ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council appointed seven representatives to the new Public Health and Safety Commission during its Sept. 27 meeting.
The commission’s directive to identify public health and safety concerns, recommend solutions to the City Council and promote cooperation between law enforcement and other entities is intentionally broad, according to Mayor Tony Kranz.
“Folks sitting on this commission have a wide berth in which direction they want to take, which topics they want to discuss, and I’m looking forward to letting these seven commissioners steer the ship,” Kranz said.
Kranz recommended Lauren Andrade, Alex Dominguez, James Morton, Robin Sales, Marlon Taylor, Daniel Vaughn and Mali Woods-Drake to the commission. The council approved the list 4-1, with Councilmember Bruce Ehlers in opposition.
“I don’t think it represents a cross-section of the citizens of Encinitas,” Ehlers said. “I thought it was overly weighted to folks appointed to the Equity Committee.”
Three of the seven — Woods-Drake, Taylor and Sales — served on the city’s now-defunct Equity Committee, established in 2021 in response to a Minneapolis police officer killing George Floyd and ensuing calls to examine systemic racism.
The Equity Committee spent a year discussing inclusiveness and accessibility in Encinitas. The committee and its recommendations to the city, which included creating the Public Health and Safety Commission, were controversial.
Some insisted the commission was unnecessary, as bringing affirmative action-style policies to city board and commission appointments could lead to less qualified people in the roles. Others appreciated the attempt to include more minority voices.
Data from the 2020 census shows that 77% of Encinitas residents are White, 12% are two or more races, 4.3% are Asian and about half of a percent are Black.
The Equity Committee’s final recommendations issued in May 2022 covered a broad spectrum of issues, including advising to issue a proclamation on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, hiring a DEI leader, requiring at least one woman or one person of color in each applicant pool for boards and commissions, improving accessibility of city communications, including renters in housing conversations and increasing utilization of the Mobile Crisis Response Team.
While some residents worried the Equity Committee would encourage decreasing funding to law enforcement, that was not recommended.
The Public Health and Safety Commission may revisit some of these same areas. Kranz said the commission might explore law enforcement, fire safety issues, homelessness, housing and mental health.
Kranz is pleased that Andrade, an Orange County Fire Authority fire captain, and Dominguez, a former commanding lieutenant at the San Diego County Sheriff’s Fallbrook substation, will bring a law enforcement perspective to the commission.
“I will tell you that any conversations that hint at defunding the police, I will proactively squelch because that’s a non-starter for me,” Kranz said.
The City Council receives work plans from each commission and can direct them to change an area of focus.
The Public Health and Safety Commission differs from the ad-hoc Equity Committee in its time and scope. While the Equity Committee met for a year, seats on the new commission expire every three years.
“I expect this one to stick around because matters of health and safety will always be important,” Kranz said.