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Council begins series of strategic planning sessions

ENCINITAS — City Council met in a boardroom at the Encinitas Ranch Golf Course Wednesday morning for the first of its strategic planning sessions. 

Mayor Teresa Barth said the sessions, which will be held over the next few months, are about building trust among councilmembers and goal setting outside of the confines of council meetings.

“(The council meetings) are so limited and so structured,” Barth said, adding that the sessions will give council a chance to look at the big picture.

The sessions are open to the public. But Barth said that the retreats will be an in-depth exploration of each councilmember’s vision for the city. Hence, the sessions aren’t necessarily a platform for the public to weigh in on city policies.

With a young council and many new city staff members, Barth said that the city is positioned to make reforms.

“If we don’t succeed now I don’t know if we ever will,” Barth said.

In January, council voted not to act on information related to the General Plan Update, a document that will guide housing, infrastructure and land use over the next few decades, until the fall, when its had a chance to revisit its objectives for the process at the sessions. Council also plans on touching upon ideas for pensions and other financial decisions during the meetings.

Wednesday’s session largely focused on laying the groundwork for future policy discussions. As one goal, councilmembers said they would like to hold more public workshops and step up outreach for big issues.

“We need to go to them and not expect them to come to us,” Councilman Mark Muir said.

Also, for complicated issues, councilmembers toyed with the idea of city staff reports including multiple viewpoints.

Councilmembers said they’re looking forward to putting behind campaign mode in favor of working together. Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer joked that councilmembers should get “team tattoos” to cement the spirit of cooperation.


judy carter April 7, 2013 at 7:18 am

I wished the newspaper had listed the dates of the next meetings.

Jared Whitlock April 8, 2013 at 9:20 am

Hi Judy,

Let me double check with the city clerk, but I don’t believe future dates have been set in stone. Once they are, I’ll post the schedule, both here and possibly in a future story.



Strategic Plan April 5, 2013 at 11:36 am

If Gus Vina’s ‘Stratigic Plan’ is actually to bankrupt the City, he is doing a good job of it.

The $350,000 price tag for an election, the overspending on the Park and Moonlight Beach, and especially his wasting money on consultants for no other reason than to try to solidify his shakey position is unacceptable.

Bring back Cotton! At least he was a more obvious kind of bad guy when he asked staff to write him an extra check. Anyone could understand that!

Vina is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to save his own position. It is really too bad that he doesn’t have to pay the bill for all of these consultants. They do his bidding, then he sends us the bills!

Not on the Same Team April 5, 2013 at 9:30 am

The Council needs to remember that their team are the VOTERS who put them in place. The staff, Gus Vina, and the City Attorney work for them, and the Council works for US.

Lynn Marr April 5, 2013 at 3:26 am

“[T]he sessions aren’t necessarily a platform for the public to weigh in on city policies.” according to Mayor Teresa Barth. That’s for sure!

A few members of the public went to this “retreat for the electeds” on April 3, at the Encinitas Golf Course Clubhouse at 10 am. To me, it felt as though we were treated as 3rd class citizens.

Two wooden tables were reserved for the “elite,” with Council, the contracted facilitator, City Manager, Gus Vina, & City Attorney (both City Attorney and City Manager soon to be evaluated) seated at the 1st table.

The rectangular tables & plush chairs were reserved for insiders; the public was relegated to a few chairs around the perimeter of the room, at the “back of the bus.” At the 2nd table, directly in front of us, blocking our view of Council’s backs, were staff & contractors backs, including 101 Czar, Peder Norby.

To me, it appeared the part of the meeting I saw (I left after the first half hour) was not really about team-building, but more about separating the privileged, “elite” from the public, to whom Mayor Barth made crystal clear that although one could make a 3 minute statement at the beginning of the meeting, we couldn’t participate in any ensuing discussion, nor ask any questions.

We were also informed that there would be a working lunch break around Noon, but we had no tables. Presumably, we would have had to leave, to go to the separate bar & public eating area.

The meeting was recorded, but we’ve been (incorrectly) told the audio files are “too big” to be posted online, as are city webcasts.

Barth crowed, “this has never been done before.” She’s wrong; something similar was done under Kerry Miller. At Wednesday’s “retreat,” lowly members of the public were made to feel we aren’t on the same team w/Council, staff & insiders.

To many of us, it feels as though the City, through Council, is polarizing the public, NOT working with people in the neighborhoods, outside of business associations and special interests, to draw the community together. Instead, they are being divisive through a “bully pulpit.”

The public was only invited to “observe,” because that is required, by the Brown Act, when a quorum of Council is present. By not being allowed to participate in the discussions, we are excluded from the actual process.

Three minutes each at the beginning of the meeting, during which time only I and the current president of L101MA spoke, is merely a pretense, going through the motions of allowing or encouraging public input. By our relatively new City Manager’s staging these retreats, Gus Vina has put off and effectively excluded the public from participating in what should be our ongoing goal setting sessions.

Diversity in opinion is positive. Team building for Council and staff and City contractors should not be over-emphasized such that our elected representatives fall in line with the City Manager’s seemingly passive aggressive style, failing to “have the public’s back,” failing to uphold their duty to act as public servants, faithfully honoring the public trust, failing to give us a real voice at all Council Meetings, including “Special Meetings.”

The way it feels to me is that Council doesn’t trust the general public, and we can no longer trust some of those whom we worked so hard to elect. The “Father of Encinitas” was present, at the retreat, to observe. In my eyes, Bob Bonde should be treated with respect and honor, not shuffled off to a corner.

Because Bob Bonde has health issues, he has trouble turning his head to see the screen at Council Meetings, twisting his neck at a sharp angle. Without explanation, staff has now suddenly zip-tied the chairs together, so Bob can no longer adjust his metallic folding chair, for his comfort during prolonged Council Meetings at City Hall.

I am embarrassed that staff and Council seem so heartless, so arrogant as to distance themselves from the people who put them in office, who support them with our taxes and fees, many of us putting in countless hours, as volunteers, to help save our neighborhoods and take back our city from special interests, the very reason our city was founded, with the dedicated, selfless help of Bob Bonde and Marjorie Gaines.

Yes, there should be more workshops, NOT more retreats. The workshops should be honest “give and take” sessions where the public and staff, perhaps City Commissioners can brainstorm. These workshops should be truly “impartial” on the part of the facilitators, who could be Commissioners, or unbiased members of staff, not by roundabout “lobbyists” or other business association representatives and commercial interests. The data collected should be verified, quantified and qualified, using open, scientific method; the questions asked should not be slanted or “stacked.”

I hope Prop A will pass, and that Council will finally realize that holding retreats is not an honest tool, an equitable method for reform, for faithfully serving the public after honestly assessing our needs. The best “needs assessment” is a public vote!

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