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Commentary: Whose Side is Julie Thunder On?

By Andrew Matuszeski

With six years on the dais, Mayor Blakespear has taken yes/no votes in full public view on an estimated 800+ agenda items. With a track record like that, no one can complain that they do not know where she stands.

Recently, signs for the Mayor’s challenger sprang up with the tag line “I’m on your side.” But with the job of Mayor literally defined by binary yes/no votes, and some citizens on each side of most issues, how can a political candidate be on everyone’s side? I decided to find out.

Over three weeks, I published three very basic local policy questions for Julie Thunder on a local voter Facebook page. Each post acknowledged that I have no subpoena powers and that the candidate wasn’t obligated to respond at all.

The only lever available to encourage a response was the inclusion of a running tally showing which questions had been answered, and which had been ignored.

The questions I posted were simple, straightforward, and yes/no—just like the votes a Mayor must make at City Council meetings. And all were issues where Mayor Blakespear’s position is a matter of public record.

The first question asked about Thunder’s support for the completed Rail Trail; the second asked if Thunder would have voted yes or no on additional resources the city council recently approved for our Sheriffs to educate and enforce the county’s COVID-19 mask requirement, and the third asked how Thunder would have voted on the city’s program to offer safe overnight parking in a private lot for homeless living in cars.

Sounds reasonable, right?  So what happened?

I was called an ass, a troll, a harasser, and worse.  I ended up answering way more questions from the Thunder campaign about myself than the candidate did on policy positions.

Thunder’s supporters eventually become so outraged and upset at the asking of basic local policy questions, that the moderator of the group made it clear that posting policy questions to a candidate was unwelcome in a group called “Encinitas Votes.”

I later learned the moderator has donated close to the maximum allowable contribution to the Thunder campaign–a fact not disclosed to members of the group.

Lessons learned, and thoughts about the upcoming election:

I learned that the challenger for mayor and her supporters really REALLY do not want to answer binary policy questions from residents in public view.  I also came to understand that Julie Thunder has a very energized, organized, and aggressive core of online supporters who operate with full time, all caps, zeal.

If you have not met them, and you would like to, just post a simple thought on a local issue on Facebook or Nextdoor–they will find you.  But this energetic base of virtual activists is not a majority here in Encinitas.  Or at least, Julie Thunder probably does not think so.

How can we know this?

A quick review of online groups dominated by the challenger’s core supporters shows that they are strongly aligned in opposition to the three issues I asked about: the rail trail, the county health order requiring masks, and the creation of a safe parking lot for the homeless.

If the challenger thought that the policies of her core supporters represented a majority view in Encinitas, then it should be very easy for her to answer all three questions with a clear and simple “no,” in line with her core supporters.

I believe candidate Thunder struggled and resisted answering basic policy questions because she understands that one answer aligns with her minority base, and the other answer aligns with Mayor Blakespear and most Encinitas voters.

This problem is not limited to the three issues above.  On issue after issue–from safe storage of firearms ordinance (Blakespear voted yes), to climate mitigation efforts (Blakespear voted yes), to investing in improvements along the Leucadia 101 corridor (Blakespear voted yes), to concrete armoring of our natural beach bluffs (Thunder supports SB1090’s concrete seawalls)–on so many issues, core supporters of Julie Thunder generally line up one way, while most Encinitas voters generally come down on the other side.

In order to win the election, candidate Thunder must convince people with heartfelt disagreements on both sides of important local policy matters to think she’s “on their side.”

Ultimately, she needs many of us to vote against our own policy preferences because we are confused about what the candidate really stands for.  Being on everyone’s side sounds nice, but ultimately, it’s about confusion and misdirection.

Is it a winning strategy?  That is up to you.

It depends on whether a campaign that claims the noble high ground of transparency and community engagement can get away with actively avoiding simple, binary, basic policy questions from the public.

It depends on whether aggressive online tactics can make the rest of us tired, confused, willing to disengage, to give up, or to vote against what we believe just to make the noise stop.

See the three basic policy questions I posted, and the conversation that followed here (https://bit.ly/33WAe6P), here (https://bit.ly/302RJ43), and here (https://bit.ly/3crCZkv).

Andrew Matuszeski
Encinitas

17 comments

Susan Sherod September 25, 2020 at 10:38 pm

Thanks for the research and results, Andrew. I’m definitely voting for Catherine Blakespear.

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Janine September 26, 2020 at 4:52 am

Perfectly acceptable to ask a candidate where they stand on issues and asking questions of Julie in a group she is familiar with and has long been a member of could have been a gift to her. She could have seen it as a platform to share her insights. Yet she and her supporters balked at polite questions, calling them harassment. Reading the comments on the questions reveals how divisive, rude, and negative Thunder and her supporters are.

