Surfing Madonna is in eye of the beholder

An art instructor told me “Once you put down the brush and stop painting it no longer belongs to you.” Her point was in life, and art, people will see what they choose to see.
Most Encinitas residents see the Surfing Madonna as a community gift. Business leaders of the Downtown Encinitas Merchants Association (DEMA) and Leucadia 101 business district see opportunity, saying, because of the Surfing Madonna, sales are up. While other cities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote a favorable image, the Surfing Madonna has given the city free press money can’t buy.
The Encinitas City Council sees it differently. Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks said the artist “wanted to put the city between a rock and a hard place.” The Council finds themselves in a situation of their own making. The Council could make a “Madonna Motion” to change municipal code, but lack the political will to do so. Where residents see a gift, the Council sees a rock. Where merchants see opportunity, the Council sees a hard place. Where the community sees beauty, the Council sees graffiti.
More than 85 percent of residents and 100 percent of Encinitas merchants speaking before the Council asked that the Surfing Madonna remain where it is. An art curator said the art could last 10 years in its location. The Council said the Madonna has to go. Stocks told the public he needed to be “the grown up in the room.” Did Stocks think the merchants and residents in the room were children for having a different view than him? Many found his comment puzzling. If the Council is unwilling to support local merchants, whom do they support? DEMA merchants know you never look a gift horse in the mouth, and the Surfing Madonna is the gift that keeps on giving.
Stocks said the Surfing Madonna has to go because it did not follow the established process. Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said the city needed to follow city code and not pick and choose. Thirty minutes earlier Stocks broke the process he and the city established for naming the Hall Park. Stocks ignored residents who submitted 170 names and Parks Commissioners who presented a final list of five names.
Stocks had his own name for the park and made a motion to use the name he came up with, calling it a “community park.” When Councilwoman Teresa Barth rightly pointed out that under city code the park did not qualify to be called a community park, but did qualify to be called a “special use park,” Gaspar supported Stocks’ motion by “picking and choosing” to break the city code where she wanted to.
Gaspar broke code and the process saying she wanted to “bring the community together.” What is bringing the community together is the free Surfing Madonna the public wants to keep and the Council wants removed. What is tearing the community apart is the $50 million dollar “special use park” we can’t afford and haven’t built.
Earlier this year Stocks, Gaspar and the Council broke the process and approved of City Manager Phil Cotton getting extra pay spiking his pension. Cotton signed a contract voted on in public. Cotton got extra pay exceeding his contract behind closed doors. Last year Stocks endorsed ex-Mayor Dan Dalager while knowing Dalager failed to follow the process and disclose a $100,000 loan. Dalager later pled guilty to the DA. In Encinitas there is one process for Stocks and the City Council and another process for the rest of us.

Stocks said “the art is doing exactly what the artists intended for it to do.” Some could choose to see the art as a negative with bad intent because it fits a personal view.
I can only speculate what the artist wanted. I choose to see the positive. If the Surfing Madonna was intended to bring residents together in joyous smiles, to help our local business merchants increase sales and tax revenues, and to promote our city in a favorable light, then I say job well done.
Others might debate that the art was intended to show the public the growing disconnect between voters and a City Council that only has political will when it benefits special interests. Another perspective might be that the art was intended to point out to the public the hypocrisy of Deputy Mayor Stocks and a City Council that demand residents follow processes and codes when they themselves will go around processes and break codes as they alone see fit.
Art is in the eye of the beholder. What do you choose to see?


Filed Under: Life, Liberty and LeadershipNewsRancho Santa Fe NewsThe Coast News

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  1. enc. observer says:

    Since Domino Due’ is talking about the safety issues in Encinitas, the Planning Commission didn’t let safety get in the way when they approved an 8100 square feet house with a six car turnaround garage and driveway for two additional cars on narrow San Elijo.

  2. Dump Stocks? says:

    I think that Domino Due is assuming that Mr Audet has a personal dislike of Stocks. I think that he is responding to a pattern of decisions by both Stocks and Bond that have not been in the best interest of taxpayers–like the huge increase in staff pension and pay and his position to let Phil Cotton take 3 weeks paid vacation as an hourly worker to name a few. When the taxpayers approach Mr. Stocks or Mr. Bond and point out that their giving favors to friends or campaign contributors at the expense of taxpayers is unfair, what do you expect?

