ENCINITAS — The four candidates for two seats on City Council looked to distinguish themselves from one another at a forum sponsored by the New Encinitas Business Network on Oct. 7.
The League of Women Voters moderated the panel discussion at the Grauer School as approximately 70 people had an opportunity to ask written questions.
The city’s blueprint, known as the general plan, was a point of concern for some residents. When asked how many of the community meetings each candidate attended and what they learned, both Kristin Gaspar and Mayor Dan Dalager responded that neither had participated. Dalager said he thought his presence might “skew the discussion.”
Gaspar said she was having a baby. “Sometimes life happens and it was happening then,” she told the audience. Tony Kranz said he attended four of the five workshops. “Traffic was a big focus,” he said. Councilwoman Teresa Barth attended all five meetings. “I think it’s critical for me to hear their (citizens’) voices not filtered though the staff,” she said.
The Hall park development was a hot topic as in previous forums. Both Kranz and Barth said they support building the park as it is approved by the California Coastal Commission. “That doesn’t include 90-foot lights,” Kranz said. “Stadium lights means we’ll have to change our general plan,” Barth said. “That’s a very serious intensification of a small area with the traffic impact in a very small section of the community.”
On the other hand, both Gaspar and Dalager said they supported the inclusion of the lights. “We need as many recreational opportunities as possible,” Gaspar said. However, she said she supports a “light curfew” of 9 p.m.
On the issue of widening Interstate 5, the candidates drew clear distinctions. As Caltrans proposes to widen 27 miles of the coastal freeway between Oceanside and La Jolla, several possibilities include the addition of six lanes.
Both Dalager and Gaspar agreed that increasing vehicle lanes was necessary. While Gaspar said she didn’t support the widest proposal, she does see the need for more lanes. ”We need a smaller-scale project that’s going to reduce the bottlenecking that we experience,” she said.
Dalager said it was out of the city’s control. He said residents needed to realize that the state controls the widening plans, not the city. He said he has been in private meetings with Caltrans to secure improvements to the area where I-5 crosses Encinitas Boulevard but did not expand on the outcome of the discussions.
Barth and Kranz agreed that Caltrans should consider making more modest improvements to the freeway corridor. She called the current plans “grandiose” and doubted they would ever come to fruition.
Kranz disagreed with Dalager that local governments were powerless over the impacts of the proposed widening in each coastal city. He said it showed a lack of leadership that the mayor didn’t take a stronger stand on the issue.
“We have people asking that the widening be put on the (council’s) agenda and you wouldn’t even do that,” he told Dalager.
Kranz said he believes that Caltrans should not acquire any additional land and should limit its improvements to the area within the freeway’s existing right-of-way.
Finally, a question from the audience on the candidates’ positions on Proposition P, an Encinitas Union school bond, caught at least one candidate off guard. “I’ve just been busted,” Dalager said after as he asked the moderator to tell the audience what the proposition entailed and she declined. He said he hadn’t made up his mind.
Gaspar refused to say how she was voting. “I hope you can respect that,” she said. Kranz said he was “uneasy” about what the district is borrowing the $44.2 million for. “I’m glad it is just extending the bond and not raising taxes,” he said, concluding that he was still undecided.