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Alex September 26, 2020 at 6:10 am

I’ve seen several people as Julie Thunder questions online and frequently her answer has begun with the rude comment of “Seriously?” She has also called people asking questions “Naive”. Her gruff style is not really a mach for the dignity and grace a public servant should use with their constituents. The worst those against Blakespear can say about her communication style is that she called some of her opponents “anti-homeless, anti-BLM”, but that’s just accurately summing up beliefs they themselves have expressed for many of us to hear. Anyone who has witness Julie at a city council meeting or has been on the opposite of a position than her has experienced her vitriol. Hot-headed and rude. Dishes it out in spades, but can not take it when it comes to dialogue and lashes out.

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Lisa Shaffer September 26, 2020 at 6:37 am

Excellent analysis. There are not simple, easy answers to governing in a complicated world, especially at the local level where every decision directly impacts neighbors and friends. Catherine Blakespear has given Encinitas her full-time dedication over the last six years. She has learned and grown and made tough choices, all in the name of serving the community. There is not a magic formula for making everyone happy – that’s magical thinking. Bbeing “on your side” in the real world means listening to many disparate voices advocating often contradictory, sometimes unlawful solutions and then being attacked for not doing what any one individual was advocating. Blakespear has put in the time, demonstrated her leadership, built relationships throughout the region that benefit Encinitas, and deserves our vote.

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Save the Park and Build the School September 26, 2020 at 8:28 am

Thank you Andrew for your efforts above and beyond what the average citizen would do.

Another hot issue that you could have raised was the Cardiff School rebuild. Julie Thunder would tell you she fully supports the rebuild and opposes the lawsuit that was filed by a group of residents seeking to save Berkich Park. What she doesn’t offer willingly is that a) she opposed Measure GG, the bond that funded the rebuild, b) that she signed the on-line petition to the school district created by Save the Park and Build the School opposing the expansion of school buildings into the park, and c) that, without authorization, Thunder published the name and attributed statements to Eleanor Musick, who, as a friend of the school district, did not wish to become openly involved in a dispute and had previously provided well-meaning cautions to the District of the legal risks it could face. Once outed, with the relationship irreparably damaged, Musick became one of the key voices of Save the Park and Build the School. Who knows what might have happened had Thunder not felt the need to fabricate a story?

Think about this when deciding who you can trust to run our city.

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Valerie September 26, 2020 at 10:47 am

Why did The Coast News publish such a stupid commentary? I saw the policy questions posted and they were ridiculous. Every question had a publically available answer posted at this location. https://juliethunder.org/comparisonchart/?fbclid=IwAR3HXQCA89_WI6DikZPU0WH2jHquv9mkgub25jV0-MVfleeQgVOTjqtBdeY and this man refuses to read the answers. Instead he continually posted annoying questions that he asked of only one candidate.

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steve September 27, 2020 at 11:15 am

Blakespear has increased the number of homeless in Encinitas who do NOT live in Encinitas and never have. She approves a large Hotel because she says Encinitas needs more hotel rooms then fills 3 current Hotels with transients. The reviews are in! I went to stay in a hotel in Encinitas and was surrounded by transients. We are getting quite the reputation.
Blakespear is supported by outside interests who are really bothered that we are living in a nice small town. There isn’t enough traffic and sprawl! It’s too peaceful! We live here because we prefer living in a quiet low crime area. These interests are in a panic that we are going to vote for people who want Encinitas to remain the way it is and who won’t kowtow to developers. It offends their senses so more money is pouring in to the bribe takers in power.
Changing busy 101 into a single lane-Blakespear promotes this lunacy. 5 story apartment buildings on a street lined with single homes. 15 apartment projects approved by this Mayor and the City Council. It will increase traffic by 25%! Encinitas is not a high employment area and this much growth makes no sense at all. Makes sense in Kearny Mesa, not here.
Catherine Blakespear, Tony Kranz, and unelected Hinz have been a disaster for Encinitas.
Julie Thunder as Mayor, Susan Turney and Alex Riley as City Council members will put a stop to this lunacy.
Let the Limousine Liberals go wreck some other town, not ours.

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Layla F September 27, 2020 at 8:33 pm

This article is a hit piece. I encourage Encinitas residents to sign up for Encinitas View point’s weekly zoom meeting and ask the challenger candidates questions directly.

If you believe it’s all fine and dandy to ignore and deceive your constituents, make secret back room deals . Conduct excessive closed door meetings. Mock residents’ input. Yes the fix was in regarding the safe parking lot HOT MIC “Friday is okay, bring the portable bathrooms “ this live during a City Council meeting pretending she was still deciding on the same issue, Believe builders, developers and super PAC funded by outsiders know what is best for Encinitas residence . Believe excessive/ 1000’s of ppl – large mask-less gatherings on moonlight beach are acceptable during a pandemic If promoting a worthy cause , but sitting in your car watching the sunset is criminal and deserves a $1000 fine , then you are a Catherine Blakespear supporter .

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Leon September 27, 2020 at 9:22 pm

Steve, Blakespear doesn’t put the homeless in hotels. That is the county. Your blame should fall at Gaspar‘s feet.

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steve September 28, 2020 at 11:20 am

No, that’s Blakespear and the City Council. My blame falls in the right place. The woman has been a disaster for Encinitas.

