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Community CommentaryOpinion

Vision versus vacuum in Encinitas mayoral race

At the Encinitas mayoral forum Tuesday night, Councilwoman Catherine Blakespear noted that her family has lived in Encinitas for nearly a hundred years. And an awareness of local history does differentiate her from opponent Paul Gaspar.

Blakespear’s “preserve our paradise” slogan has deep resonance with a long-time local like me, since the elephant in the room of Encinitas politics is always the issue of overdevelopment. On the other hand, Gaspar strikes me as an outsider (despite living in Encinitas for 22 years).

An Orange County native, he spoke often of his business successes in Sacramento and beyond. I found myself doubting he could possibly understand the soul connection we locals feel to this place.

What impressed me most about Gaspar was his skill at not taking a position on things. I couldn’t tell if this was a calculated unwillingness to commit without visible political gain (as with his No Rail Trail commitment), or whether he simply didn’t have a position. He blah-blahed earnestly about fairness, transparency, and fiscal responsibility, as if those were not already the stated goals of every politician in the known universe — especially the ones without any ideas or foresight. When asked what he and his wife would do about potential conflicts of interest in the event that they both won their races (former mayor-wife Kristin is running for county supervisor), he said they “hadn’t given it any thought.” Rightfully so, this elicited chuckles in the room.

On the other hand, Blakespear seemed almost presidential. She was passionate yet measured and precise of language. Refreshingly, there were several questions related to environmental policy and transportation. Blakespear, who said mobility is one of her top priorities, explained that the way to both reduce traffic and fight climate change is by getting people out of their cars and into other modes of transit, such as bikes and walking. She said without civic leadership on the matter, no change will occur. She understands that if protected bike paths are built, people will flock to them.

Conversely, Gaspar didn’t seem to understand the importance of improving biking and walking opportunities. He said it’s unwise for the city to give up traffic lanes to make room for bike lanes and that it’s “not the job of the city to tell people how to get around.” Translation: he’s just fine with the car-centric status quo, and global warming is nothing to get all worked up about. He did clumsily mention that he drives a Ford Focus plug-in, as if that frees him of any further climate-related responsibilities.

At the Olivenhain forum last week, half of the allotted time was wasted re-litigating the closed case of the Pacific View purchase. Nevertheless, Gaspar couldn’t quite let go last might, saying he would have negotiated a price closer to $3 million (the city paid $10 million). Of course, this Trumpian claim is refuted by a visit to any real estate website, where it’s clear that these days $3 million buys you a 40-foot wide place on Neptune Avenue, not the 2.5 acres of the Pacific View site.

Gaspar was more awake than he had been in Olivenhain, but that’s just not enough. Half of his donations are coming from outside Encinitas, and he has no vision or enthusiasm. Blakespear prioritizes mobility, the rail corridor, the renovation of Pacific View, and granny flats.

I’m with her.

Darius Degher is a Leucadia resident.