Encinitas City Council will continue its talks over how the city’s mayor should be selected.
In February with a 3-2 vote that would give the mayor seat to the highest vote-getter in the last election, rather than of allowing city council members to decide who should be mayor.
Wednesday night Council decided that instead of moving that policy forward, it would continue exploring other options. The topic will be placed on a future city council agenda and be discussed publicly.
That decision came after heated discussion and impassioned input from nearly a dozen residents. Many speakers took issue with the policy being retroactive, which in this case would have meant Encinitas Deputy Mayor Kristin Gaspar became the next mayor next because she was the highest vote-getter in the 2010 election. Several said that was unfair because when they voted in that election, they had no way of knowing it would someday determine who becomes mayor, and as speaker Cyrus Kamada put it, “you cannot redefine the meaning of a vote after it has occurred.”
The mayor selection process has been a front-burner topic since December, after Encinitas Councilwoman Teresa Barth was not selected to be mayor nor deputy mayor—the third time this has happened. That move has upset many of her supporters, and Wednesday night it was evident this was still an emotionally charged topic: At one point during council discussion Stocks called a five-minute recess due to jeering from some audience members.
After the recess, Stocks who proposed the interim policy in February, pointed out that it was almost identical to the one Escondido used to transition into electing its mayors and said he had intended it to work that way for Encinitas, too.
Emotions rose again when Gaspar spoke and some audience members stood and turned their backs to her—a silent form of protest that was . At least one audience member held a sign that read “No Mayor Gaspar.”
Gaspar said she felt she was receiving unfair criticism. She told Barth she was upset with her because “you keep going out in the media blasting me, saying that I’m not supporting you because of your positions and that’s absolutely false.” Gaspar said the Council has supported Barth “a hundred percent of the time” when it comes to getting items on the agenda and that Barth routinely votes against her own recommendations and circumvents the subcommittee process, which she feels do not make her a good leader and is the reason she has not tagged her for the mayor seat.
Barth, who voted against the policy in February, called it “Orwellian” and “undemocratic” Wednesday night. She also thanked her supporters for being there, said she felt honored to have their support and applauded them for defending their First Amendment rights.
Encinitas Councilman James Bond, who also voted against the policy in February, said he supported the concept of an elected mayor in Encinitas. After 20 years in office, he said he hoped getting an elected mayor system would be one of his crowning achievements.
Encinitas Councilman Mark Muir said he felt the topic certainly warranted more discussion. He said he was open to an interim policy for a short-term fix, but wanted to include a long-term solution as well. He suggested creating a task force to help explore that idea, but was directed to save that discussion for a future city council meeting when the topic is on the agenda.
Of the 18 cities in San Diego County, Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar are the only places where voters do not elect their mayor.