ENCINITAS — As the race for three seats on the City Council begins in earnest, both Joe Sheffo and Jim Bond hope to be sworn in by Dec. 9. The November election ballot will feature three sitting council members and seven challengers vying for three seats.
While Bond, an incumbent, has occupied the dais since his first election to the council in 1992, relative newcomer Sheffo has mounted his first campaign for political office. Sheffo said he is running for City Council for a variety of reasons. “I think the residents have lost trust in City Hall,” he said in a recent interview. “They’ve lost trust in the City Council majority when it comes to growth and development issues,” Sheffo said. “I want to restore that trust.”
After working as an aide to then-state Assemblyman Mark Wyland and county Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, the former editor at the North County Times said he wanted to put his knowledge of politics and government to use.
Sheffo has announced he will vote against any increase in city fees, taxes or assessments except for sewer fees. While his pledge may have won him the endorsement of the San Diego Tax Fighters, it is of little consequence to many residents.
On the minds of City Hall friends and foes alike is the question of the Hall property. The 43-acre parcel just west of I-5 and south of Santa Fe Drive in Cardiff-by-the-Sea has been mired in controversy since the city purchased it in 2001 for $17.2 million. Sheffo said he supports developing five dedicated sports fields, but would eliminate the proposed skate features, teen center and swim complex in an effort to reduce costs. While he conceded that the concerns of residents opposed to the current park plan are legitimate, he said there is a “community interest” in establishing five sports fields. “There is still room for compromise,” he said.
Sheffo’s themes of “community, accountability and the environment” take broad strokes at the current state of the city. He said it is imperative that the five communities remain distinct rather than being lumped together when assessing development proposals. The Olivenhain resident also vowed to preserve the unique character of the city through active regional leadership roles. “We are facing big issues that could fundamentally change our way of life,” he said.
“I think this is a change election for the people of Encinitas,” Sheffo said. “I don’t think we’ll have the same City Council (after the election) that we have now.”
Not if Bond can help it. The four-time councilman was widely believed to be on his last stint in office before his surprise candidate filing Aug. 6. “I hadn’t planned on running again quite frankly, but I’ve got more work to do,” Bond said.
Bond’s three major issues include sand, water and sports fields. He said that his representation of the city on SANDAG’s shoreline preservation committee has helped to secure sand replenishment funds for Encinitas beaches in the 15 years he has served.
Bond, a retired telephone executive, has also been appointed for many years to the San Dieguito Water District as the city’s representative. He currently oversees a $1.9 billion budget from his seat on the finance committee of the Metropolitan Water District, Southern California’s primary water supplier. “It took a long time to get here and there is a possibility that Encinitas wouldn’t have anyone on Met (Metropolitan Water District) for a long time if I were to walk away now,” Bond said.
The council members represent the city on 15 local and regional panels. Nominations for the assignments are traditionally made on the mayor’s recommendation and require majority approval by the council. They are by no means set in stone. Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan would presumably take the helm as mayor next year after the election should she retain her council seat.
The longtime Olivenhain resident said he was committed to seeing the Hall property park built after years of frustrating delays. “I want to shepherd this process through,” he said. “We really and truly need some active sites in the city.”
Bond anticipates litigation or appeal of the most recent incarnation of the Hall property environmental impact report. “We’ve got to have playfields for organized sports leagues,” he said, although he did not specifically state how many he would support.
He pointed to the buffer area around the perimeter of the park as a consideration given to the surrounding neighborhood in response to concerns that the park use is highly intense and will increase traffic and parking deficits. “I think people tend to blow things out of proportion,” he said. “They tend to think the worst.”
“I’m not saying I’m super-qualified and no one else can do the job, but I do bring a level of institutional memory,” Bond said.
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