CARLSBAD — Just as soon as new electoral lines were drawn, two candidates have announced their intentions to run in District 3 for the Carlsbad City Council.
Incumbent Priya Bhat-Patel will take on challenger Ray Pearson, who currently serves on the Carlsbad Unified School District’s board of trustees. Meanwhile, Corrina Busta, who announced she was running for D3 earlier this year, was redistricted to D2 after the city’s Independent Redistricting Committee approved its new electoral map.
Bhat-Patel held a kick-off rally on March 12 at Alga Norte Park, aiming to secure re-election after withdrawing from a state senate run last year.
“I’m seeking re-election because together we have accomplished a lot these last few years,” Bhat-Patel said on her re-election bid. “As someone who knows how to work collaboratively and has a track record of getting things done, I want to continue to serve the community I grew up in to address many of the issues we are facing. In this uncertain time, I am that leader who can provide the consistent experience and strong relationships necessary to ensure we can continue to deliver results for our community.”
While both D3 candidates come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, they share many of the same concerns, especially with the homeless, but express different approaches.
Bhat-Patel has had a number of successes in her four years, notably passing a single-use plastics ban, creating the county homeless social worker program where at least eight social workers have been assigned to North County, a hotel worker recall program in 2020, freeing up $5 million for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as co-chair of the Economic Development Committee and helping create a citizens advisory committee to work closely with the police department, to name a few.
Bhat-Patel said in her second term she wants to continue working on housing, sustainability, the local economy, quality of life and diversity initiatives, along with building two more fire stations to meet the needs of growth and lower response times.
As for Pearson, he worked on the Carlsbad Unified school board to ensure a safety resource officer, passing Proposition HH school bond for needed upgrades, providing social and emotional support to students during the pandemic and served on the Prop P committing and saving $19.2 million, along with serving on numerous non-profit boards, he said.
Pearson stated his primary reasons to seek municipal office are the city’s increased crime rate (from 2020 to 2021), homelessness and traffic.
“Why hasn’t the incumbent been focused on (those issues)?” Pearson asked. “I think those three pieces I saw were deficient…”
Indeed, homelessness is one of the most pressing issues facing the council after the city deployed a new program last summer to reduce the unhoused population by 50% in five years.
Pearson said one of the biggest challenges is the city doesn’t have an accurate homeless population count, noting the county’s annual Point-In-Time Count is insufficient. Instead of relying solely on the county’s numbers, Pearson suggested the city should conduct its own monthly count.
Pearson said with an accurate count, along with documenting the individual names and their particular conditions, the city will have a more streamlined method of providing services and housing. Pearson said it’s also important to retain police officers, work to incentivize housing and collaborate with the district attorney to monitor non-violent offenders released under Prop. 47.
Also, he said the latest crime stats regarding violent crimes (up 12%), burglaries (9.5%), motor vehicle thefts (9.2%) and thefts (9.1%) are of concern and the police need all available tools, along with “reinvigorating” Neighborhood Watch programs and perhaps more license plate readers.
“I think we need to look at some additional technology including if we have to look at drones to patrol wider areas of our community,” Pearson said. “It also lets criminals know that the surveillance of criminals is a lot higher in Carlsbad than other communities.”
Bhat-Patel, who holds a doctorate in public health, said the police department is doing all it can to address those issues, prevent domestic cases and work with the DA’s office to prosecute cases. Bhat-Patel said she’s pushed for more patrols, especially in areas with higher call volumes.
As for homelessness, Bhat-Patel said the city’s comprehensive approach is balancing compassion with quality of life, noting a more regional approach, yet with autonomy for the city to act on its own, is a positive way forward. She said the city can’t afford a “cookie-cutter” approach and while Housing First may work for some, others need drug treatment.
She said using data and demographic makeup of the homeless will allow the city to more effectively direct its resources, along with partnering with local organizations and non-profits.
“I feel that each individual is case by case and we need to figure out how we can provide the best wraparound services by utilizing the county and state-level funding for these resources and partnering with already existing organizations in our community,” Bhat-Patel said. “There are different levels of prevention that need to be had — whether it’s primary prevention, secondary prevention, or tertiary (chronic) prevention.”