Schumacher wins Hall’s SANDAG seat, signals new direction

Schumacher wins Hall’s SANDAG seat, signals new direction
Councilwoman Cori Schumacher railed against previous directors for their failure of to detect SANDAG’s overestimation of the TransNet 2 tax in November 2016. File photo

CARLSBAD — The new-look City Council is moving forward with a new vision and direction for the city.

During the City Council’s Jan. 8 meeting, Councilwoman Cori Schumacher was elected, 3-2 along party lines, as the next San Diego Association of Governments board director, ousting Mayor Matt Hall, who held the position for years.

In addition, council newcomers Barbara Hamilton and Priya Bhat-Patel will serve as the two alternatives for the city to SANDAG.

But the Democratic majority wasn’t done, Bhat-Patel was elected as mayor pro tem and to the North County Transit District board of directors, while Hamilton is the alternate.

The process, which has been in the city code for years but never followed, has been a priority for Schumacher since her election in 2016. And with a majority Democratic council, the new faces and vision was implemented.

However, Hall stressed the importance of the new state-mandated housing numbers for San Diego County increasing to 171,000 and had been asked to serve on the Regional Housing Need Allocation committee. During his pitch, Hall said 15 of the 18 mayors serve on the board.

“That would give us a position on the committee to see how the allocation may or may not go … and how to distribute those numbers,” Hall said. “It’s been said by a staff member that we could be looking at as many as 10,000 new units in the city of Carlsbad,” Hall said.

Councilman Keith Blackburn supported Hall’s nomination, saying his experience and established relationships would give his vote more power and influence. However, the council opted to move in a new direction.

In response, Schumacher said her nomination to the SANDAG board (she also served on SANDAG’s Regional Planning Committee and League of California Cities, among others), will provide a new perspective to the powerful board and issues such as RHNA.

She also said the new Regional Housing Need Allocation chair, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, said the committee is on hold due to so many new members on the SANDAG board.

Schumacher also railed against previous directors for their failure of to detect SANDAG’s overestimation of the TransNet 2 tax in November 2016, as discovered in a story by the Voice of San Diego.

Gary Gallegos, the former executive director of SANDAG, resigned last year due to the scandal. Voice of San Diego reported Gallegos and high-ranking SANDAG officials hid the forecast shortfalls of $4 billion. SANDAG had estimated the new tax would raise $18 billion, but it was defeated in the 2016 election.

Additionally, the original TransNet tax, passed in 2004 and enacted in 2008, had brought in 25 percent less revenue in than projected, as of 2016, according to the Voice Of San Diego.

“The previous relationships are different now,” Schumacher said. “What it’s leaving us is with an $18 billion deficit. It was an accounting error that executive director at the time hid and the board members at SANDAG at the time supported that executive director instead of asking hard questions.”

Hall will remain on the board of the San Diego County Water Authority, a position and board he has also served on for years.

The collaboration between the authority, the city and Poseidon Water led to the opening of the Carlsbad Claude “Bud” Lewis Desalination plant in December 2015.

The re-organization of the council members to specific boards did not appear to be a surprise to the five-person body. Even though Hall soundly defeated Schumacher in the mayoral race, Hamilton and Bhat-Patel won their respective races in Districts 1 and 3, thus flipping the balance of power on the council.

As part of the new vision, the council also unanimously approved researching its investments in fossil fuels and potentially divesting from those companies as a method of staying in alignment with the city’s goals and values.

“Since we have a Climate Action Plan in place where we are trying to achieve 100 percent renewable energy and zero waste by 2035, I wanted to see if there are different corporate agencies we could invest in with a similar return,” Bhat-Patel said.

City Treasurer Craig Lindholm said the city pools its investments with the Carlsbad Municipal Water District, Housing Authority of Carlsbad and the city’s Public Improvement Corporation.

Additionally, the city’s investment policy is more conservative than California Code guidelines, Lindholm said, which makes it tougher to find suitable investments.

Lindholm looks at the safety, liquidity and return on investment for each investment, with each carrying a maximum maturity of five years. Diversification is another key and important to the city.

Currently, the city’s ROI on its investments is between 1.8 and 1.9 percent and about a two-year maturity, Lindholm said.

Also, the policy requires a higher credit rating for the corporate notes in the portfolio and mandates an AA rating by two of the three primary rating agencies. Lindholm said less than 1 percent of corporate notes issued qualify.

Regardless, the council directed Lindholm to research other potential investments the city could buy in to and divest from companies such as Chevron and Exxon Mobil.

Bhat-Patel said the potential new investments did not have to be specific to green energy companies, but rather those whose goals and values align with the city’s.

“It’s fairly limited to financial, pharmaceutical, energy and a few others,” Lindholm said.

4 Comments
  1. Addie 1 week ago

    Sure glad that Hall “won” that election making him “Mayor” again. In Carlsbad, “Mayor” means you have 20% say in anything.
    Funny that all those years when Hall and his hand-picked buddies controlled things, no one ever said the votes were along “party lines”. Maybe because everyone already knew it so it didn’t need to be said. Good luck to Hall and Blackburn. Hope they enjoy seeing things from the other side for the next few years.
    Cori will do a great job at SANDAG because she pays attention to details and won’t be controlled by the developers and monied interests who run SD County.

  2. Al Manzano 1 week ago

    Mayor Hall has invested heavily along the rail road line and has often had to abstain from voting because of a conflict of interest. You need only look at who finances his campaigns and their link of developers, many of them outside interests not Carlsbad citizens, to understand his real objectives. As mayor, he refused to consider appointees to the Planning Commission that reflected the way the people had voted in rejecting the Caruso proposed mall along Highway 5, a clear demonstration of his values and who influences him.

    As a long time, council member he was among the most inarticulate and most predictable in how he would act in favor of developer proposals. Schumacher did not bring these up her campaign but focused on positive actions she thought were needed, an error in political terms that lost her the mayoral election but maintained her integrity as a dedicated public servant.

    The sad thing is that media reports of Hall’s actions failed to take a hard look at the facts or issues when they endorsed him because of his long experience.

    What has happened in Carlsbad is an awakening of its citizens to the fact that the city has long been run by a small cadre of insider who rely on the fact that the City is rich with taxes from things like the malls and automobile dealers who abandoned Oceanside and the non Carlsbad funded airport that made it attractive to executive aircraft and industry.

    The City and Hall wasted millions on a commercial building which was never used and took it of the tax rolls, a continuing burden for decades; an incredibly expensive and unneeded golf course, and specious suits that were clearly going nowhere despite legal advise to the contrary.

    Hall voted against districting the Council although it was totally illegal for years and only served to keep the ‘insider’ group in power for years. It is now a small ‘d’ democracy for the first time in decades.

  3. MICHAEL H AJDOUR 1 week ago

    Clearly the prior SANDAG people lacked attention to detail ( and decent ethics in some cases) & replacement.was inevitable.
    My impression in attending this council meeting was that Mr Lindholm pays attention to detail and is willing to work with all in the future.
    Good for him and good for Carlsbad. I hope other people follow his example. Old & new can mix ,learn, and come up with something better.

  4. Lowell 1 week ago

    Thanks to Al for giving added perspective as to why Carlsbad now has better leadership than ever since Hall has been marginalized.

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