    Why do we keep hearing the same complaints about particular councilmen from people who don’t even know eachother, but have similar stories of decisions for their own gain over the interests of the little people in Encinitas? More and more people see that they really are no different than Dan Dalager.

  3. local yokel says:

    Stocks bashing? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. I’m been observing Stocks since he got on the council. Mr. Audet hasn’t reported anything that is not factual. Domino Due needs to present some facts where Audet is wrong. Otherwise he is guilty of Audet bashing.

    There are lots of rumors circulating in Encinitas about Stocks’ personal and public behavior. Audet is only reporting and commenting on what is documented.

    Stocks supported and bullied the council into approving a stoplight at Crest and El Camino Real, when the real need was at Willowsprings and El Camino Real, only a block away. It was a self-serving and expensive move by Stocks because he lives nearby. It would not be bashing to report this. A lot of residents on Crest were incensed by Stocks and would have welcomed comments by Audet. The local press never touched it.

  4. Some one who knows says:

    Apparently no one has followed Mr. Audet and his city council meeting appearances. He does have a personal vendetta against mr. stocks and anyone who does not agree with his point of view. Go see for yourself. The city keeps an archive of city council meetings, Audet can be seen numerous times making demeaning and insulting comments because he disagrees. Audet intentionally misrepresents information in this article, talking about city manager spiking his pension. What he fails to acknowledge is that the City Manager is infact considered retired. He is collecting his PERS retirement which means his payout can and will not change unless he were to come out of retirement and earn more of an income for 12 months. This is a deliberate attempt for mr. Audet to bash and further his agenda. Frankly, im sick of people like him with his holier than thou attitude spoiled and selfish thinking that only his views are correct and that he infact represents the majority of this city. Well sir, there is a silent Majority in this city, and you keep opening that big mouth of yours and watch as you wake a sleeping giant.

  5. Chris Stubber says:

    To someone who knows,
    Mr. Audet is willing to use his name and give is view in his OPINION column. You seem willing to come in and bash Mr. Audet with hand grenades and run into the corner. If he has done so much wrong why has the council or you come out and publicly respond to Mr. Audet using your name? Has the coast news blocked you from using your name here or in your submissions to the letters section? Now, that would be evidence that Mr. Audet has found a way to silence dissent, but that hasn’t happened. The council is the one trying to silence the dissent by sending attack dogs to bite the messenger.

  6. anonymous says:

    To Someone Who Knows,

    In the comments that Andrew Audet has made to council in the meetings that I have seen on tv, he makes positive suggestions about ways to save our taxpayers money. I suppose that it could be seen as insulting and threatening to the economic interest of Mr. Stocks and Mr. Cotton, who are receiving pay from City taxpayers, but there are about 60,000 taxpayers who are funding a few hundred at City Hall, and they work for us. We all understand that to get a job with the pay and benefits that Cotton had–especially for one who went missing paid and mostly unnoticed for 3 weeks is not easy to find, why is it inappropriate for any citizen to raise questions about whether we are getting good value from a "retired City Manager" or anyone else who is a City employee or a council member?

    As Chris has stated below, Andrew Audet’s opinions should be the least of their worries. Phil Cotton’s hourly contract is available online, and a number of professional journalists have printed stories in all of the local newspapers about this situation and they are available online. A judge has recently ruled that Encintitas has to start honoring citizens’ Freedom of Information Act requests and has also discounted Glenn Sabine’s claim that if they were to start following the law, it would somehow impede staff’s ability to do their jobs. Instead of taking this case to court and subjecting our city to the expense and public ridicule of these explinations of why staff and our 2 councilmen perform at the level that they do, we need to get leaders who work in citizens’ best interests– not their own. Thank you Andrew Audet!

  7. a spade a spade says:

    OK, leave the Madonna and put up a surfing Allah, Mohammed, Krsna, John Smith, Dali Lama, Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Devil right next to it.

  8. evilbunny says:

    Re: Domino Due (May 31 @!:49),
    Bottom line – if some dumb shmuck WILLINGLY step out into traffic for a photo, it’s their own fault!! Would lose in any court.

  9. Surfing Madonna says:

    Follow the Surfing Madonna on Twitter at!/surfingmadonna and on Facebook
    Thanks for your support

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