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Save the (View) September 28, 2020 at 12:36 pm

What Save The (View) fails to say is that d) once the community and school district had worked together to come up with a plan, Julie would have “discouraged others from opposing the school project and tried to calm the waters” (from Julie’s position paper regarding Cardiff School).

Our current mayor has never asked Save The (View) to withdraw their costly lawsuit, has publicly attacked the school district’s plan for hybrid learning, and has promoted a slanted article that tells a false narrative of the events surrounding the rebuild (and still has a link to the article on her website). Our mayor has also tried to distance herself from the controversy by clarifying that her mother is technically not part of the ST(V) group when in truth she was an active participant in opposition to the rebuild — not that it matters what a family member may do or think, but I’d have more respect for our mayor if, on this issue, she were to simply state that she and her mother disagree. Maybe they don’t?

And, seriously, “as a friend of the school district “. Ha! With friends like that, who needs friends?

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Save The (View) September 28, 2020 at 1:16 pm

What Save The (View) fails to say in their comment above is that d) once the community and school district had worked together to come up with a plan, Julie would have “discouraged others from opposing the school project and tried to calm the waters” (from Julie’s position paper regarding Cardiff School).

Our current mayor has never asked Save The (View) to withdraw their costly lawsuit, has publicly attacked the school district’s plan for hybrid learning, and has promoted a slanted article that tells a false narrative of the events surrounding the rebuild (and still has a link to the article on her campaign website).

Our mayor has also tried to distance herself from the controversy by pointing out that her mother is technically not part of Save The (View) when in truth she was an active participant in opposition to the rebuild — not that it matters what a family member may do or think, but it does matter how the mayor is trying to portray it. Did her mother not become a member of Save The (View) because of how it would look in the mayor’s race? I’d have more respect if she were a member of ST(V) and our mayor simply stated that she and her mother disagree that suing the school district to protect a park that doesn’t need protecting is a good idea. But maybe they don’t disagree?

The school rebuild is just one issue (and not even one of the three issues that the author of the article asked about) — but bringing up Cardiff School in this context is definitely not in your favored candidates best interest.

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Save The (View) September 28, 2020 at 3:45 pm

“Who knows what might have happened had Thunder not felt the need to fabricate a story?”

It’s not too late! Withdraw your lawsuit today. Save your soul.

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Lynn Marr September 29, 2020 at 6:38 am

“The questions I posted were simple, straightforward, and yes/no—just like the votes a Mayor must make at City Council meetings.” This is a misleading, false statement from the author of the commentary. Policy questions and other questions before Encinitas City Council are NOT simple. Lengthy staff reports, sometimes hundreds of pages long, accompany agenda items.

Council Members do phrase their motions in a manner so that they can vote yes or no. But we all know that most questions are not simple or “binary.” Questions before Council cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. That may be true for some items on the Consent Calendar, but even that has had far too many “action items” added to it, lately, which leads to, and is a symptom of, less transparency and accountability by the current mayor and her sycophants on Council.

I will be voting for Julie Thunder and Susan Turney. I feel our current mayor, CB, has acted recklessly with the agendas she is advancing. This commentary is indeed a hit piece against Julie Thunder and those who question the positions of CB. Our incumbent mayor has been in office six years now. Many of us who originally had high hopes for her are sorely disappointed. I support term limits. Tony Kranz should also be replaced by Alex Riley, whom I would vote for if CB’s former Council colleague, Tasha BH, had not “anonymously,” created districts that disenfranchised us voters. The results of districting are promoting less, NOT MORE diversity on Council.

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Lea September 29, 2020 at 7:32 am

Julie Thunder supporters created http://www.encinitaswatchdog.com , just take a glance at it and judge for yourself how hateful the rhetoric is, yet not only does Julie Thunder NOT condemn that, but she embraces the creators Jeff Morris, Crista Curtis, and Kim Morris, recently posing in a photo with Curtis and Mrs. Morris at a Del Mar Republican Women’s event where they spoke about their Blakespear Conspiracy theories to the group. Thunder commented under their group photo on Facebook saying that she “learned a lot” from them.

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Andrew Matuszeski September 30, 2020 at 10:48 am

It is my understanding that the moderator of Encinitas Votes has taken issue with the truthfulness of this point: “the moderator has donated close to the maximum allowable contribution to the Thunder campaign–a fact not disclosed to members of the group.”

I welcome anyone who doubts this to go see for yourself in the campaign finance filings on the City website (https://archive.encinitasca.gov/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=818128&dbid=0). See page 8, the last entry on the page.

There’s no shame in anyone contributing financially to the candidate of their choice. The only point here was that if one is moderating a political group that claims to be impartial, fairness dictates that such donations should be disclosed to the group, so that members may evaluate the objectivity of moderating decisions in light of potential bias.

She has also accused me of “nasty” non-public messages to her. This is false, and I call on her to publish any and all non-public messages between us.

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Rusty October 23, 2020 at 12:09 pm

I love the line that “most Encinitas voters” align with Blakespeare. I literally have not come across one neighbor that doesn’t think she is an absolute disaster.

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