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Carlsbad City Council “Very Unfamiliar” with Lagoon Mall Review Process

Time for Mayor Hall to Step Down?

By Richard Riehl

Three days after the San Diego Registrar of Voters announced the defeat of Carlsbad’s Measure A, Mayor Matt Hall was interviewed on KUSI. When asked how he and the city Council would deal with the fallout over an issue that had been unanimously approved by the Council before the people said no and called for a public vote, here was his reply:

“The city council, our role, is to process projects. And obviously there’s more than one way to process a project. We’re very knowledgeable about the CEQA way of doing things (the California Environmental Quality Act). Mr. Caruso chose to use the 9212 Report, which the city is very unfamiliar with. So part of the difficulty was trying to work our way through a 9212 Report and get clear understanding. Most of the people I’ve talked to leading up to this, that was their biggest concern, that there was this sidestep of CEQA. And I think that’s one of the things we really need to look at. And I know, from my personal belief, that anybody coming forward that want to use a 9212 Report I would say, (long pause, nervous chuckle) not my idea…”

Let’s take a closer look at what Hall said. To say that the role of the city Council is, “to process projects,” suggests a clerical, rather than a leadership responsibility. That’s an easy excuse for what he agrees was a bad idea, the sidestepping of CEQA. It was a clerical error. Nothing more than a Council vote typo!

Hall’s excuse calls to mind Bart Simpson’s standard way of escaping responsibility for his dirty deeds. “I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it, and I won’t do it again.” It would be funny if it weren’t for the $750,000 taxpayers paid for a special election and the community divisiveness caused by a mayor who refused to listen to the people.

If the mayor is more than a visor-wearing, sleeves-gartered clerical bureaucrat, what are his duties, job description and mission? The city’s website has a detailed list of qualifications and duties of city employees, including City Manager. What I couldn’t find is what the mayor and city council are held accountable for, rather than meeting regularly. Nor could I find a City Council Mission Statement. Oceanside has one, as does San Marcos. Vista has a description of the Mayor and City Council’s duties. The City of Carlsbad has a fine Mission, Vision and Values Statement, but no explanation of how the Mayor and City Council are expected to practice them.

And this time around they seem woefully out of practice. Their blind support of Caruso’s lagoon mall campaign reveals how they skirted city organizational values.

Stewardship: “We responsibly manage the public resources entrusted to us and provide the best value to our community.”

So why did they agree to pay $750,000 for a quickie special election in February, instead of $35,000-$50,000 to place it on the ballot of either the Primary or General Election?

Empowerment: “We help people achieve their personal best by creating an environment where they feel trusted, valued and inspired.”

Tell that to the long line of residents attending the August 25 meeting, waiting to explain the shortcomings of the 9212 Report, expressing outrage for avoiding state and local environmental reviews. Without even allowing a 30-day delay for further consideration, the council voted unanimously to approve the project.

Tell that to the hundreds of citizen volunteers carrying “let the people vote” referendum petitions while being harassed by the developer’s paid operatives.

Tell that to the recipients of a developer’s mass mailing, graced by the smiling faces of the five council members, urging voters not to sign the referendum, with a mail-in form to city hall attached, demanding their names to be removed if they’ve already signed.

Communication “We communicate openly and directly. Promoting engagement and collaboration makes our organization better and our community stronger.”

Tell that to Cori Schumacher, who spoke in opposition to a February special election at the November 17 meeting. Mayor Hall ordered the assistant city manager to provide an on-the-spot rebuttal of her presentation, a first in interrupting a line of speakers at a Council meeting to allow time for a mayor’s rebuttal.

Mayor Hall now promises to reach out to those “in the middle or opposed” to the project to see what they want to do next. It’s too late, Mayor Hall. Begin with an apology, then step down. The people of Carlsbad deserve more than a self-described project processor for their leader.


Richard J. Riehl is a Carlsbad, California resident, retired university administrator, and award-winning columnist for the former daily newspaper, the North County Times.
Richard writes a blog titled The Riehl World
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