Candidates turn out for chamber-hosted forum

CARLSBAD — City employee pensions and reserve fund spending dominated the discussion at a recent City Council and Mayoral candidate forum hosted by the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce.
Dozens of residents gathered at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa on Sept. 24 to hear the four City Council candidates and four Mayoral candidates answer business-related questions. Seven questions were pre-determined and sent to candidates before the forum.
Four candidates — Glenn Bernard, Keith Blackburn, Matt Hall and Walt Meier — are vying for outgoing Mayor Bud Lewis’ position, up for grabs for the first time in 24 years.
Farrah Douglas, William Jubb, incumbent Dr. Mark Packard and Jon Wantz are campaigning for two seats on City Council opening up this November.
During the forum, opinions were across the board on a number of issues, including the recently approved measure on November’s ballot, known as Proposition G, which would require voter approval for future city pension increases if passed.
Council voted to add Proposition G to the ballot shortly after finalizing a new two-tier benefits system for incoming police and fire department employees.
“The pension plan that has been in place is no longer sustainable,” Packard, a current councilman who voted to pass the ballot, said. “It was a hard decision but it was the right thing to do.”
Blackburn and Wantz disagree with the measure. Blackburn said that Carlsbad’s elected officials should be the ones researching and making the decisions about employee benefits, not the voters.
At the forum, candidates took a question about spending reserve funds on nonemergency project to specifically suggest the construction of the Alga Norte swim complex.
While the candidates agreed that under no circumstances other than a large-scale emergency should Carlsbad spend its reserve, several voiced their opinion that those funds earmarked for Alga Norte years ago need to be used to build the project.
“That’s money that has been put aside (for Alga Norte),” Douglas, who co-owns a print shop with her husband, said. “We need it, our families need it.”
During a quick-fire round of questions, a majority of the candidates voted “Yes” on selling Carlsbad’s public golf course, The Crossings, to a private company. Many also favored spending redevelopment funds to revitalize the downtown Village area.
“Make the vote for your future, your family’s future and Carlsbad’s future,” Wantz said in his closing statements, encouraging voters to do their due diligence before heading to the polls. “See who has the real vision and plan.”
Time Warner Cable and the Chamber of Commerce will continuously stream coverage of the Candidate Forum for those who were unable to attend.
Visit www.carlsbad.org for viewing information.

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