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Request to revisit mayoral agreement draws criticisms

ENCINITAS — June 11 is supposed to mark the day that Encinitas Mayor Teresa Barth hands over the mayoral reigns to Kristin Gaspar, an olive branch that the two forged earlier this year to quell political rancor in the city.

Now, Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer has requested the council revisit the agreement, citing several changes to the city’s political landscape that she believes should prompt the council to give it a second look.

Since Shaffer made the request at the May 21 meeting, critics have panned it as an example of the resurrection of the city’s “petty politics” and political retribution against Gaspar for her criticism of the city’s $10 million purchase of the Pacific Elementary School site.

Shaffer, for her part, insists that she has not made up her mind in regards to the mayoral appointment, and talk of the contrary is speculation.

“I had no idea that it would create such a firestorm,” she said.  “There are some people who presume to know what it means, that I am proposing to change the arrangement, when it is really an opportunity for everyone to take pause and check in where we are all at.”

The agreement, which the Council approved in December, called for Barth to serve in the appointed position from December to June 11, and for Gaspar to serve from June 11 to December, after the council is seated following the November election. It also called for Mark Muir and Tony Kranz to serve a split term as deputy mayor.

Shaffer said that the agreement was made at a time when both Barth and Gaspar were undecided on whether they would run for mayor in November. Since then, however, Barth has announced she would not seek re-election, and Gaspar’s name has appeared in a flyer referring to her as a mayoral candidate.

Gaspar is scheduled to appear at the meet-and-greet May 31 at the home of Mark and Maureen Muir, with several other candidates for local offices. The event was originally scheduled for late June — after Gaspar would have been appointed mayor — and inadvertently forgot to change her title on the flyer when the event was rescheduled.

Additionally, Shaffer said, Kranz, who was also expected to replace Muir as the city’s deputy mayor, has hinted that he is considering running for mayor. Kranz has a separate item on the agenda withdrawing his name from the deputy mayor consideration.

Shaffer sees her request as good governance, because it will allow the Council to discuss the issue publicly, rather than behind closed doors.

Kranz echoed Shaffer’s sentiments.

“This gives everyone an opportunity to speak on the issue,” said Kranz, who said he requested in December that the Council revisit the issue at a later date. “I didn’t intend to rescind anything.”

Gaspar, who said she is still undecided on a mayoral run, said supporters and folks around town have expressed disappointment that the compromise is even up for discussion.

One of the prevailing theories, Gaspar mentioned, is that potentially reneging on the agreement would weaken her potential mayoral campaign.

She is disappointed, too.

“To me, it certainly feels that way,” Gaspar said when asked if she felt the move was politically motivated. “I would hope that is not the case.”

Muir, who generally allies himself with Gaspar on the dais, also expressed disappointment in the upcoming discussion.

“I thought we had a very clear and open dialogue about this when we talked about this in December,” he said. “We all thought that Kristin and Teresa may or may not run for office, so that is not new information. If we want to play the fair card, it was technically Kristin’s turn to be mayor when we agreed to the compromise, and it’s her turn now based on that compromise. That would be the fair thing to do.”

Gaspar said she hopes the council majority “does the right thing,” but also said the agenda item by itself has revived some of the political raucous the Council spent the past two years trying to avoid.

“In some respects, the damage has already been done,” she said.  “An agenda item like this doesn’t foster goodwill among the Council, it is what it is.”

Barth declined comment in an email response.

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