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Commentary: Cronyism on parade in Encinitas

By Linda Durham

“I have an opportunity to apply for an appointment to an open seat on our town city council, and it’s very likely if I do it that I would be the one to get the appointment.”

Mali Woods-Drake (now Mali Shook after her marriage in 2022) disclosed this during an If You Knew Me podcast episode in 2023 entitled, “Deciding between motherhood and personal ambition.”

Mali entered Encinitas politics at a BLM rally at the Cardiff Kook in 2020. From there, she quickly allied herself with then-mayor Catherine Blakespear, Councilmember Kellie Hinze, and current Mayor Tony Kranz.

During her work on their election campaigns, Mali became known for her attempts to silence those who disagreed with her by aggressively branding them “racist” and inviting them to “leave town if they don’t like the direction we want Encinitas to go.”

Since 2020, the council has rewarded Mali’s efforts with a string of increasingly influential appointments to the Encinitas Equity Committee and, more recently, the Encinitas Public Health and Safety Commission. Mali’s growing connections also earned her a board seat on the Pacific View nonprofit, Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance. 

These appointments have all the appearances of cronyism, which is the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority without proper regard to their qualifications and abilities.

Mali recommended abolishing our Prop A Right to Vote and advocated “placing more power with the City Council” for “specifically adding density and modifying other uses to residential to occur without a vote of City residents.”

She bizarrely blamed the monstrous Goodson project on Prop A, revealing her ignorance of the severe fire danger, evacuation routes, infrastructure, and traffic issues specific to Olivenhain and the Prop A process itself.

Cronyism is at work on the current council, except for District 4 representative, Councilmember Bruce Ehlers. 

When the majority council removed Ehlers from the city’s Planning Commission and replaced him with a commercial realtor, Ehlers became a victim of cronyism.

Kranz, the current mayor, voted to appoint these like-minded council members:

2019: Kellie Hinze for District 2, prompting the late Tony Brandenburg to remark at the time: “There is no diversity of opinion or thought. It is a disservice to our community.”

2022: Allison Blackwell for District 1, was recently appointed Deputy Mayor by Kranz after just a few months on the job. She will then be able to use this title when she runs for the seat later this year.

There is no question that these appointments were made to guarantee majority votes for Kranz. Many of his decisions have been wildly unpopular with residents, and he needs these guaranteed votes.

If the rumors are true and Hinze steps down, who will Kranz and the “rubber stamp” council majority choose to replace her without a public vote? What assurances have Kranz and other council members given to that individual of a “likely” appointment?

Such consolidation of power does not represent democracy, nor does it serve residents. What it does serve is a council (again, except Ehlers) with an agenda that may not represent the priorities and concerns of the majority of residents. 

A possible District 2 appointment should alarm residents across Encinitas, as that favored appointee would be voting on issues and projects citywide. 

Pay close attention to the 2024 election to see if the cronyism continues.

Linda Durham is a former longtime Encinitas resident living in San Marcos.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this commentary incorrectly stated that Mayor Tony Kranz voted to appoint Councilmember Joy Lyndes. Kranz was the lone vote against Lyndes’ appointment.


Lou Tappet January 18, 2024 at 3:11 pm

There is nothing factually incorrect about the article’s information. Quotes attributed came directly from
Woods-Drake, who has attracted negative attention for the comments she herself has made toward residents with whom she disagrees. Durham is simply the messenger who highlights a purposeful consolidation of power to enable a majority council to ignore the will of the people.

There is no excuse for Woods-Drake’s behavior or for the blatant cronyism on this Blakespear legacy council now run by Mayor Kranz.

tbo January 18, 2024 at 10:51 am

Noun – The appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority without proper regard to their qualifications.

It is disheartening that the Coast News chose to include this obvious political hit piece against the progressive leaders of Encinitas. It is exactly this type of misinformation in the media that makes it less desirable for our good citizens to take on leadership roles. Mayor Kranz has appointed highly qualified leaders whose resumes speak for themselves. If Linda Durham had invested time in communicating with Council Member Joy Lyndes, Deputy Mayor Blackwell, President of E4E Mali Woods-Drake Shook, she would have quickly learned that they are brilliant, compassionate, hardworking, skilled and highly ethical leaders. Each one is a treasure and is making our community stronger.

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