CARLSBAD — On Nov. 6, voters will choose Linda Breen, Tracy Carmichael, Barbara Hamilton or Dave McGee to fill the seat vacated by Mark Packard. Here are their thoughts on the city and the race.
Linda Breen said she is running as an independent voice on the council and recently called out the political process. She wrote a blog on her website calling out mayoral candidate
Cori Schumacher and several of her “allies” for possibly not being a reliable vote on the council, among other things.
Breen, though, said she is moving on and focused on the voters, who she said are the most important issue for the City Council. Listening to them and “speaking truth to power,” as she wrote, is one reason she decided to run.
“I didn’t intend to run a divisive race based on Measure A or run a divisive race on behalf of the Democratic Party,” Breen said. “That is what it turned into because I didn’t run with the permission of Cori Schumacher. I met with Cori and we had a very productive meeting regarding public policy, but she discouraged me from running. As far as I see, the Measure A side wanted a puppet and I’m not a puppet.”
Tracy Carmichael, meanwhile, said she doesn’t engage in the negative aspects of campaigning, saying her energy is better spent engaging with residents about the issues important to them.
She is leaning on her experience as former Carlsbad Unified School District board trustee and involvement with charitable organizations such as the Hi-Noon Rotary Club and Carlsbad Christmas Bureau. Still, negative campaigning and lack of discourse is not her style, Carmichael said, and she will not engage.
“It’s heartbreaking to me and I don’t like that,” Carmichael said of the vitriol spewed in online forums. “To me, that’s not Carlsbad. I don’t want to get into putting someone else down to make myself look better or more appealing.”
Breen said the divisiveness stems from the 2016 special election regarding Measure A and the proposed mall on the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
Regardless, she said the basis for her campaign is to create good public policy. Breen said her focus is to look at each issue intelligently and independently to make the best informed decision.
“Carlsbad is highly divided,” Breen said. “Measure A has become a highly divisive point. I was a strong member of the No on A side, and I didn’t enter the election thinking that should be the basis.”
Like Breen, Carmichael said it is important to take each issue independently. Citing her school board experience, Carmichael said she like to see a plan first and then process, communicate with staff and professionals and residents before making a decision.
However, there are difficult issues and eventually a council member must make a decision.
“Everyone has different learning styles,” Carmichael said. “Mine is I like to see it firsthand and really take a look at it. What it looks like, what it feels like and what are the outcomes.”
Breen said the recent passing of the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan update was a shock, while there was little the city could do. Even with good legal representation from the Denver-based law firm of Kaplan Kirsch and Rockwell, Breen said it appeared the city did not have the power to force San Diego County Board of Supervisors to act as opponents and residents wanted.
Carmichael said it is important to continue discussions and the city’s options open. However, she said it will be difficult to force any change since the county owns the property.
“I was happy Carlsbad took a neutral position,” Breen said. “I think a lot of residents in our district would think having an airport with commercial service that is closer is a good thing. I don’t fault the city at all because they got really good legal advice. I felt we deserved a vote but … if we would have taken a vote it wouldn’t have had any impact.”
Another issue of concern, or at least interest, is the trenching of the railroad tracks through Carlsbad Village. Carmichael said it is important to do so as a matter of public safety, citing the numerous deaths from train accidents over the years.
She said public safety is and should be the priority, noting dire situations cannot be put on hold as first responders wait at the crossings.
Breen, though, said she is looking at the cost and economic impacts. Estimates for double-track trenching are more than $350 million. The city will not be responsible for the entire tab, and Breen said she has concerns about the economic estimates.
“It’s coming one way or the other,” Carmichael said. “It’s a long way down the road, but do I think it’s in our best interests? I do.”
Barbara Hamilton has become a polarizing figure, at least in the land of the internet and Facebook, as many have chided the former Republican for switching parties and joining forces with mayoral candidate Cori Schumacher.
She brushed off the criticism and said her campaign is focusing on positivity and the issues of residents. Hamilton cites her experience of working with the city in the past, her ability to bring people together and focusing on “what’s important.”
“I don’t get involved in any of that,” Hamilton said. “What we are doing is concentrating on the issues and the people in our community. I’m being mischaracterized and things are being taken out of context that aren’t even true. If I can’t win a City Council race on my merits, then I don’t deserve it. But my merits are strong and my reputation is strong.”
Unlike several of the other candidates, Dave McGee has no endorsements and jumped into the race because he thought Packard would seek a fifth term. Since Packard did not run, McGee said his focus has been on learning the issues, although he is protective of the Barrio neighborhood, where he has lived for years.
Infill development in the Village and Barrio is arguably the hottest issue as many residents fear new buildings will hit the 45-foot mark allowed by the recently passed Village and Barrio Master Plan. McGee said each project must be vetted carefully to ensure the character of the neighborhoods are protected.
“There are things that need to be done like right now that may not be to the scope of the plan,” McGee said. “There is a serious lighting issue. I think some of the voices and concerns of individuals and groups of neighbors need to be acted on.”
As for the McClellan-Palomar Airport Master Plan, Hamilton said the city should have stepped up in opposition and asking the Board of Supervisors to delay any action. She is concerned about the negative impacts such as traffic, pollution, noise and hazards with the new plan.
McGee said it is critical to keep “the wolves” at bay and doesn’t see the economic viability with the airport.
“I know personally the issues that some of the residents have and the concerns they have with the noise and all this other stuff,” he added. “I think it’s very clear how the current people who are driving this forward have an agenda and a protocol. I really don’t want a bigger airport.”
Trenching the railroad tracks from the Carlsbad Village Station to Tamarack is another big District 1 issue. McGee said the trench may not be the best idea, but the city must remain “in the game” regarding potential funding sources.
He said a more robust fence line should be installed in the meantime, and if the city does not pursue trenching, perhaps pedestrian bridges could be a solution for residents, especially at Chestnut Avenue.
Hamilton said more comprehensive community outreach is needed due to the project’s complexity. Several issues are important, she said, such as construction noise, pumping and others.
However, she said it is not fair to compare Carlsbad’s attempt with the success in Solana Beach, which trenched its tracks about 20 years ago.
“Solana Beach is a corridor along Coast Highway,” Hamilton said. “Carlsbad Village is not just a corridor, it’s a grid structure and an entire village surrounding it. To me, it felt as we are cutting it in half. We haven’t done community input from the business community or the residents. We need to do that. We have to make sure we don’t cut the Village in half.”