ENCINITAS — While incumbent Encinitas Councilman Mark Muir touted his experience as the reason voters should re-elect him, his opponent declared that he was no longer a good fit for the newly formed District 3.
Ada Harris Elementary’s multi-purpose room was nearly filled with potential voters on Sept. 25 listening to both candidates field questions from the audience on housing, traffic, the rail corridor, Encinitas Community Park’s southern access, homelessness and environmental issues.
Challenger Jody Hubbard’s criticism of Muir, who has been elected twice after his 2011 appointment to the council, was the first real salvo fired in the election season in Encinitas, as she challenged Muir’s voting record and said that it was “time for a change.”
“I agree you were a leader, but I think you haven’t been taking that role quite as much in the last several years on the City Council,” Jody Hubbard said, speaking directly to Muir, thanking him for the seven years he has served on the council.
“I do think Mark has given us the best he has to give and today it’s time for a change,” Hubbard said. “Reacting to issues as they come is not enough. Just saying no with no alternative solution just gets in the way of making our city better, and it’s time for a change.”
Muir told the crowd that they should vote for him because of his leadership qualities, exemplified by his long tenure as a fire chief, chairman of the County Water Authority and other leadership positions held over his career in public service.
“You can’t be a fire chief of three organizations and not be a leader,” he said.
Muir also touted his list of officials who are endorsing him, including current County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar and former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price.
“Which is neat in itself because if you know them you know they don’t necessarily get along all the time,” Muir said.
For the large part, Hubbard and Muir had similar stances and agreed on a number of issues. Both said they support the city’s proposed Housing Element, Measure U. Both said they support the 2013 Proposition A, which gave voters in Encinitas the authority to vote on major land-use decisions, such as housing element updates.
They also agreed that the biggest issue in the newly formed electoral district, which includes Cardiff-by-the-Sea and a segment of New Encinitas, is traffic and mobility issues, such as creating safer streets for all modes of transportation.
And they both concurred on what they perceived to be the pros and cons of district elections — both cited the accessibility to a single elected representative as a plus for residents, but pointed to the potential for parochial politics as a drawback.
But they disagreed on several major issues, including the Leucadia Streetscape proposal (Muir said it takes money away from other projects, Hubbard said that it’s long overdue) and the battle over a southern access point to Encinitas Community Park (Hubbard said concerns about traffic on the residential streets can be dealt with, Muir said the city should honor the promise made to residents years ago).
But the most memorable exchanges occurred when discussing the southern park entrance, the plans for Pacific View and the final moments of the forum.
Following Muir’s answer regarding the southern park entrance, Hubbard asked the moderators for a rebuttal. After some discussion, the moderators said they couldn’t allow it because it would “open up Pandora’s Box” for future rebuttals.
Several questions later, Muir quickly landed a rebuttal when Hubbard said the city’s purchase of Pacific View for $10 million was based on appraisals of $7 million and $13 million.
“There was no appraisal for $13 million,” Muir said before the moderator could move on to the next question.
Each candidate also received one question directed specifically toward them. Muir was asked if he voted on employee union contract decisions when he receives a pension, and Hubbard was asked why she ran for council only six months after being appointed to the Planning Commission.
Muir said that he did vote on those decisions, and his fiscally conservative votes nullify any claims of conflict of interest. Hubbard said that she “quickly learned” after a short time on the planning board that she could only affect policy at the council level.
Each was also asked to list their strengths and weaknesses. Muir touted his solution-oriented approach to governance as his strength, and his lack of patience at the lack of urgency in government processes as his weakness, while Hubbard cited her leadership and vision as her strength, and being an overachiever as her weakness.
Both candidates were also asked to describe their vision for Encinitas in 20 to 30 years. Muir said that his vision would be that it maintains the charm and character of our “small beach town community,” and that he would look to the community for guidance. Hubbard — who said she joined the race to address mobility and affordable housing issues in the city — would be one with complete streets, separated bike lanes so residents could get from their homes to retail establishments without using their cars.
“If you can walk and bike more and live in a more mobile community we could all be healthier and happier,” Hubbard said. “I do believe the more contact we have and the less times we spend in our cars the better our fair community would be.”