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Election 2020: Where Carlsbad candidates stand on controversial issues

CARLSBAD — Just a few weeks out from the Nov. 3 election, some local political candidates are reminding voters there’s more to the ballot than the presidential race. To get a taste of what the Carlsbad City Council candidates really support, The Coast News asked them where they stood on a few of the most popular local issues.

Incumbent councilmember Keith Blackburn and small business owner Lela Panagides are vying for the District 2 seat. The District 4 position, which has been vacant for more than a year, will be between candidates Teresa Acosta and Phil Urbina, who also have experience as small business owners.

Police Reform

None of the candidates support defunding the police.

Blackburn, who served as a police officer for 40 years, 33 in Carlsbad, says that the city’s typically healthy budget enables the council to add resources to one area without having to take resources away from another. This means that the city can support other community services without taking support away from the police.

While all candidates agree there’s always room for improvement, Urbina says he’s against taking action for police reform right now. As departments across the nation begin to enact reforms, Urbina says some of them will have “catastrophic” consequences.

Along with all the other candidates, Panagides applauded the “extraordinary leadership” of the Carlsbad Police Department and its willingness to improve. A member of both the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the NAACP, Panagides pointed out that critics of law enforcement can still be supporters of law enforcement.

Two candidates voiced their opinion on Citizen Review Boards (CRB) specifically, which aims to increase community engagement and oversight in policing. Acosta says the city should further explore creating a CRB, possibly consisting of residents from each district. Urbina says a CRB adds “another layer of bureaucracy.”

Project Labor Agreements (PLAs)

 PLAs — contracts with labor unions for public sector projects — have been contested in Carlsbad, particularly when it comes to the Clean Energy Alliance.

Panagides says not every city contract should have to work like this. Instead, she’d look at quality, price and dependability for projects. Though she supports working families, unions and benefits, “the PLA is not the only way to achieve that.”

The rest of the candidates didn’t take the middle ground approach.

Blackburn — who worked as a construction union worker in his early 20s — and Urbina both say they’re against PLAs, arguing they reduce competition and drive up project costs.

Acosta supports PLAs for its worker protection of fair pay, benefits and bargaining rights.

“If we don’t protect them, they will not be able to afford to live in communities like this,” Acosta said. “Our workforce is already struggling living here.”

COVID-19 Rent Deferments

 Carlsbad’s growing list of COVID-19 economic recovery initiatives includes small business loans and commercial rent deferments, but Acosta says farther down the line the council will need to mitigate the effects of the resulting balloon payments.

Acknowledging Carlsbad’s loss in revenue and limited control over businesses closing and homes being lost, both Panagides and Acosta say that they’d advocate at the state and federal level for more local resources, such as grants and CARES Act funding.

Though Urbina says he hasn’t seen any increase in homelessness due to the pandemic, he says the best way to reduce the risk of evictions is to “keep everybody working” and “make sure we support our businesses.”

Still, Blackburn and Urbina say there are some unintended consequences and ramifications of rental deferments and other relief.

“…For every rental unit, there is an owner of that unit who is not getting the revenue that they expected, and these people aren’t all giant corporations,” Urbina said.

Proposition 15

 Proposition 15 would use a split roll to tax commercial and industrial property based on their market value, while still taxing residential property at its purchase price. The new tax on market value would only apply to businesses with more than $3 million in holdings. The revenue would be distributed at the state, county and local levels, while also funding public schools and community colleges.

The proposition would begin to take effect for some businesses starting FY 2022.

“I would oppose this anytime, but particularly in this COVID world,” Urbina said.

Blackburn, who’s skeptical of the proposition, says “the timing is horrible.” He’s concerned that funds may be redirected to other areas, and the increased tax would ultimately be passed on to the consumer.

As co-chair of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee, Acosta was able to hear from speakers on both sides of the debate, ultimately choosing to support the proposition. She says that “only very large corporations” will have to switch to paying market value, which would be fair considering “big businesses have been escaping through a property tax loophole.”

Since councilmembers don’t have direct authority over propositions, Panagides declined to take a public stance,  saying “the voters of California will decide.”

Steve Puterski contributed to the reporting of this article