By Michael Verdu, Encinitas resident
Going deeper than sound bites and slogans, I thought I'd share some of my personal reasons for why I support our mayor and why I work so hard to get her re-elected. It's important to note that my wife and I have no financial interests in Encinitas beyond our home; there's nothing we want or need from our elected leaders except for them to do a good job, serve our community, and act with integrity. Here is my case for our mayor.
Competence: I personally value competence in our leaders - and Catherine has proven to be very competent. She understands the issues that we face in Encinitas and the entire region. She does her homework. She is careful to weigh all sides of an issue. Mike Levin recently said that she is one of the most knowledgeable local leaders, grasping the details and nuances of regional and local policy. Along with our City Council, she's competently steering our city through a pandemic, a crushing recession, an unprecedented level of polarization in the community, a global environmental crisis, a housing affordability crisis, a growing wave of homelessness, and the denouement of a years-long crisis around the city's housing plan. Through it all we've kept our AAA bond rating, we have one of the safest cities in the county (#1 in 2019, #2 this year), we are moving forward with community improvements including parks and pedestrian rail crossings and trails, we are protecting our environment and safeguarding our beaches, and our community has maintained its character, vibrancy, and soul.
Commitment: She works tirelessly on behalf of our community. Serving as mayor or Council member was originally supposed to be a part-time role, something a citizen does in addition to a day job. Catherine performs her role as a full time job. She's all-in for our city, and I am grateful for that.
Compassion: She cares about ALL of the people in our community, including our homeless residents. And she's willing to fight for us... ALL of us. She fearlessly fought to help the most vulnerable members of our community with the Safe Parking Lot for 25 cars for unsheltered residents. This was an important first step and it not only showed our city's compassion but also our willingness to lead the region in addressing one of our nation's deepest problems.
Leadership: Catherine understands that leadership is more than obstructing or pushing back or pointing out the negatives. A leader must find a path forward, balancing the interests of the community, obeying the law, and trying to do the most good for the largest number of residents while protecting the interests and rights of the minority. She does all of that... again and again.
Courage: Catherine has taken stands that are based on principle, even at risk of being unpopular. She acts locally while thinking globally with the Climate Action Plan, the shore restoration projects, bans on single use plastics, and the support for active transportation. She and the Council have been steadfast in support of the long-overdue improvements in Leucadia, which also have the support of the majority of residents but are opposed by an active minority. She strongly supported the Safe Parking Lot in the face of opposition from an angry minority of residents. These are just a few examples of leadership and political courage in the face of adversity.
Integrity and Values: Catharine's integrity is above reproach. And everything she does in office is guided by principles which ultimately flow from a wellspring of values. She is a true public servant and is devoted to democracy. Her emotional connections to the ideals of democracy shine through when she writes about elections, voting, and our country's history. Given the trying times that we live in, I am sometimes tempted to become cynical about our democracy. Catherine is NEVER cynical about our democracy. She believes in it with every fiber of her being... and she strives to act every day according to democratic ideals. Her faith reminds me to have faith. I am grateful for that.
Pragmatism: She understands that we can never win with extremes. For example, we can't tell the state to pound sand with regards to our housing plan. The Governor and the State Legislature are committed to solving a statewide housing affordability crisis and are requiring cities to create plans for new housing, including affordable housing. Encinitas was out of compliance for years due to the lack of a natural constituency to advocate in favor of housing plans that were difficult compromises. The Council attempted to pass compromise plans twice in the face of fierce opposition from special interest groups. We paid the price in lawsuits, legal bills, and lost state grants (which could have paid for more pedestrian rail crossings, among other projects). This housing issue is perhaps the most thorny and difficult problem facing our mayor and Council. It's very complicated... with a local law (Prop A) conflicting with state law. The conflict is incredibly hard to resolve because of the dynamics involved in passing a city-wide housing plan (by a vote) that can be certified by the state.
When we look forward, we need a housing plan that balances all interests. Those who believe that we can push back on the state and stop all new housing projects are misleading the public with simplistic messaging. In reality, local law does not pre-empt state law. A housing plan that is compliant with state law will be an uneasy compromise, no matter how it shakes out. Why? Because we can't force owners of private property to develop nothing but affordable housing (that would constitute taking their property). Instead, we have to incent landowners to develop the right kind of housing, and that's a frustrating and indirect mechanism. We must live in the real world and find compromises that work for all of us. That means the elements of any housing plan will be unpopular with some residents, no matter what is proposed.
I trust Catherine as well as the current Council to get this right. To thread this needle, to navigate us out of the current litigation and eventually find the practical and balanced path forward. I don't trust Julie Thunder, Susan Turney, and Alex to get this right. They betray a lack of experience, pragmatism, and common sense by taking a very complex issue and reducing it down to misleading slogans for campaign signs. To me, what they say sounds like pandering to residents, a highly unrealistic "have your cake and eat it too" approach. I believe they will plunge Encinitas back into a legal war with the state.
I trust Catherine to do the right thing for Encinitas. She's competent, compassionate, pragmatic, and courageous. I share and respect her values. Maybe she won't get it perfectly right every time... but she'll get it right most of the time. And that's all we can really ask of our leaders.