has the expertise, the experience and the leadership to run a corporation like this,” Hall said. “Our record speaks for itself. In my time as a council member, we’ve always been in the black.”
Another source of contention concerned Assembly Bill 805 legalizing a weighted voting structure for the San Diego Association of Governments board of directors, which includes one representative from each of the county’s 18 cities. Hall and Schumacher kept going back to the issue regardless of the question asked much to the dissatisfaction of the audience at times.
The bill was authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) and shifts power to larger cities such as San Diego and Chula Vista based on population, rather than the traditional tally vote in all circumstances.
Hall said Schumacher supported the bill, acting as Fletcher’s voice at one SANDAG meeting. However, Schumacher said she did not support the weighted voting system and was instead supporting the greater funding opportunities for the North County Transit District, which she called underfunded, and increase transparency and accountability.
“It was the first time in 30 years we had a council member break ranks and go down to SANDAG and speak against the majority of the council,” he added.
One vision for Schumacher, which she discussed several times, was the inclusion of Community Choice Energy (CCE), energy storage and continuing the momentum of solar panel installations in the city. She said it will help speed up the cities requirement for clean energy goals by 2035 as mandated by the state, add good paying jobs and add a new tax base to the city.
Perhaps more importantly, Schumacher said, is the savings for ratepayers using CCE, citing statistics from Northern California. She said ratepayers save 7 percent compared to Pacific Gas & Electric customers.
Hall, meanwhile, championed the city’s Climate Action Plan, conducting studies and said a cautious approach is needed to ensure 100 percent green energy.
“Zero emission energy … we can get there with Community Choice Energy,” Schumacher said. “We can get our investment back in two years, rooftop solar, utility scale energy, storage, piping it into the desalination plant for the world’s first 100 percent renewable energy.”
Sanctuary cities and the council’s 4-1 decision was another topic. Hall doubled down on his stance saying it is a matter of public safety. Schumacher, meanwhile, railed against the decision, especially since the deadline to file an amicus brief joining the U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit had passed and was subsequently dismissed by a federal judge in July. There are some provisions of the suit moving forward in court.
The two also engaged in a debate on Sept. 26 on Real Talk Carlsbad on Facebook.
Hall and Schumacher will participate in two other public forums before the Nov. 6 election. The first is on Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m. hosted by the Carlsbad Police Officers Association (the union) at the Harding Community Center, 3096 Harding St. The final one is at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 at Pacific Ridge School, 6269 El Fuerte Street.