CARLSBAD — In the early hours of Nov. 8, the City Council held a special meeting to verify the results of a resident-led special election petition and discuss a potential appointment to the vacant District 1 seat.
In the end, though, the council voted 3-0 to abandon the appointment process, which came after former Councilwoman Barbara Hamilton’s Oct. 9 resignation. Councilwoman Cori Schumacher recused herself from the item saying she didn’t want to appear to have a conflict of interest, although no further explanation was given.
Regardless, the city will move forward with its special election on March 3 as part of the California primary after residents collected about 2,200 signatures, nearly 600 more than required, which were certified by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters office on Nov. 5.
The council was divided on the issue, with Mayor Matt Hall in favor of continuing the appointment process; Councilman Keith Blackburn calling for a continuation; and Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel in favor of the special election.
Hall said several people had already submitted applications for the open vacancy. On Oct. 22, the council voted to accept applications until Nov. 12 and then interview the candidates on Nov. 19 and make a decision.
Hall also said three previous elected council members currently reside in District 1, which would allow for the body to have an experienced public servant serving. Bhat-Patel said the issues have changed and those individuals would need months to get up to speed.
Simon Angel, Eric Larson and former Councilman Mark Packard, who did not run for another term in 2018, all submitted applications, according to Sheila Cobian, city clerk services manager.
“This body functions best when five of us are sitting up on the dais,” Hall said. “When you say there is a start-up period, there are at least three people who could step into this position and carry out all of the business of this body.”
Blackburn tried for a continuation as he wanted more time to think about the issue and give those who were in support of an appointment and not in attendance a chance to be heard.
However, the logistics did not align, so Blackburn said out of consideration for staff’s time, he would vote for the special election.
“We are pushed up against a quick timeline,” he added. “Whoever gets appointed has to have three votes. I don’t think we are going to reach a consensus between the three of us.”
Bhat-Patel said the people should be allowed to vote and pushed back against an appointment. She said residents deserve the chance to decide who represents them, not the council, although admittedly she was for an appointment when Hamilton was on the council and requested such action.
Bhat-Patel said Hall and Blackburn previously said an interim appointment doesn’t make sense and the situation has not changed.
“I fully believe the people have spoken,” Bhat-Patel said. “I don’t think allowing people to have a voice is political. The issues we have today are different from when they were serving.”
The election is estimated to cost the city between $7,500 to $19,500, according to the city clerk’s office.