COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Robert “Bob” Nanninga: Year One, A.D.

It’s been one year since the death of Bob Nanninga, who contributed much to the city of Encinitas and beyond.
For those not familiar with Nanninga’s accomplishments during his all-too-brief 45 years, here’s a rundown of some of them: environmental activist; The Coast News columnist; co-creator of the popular Full Moon Poetry Slams; E St. Café co-owner; three-time Encinitas City Council candidate; Encinitas City Parks & Recreation boardmember; Encinitas Environment Day festival founder; and drama instructor at Paul Ecke Elementary.
Perhaps when Nanninga passed away last year from pneumonia over Valentine’s Day weekend, it was, in part, caused by a broken heart.
Some people who were close to Nanninga claimed shortly after his death that failing to win, for a third time, a seat on the Encinitas City Council, may have been the catalyst for his health suddenly spiraling downward.
Nanninga’s death shocked the community. He appeared healthy, vital, and irascible as ever.
Whether you loved him or disagreed with him, it seemed like Nanninga would be around for several more decades to come, constantly espousing the necessity of open-space preservation and getting rid of invasive species in order to save Encinitas and other coastal communities from spending exorbitantly on precious water, to name a couple causes close to his heart.
Nanninga was a thorn and counter-weight to certain local politicians and land developers who would rather let the free-market rule than be concerned with saving a tree.
It seemed like Nanninga’s third run would indeed be his lucky charm. He fully expected to finally win a seat on the City Council. After all, as opposed to his two previous runs, the third one coincided with all things “green” and environmentally friendly finally receiving mainstream coverage and approval.
At this time, Nanninga was no longer viewed as a radical tree hugger. His detractors could no longer label him anti-business, after all, since 2004, he was a business owner himself.
As co-owner of E St. Café, Nanninga had the opportunity to potentially sway more voters who entered his café. Maybe it was a bad strategy on Nanninga’s part not to saturate the café with his campaign paraphernalia; he ultimately wanted to let local artists and musicians have the spotlight, not his platforms.
Despite the support of dozens of get-well cards decorating his hospital room, many written by his beloved students at Paul Ecke Elementary, Nanninga’s spirit was crushed by his sixth-place showing in the 2008 election.
Ultimately, the voters decided to stick with the status quo.
Had Nanninga been elected and not passed away prematurely, he would have no doubt fought hard to preserve as public space, the historic Pacific View campus. Thankfully, there are those in the community channeling Nanninga’s spirit and intensity, trying to prevent every open space from being paved and sold to commercial interests.
Nanninga, just like all other fallible humans, was inconsistent at times. For example, he preached reducing greenhouse gases on a local level by riding bikes as much as possible. Yet, he never placed a bike rack at E St. Café for his patrons. (Attention new owner: patrons are still waiting.)
Nanninga’s inconsistencies, though, paled in comparison to his accomplishments. After his passing, it was common to hear people honor Nanninga’s legacy by saying, “It’ll take 500 ordinary people to achieve just one thing that Bob did.”
One year later, that still rings true.
It would have been nice to see The Coast News do more to honor Nanninga’s legacy. The obligatory obituary was written, but that’s about it. Perhaps The Coast News should have honored Nanninga by placing a memorial picture of him in at least a couple issues, in place of his usual page four column.
It would be a challenge to find another writer with an opinionated and passionate voice like Nanninga’s, but certainly The Coast News could find a better alternative.
Bob, if you can read this from up above: you are one character that’s truly missed in North County. It’s only been one year, but it feels like a lot longer. And if there is a God and you are communicating with him, no doubt, you are giving him a healthy dose of heavenly lip service.

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