The city of Encinitas has recently released the highly anticipated Peak Democracy tool to capture citizen participation online. A question on the discussion board has already unsettled local residents only two weeks after the unanimous council vote to name the new dog park at Encinitas Community Park after former Mayor Maggie Houlihan, who died of cancer in September 2011. The following question has raised a lot of concern among dog owners and dog lovers.
“How important is it for off-leash dog hours to remain at Encinitas Viewpoint, Orpheus and Sun Vista parks once the new dedicated 2-acre off-leash dog park is open at Encinitas Community Park?”
For pet owners and others aware of the important role that dog parks play in the health and well-being of dog owners, this question seems to point to a city that is out of touch with issues that are important to its citizens. It also hints at a darker purpose to possibly close down neighborhood dog parks and direct all dog owners to use the future dog park at Encinitas Community Park instead of neighborhood parks.
Besides the leading nature of this question on dog parks and other issues of bias, there are reports of other technical problems in using this platform. According to Marlena Medford, communications officer in a June 30 email comment:
“Peak Democracy does not have measurement expertise, and e-Town Hall is not intended to be a scientifically valid statistical survey— but rather, an informal process to deliver input from a self-selected group of participants to decision-makers. The objective is to treat input from e-Town Hall the same as input from all other non-scientific channels for public input, such as council meetings, emails, letters published in local newspapers and chance encounters on the street with constituents.”
As a concerned citizen, I have spoken at length about the weaknesses of the Peak Democracy platform and other invalid programs that the city has used to measure public opinion for the past four years. This is simply the newest iteration in a group of expensive and invalid programs that have cost us millions of dollars yet have yielded no valid results.
As a candidate for council in 2014, I intend to do everything possible to protect neighborhood dog parks and to keep them open with the same hours that are currently in place. This is not only a quality of life issue for Encinitas pet owners, but a health and safety issue for many dog owners, who for health reasons, would be unable to own a dog without access to neighborhood parks.
Local access to neighborhood parks allow for these residents who may be unable to walk their dogs themselves to keep their best friends. Dogs provide their owners companionship and protection so that dog owners with health issues can continue to live independently and with an important sense of purpose. I call on the City Council to do all that they can to make sure that the important community resource of local dog parks remains in place. The love and treatment of animals is one of the most important values to Encinitas residents and is part of what makes Encinitas the caring and compassionate community that we all want to preserve.
Julie Graboi is an Olivenhain resident and candidate for the 2014 city council.