By Richard Riehl
A year has passed since we moved into our new home in this Château Lake San Marcos senior living community. Downsizing from our Carlsbad home by 300 square feet resulted in 12 months of unpacking and a year-long stream of donations to the Vietnam Vets.
Carlsbad city government was a gold mine for my opinion pieces for the now defunct North County Times, the San Diego Free Press and the San Diego Reader. In the summer of 2015 Rick Caruso, a billionaire Los Angeles developer, arrived in Carlsbad with a plan to build a megamall on the shores of a pristine lagoon.
Mayor Matt Hall, and all four city Council members, shamelessly sang Caruso’s praises, while the developer invested $12 million to win the support of Carlsbadians. He failed to pull it off, only because a groundswell of citizen involvement led to a successful referendum vote to stop it.
Following the money in campaign donations to Carlsbad’s elected officials was easy pickings for this writer.
Now, with the memory of those days still fresh, and with time on my hands, I searched the San Marcos city government website to find a new source of nourishment for my blog.
I found the web page listing the names of donors and amounts they’ve given to the election campaigns of city leaders. I also discovered San Marcos has divided its electorate into four districts for city Council elections for the same reason Carlsbad has: the fear of being sued for violating the California Voting Rights Act.
According to the San Marcos website: The city has a strong track record of various racial and ethnic groups working together for the benefit of all such groups and the city as a whole. The City Council voluntarily plans to implement a by-district election to protect the city’s taxpayers from the risk of future litigation for any alleged violations of the California Voting Rights Act.
Translation: We’re being dragged, kicking and screaming, into changing the way we’ve always done business, networking to keep the “right people” on the council.
Dividing voters to assure wider representation in city leadership may be good for underrepresented groups and for building wider community understanding and support for council decisions, but it’s a threat to the incumbents elected the old way.
Here’s what Carlsbad’s good old boys said at the May 2017 Council meeting, when they voted to adopt district elections.
Mayor Hall: “I don’t quite understand. We’ve done this same process for almost 40 years, and it seems like it’s worked out all right up to this point.”
Councilmember Mark Packard: “The closest analogy that has come to my mind is the Stamp Act. It disenfranchised the colonists at that time. I believe that this law disenfranchises the citizens of Carlsbad.”
The confused Mayor voted yes. The councilmember with the confused understanding of American history voted no.
To its credit, the San Marcos city Council voted unanimously for the change.
I also discovered that our new home, although within city limits and carrying a San Marcos address, falls within a 1.8 square mile triangle of unincorporated space called Lake San Marcos, surrounded by District 2, but disenfranchised from city elections.
As I write this today the Chateau had an eight-hour water shutoff, with no warning from the city. When I called to complain, an officious customer service representative told me a written notice had been delivered to the Chateau a week ago. When our executive director followed up, he learned the city had, in fact, overlooked sending us the notice and would hook us up to the nearest fire hydrant until repairs to the main line were completed. It’s the price we pay for our neighborhood being in the city, but not of it.
While Lake San Marcos is an independent community, it is also greatly dependent upon the city for public services, including schools, the fire department, the Vallecitos Water District, and the San Marcos sheriff station. My new, unincorporated neighborhood, has a vested interest in good city leadership. Although I can’t vote for the mayor and Council members, I will follow their decisions, as well as the names and donations of their campaign supporters.
We were also not thrilled to learn we’ve moved from the 49th to the 50th Congressional District, to be represented by an individual who’s been indicted on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, and violating campaign finance laws. His wife named him as her co-conspirator in using campaign funds for personal expenses. Prosecutors say Rep. Duncan Hunter spent some of that money on five extramarital affairs with lobbyists and staff members.
If he’s convicted, my Congressional representative will soon be getting his mail in jail.
Looks like my blog will be well-fed in its new home.