Friday, March 6, 2015

San Diego Reader on the end of Little League play at the Ecke fields

While the City Council remains awkwardly silent about its giveaway of the Little League fields, local media aren't forgetting.

San Diego Reader:
With opening day of the 2015 Encinitas Little League baseball on March 7, until last week, the league wasn’t sure it would hear “play ball” this year. And this may be the last year they are allowed to play at the Magdalena Ecke YMCA's baseball complex — fields they’ve used for 25 years.

The league that produced an all-star team — which was one win away from making it to the 2014 Little League World Series — and the City of Encinitas both thought they were entering into a standard ten-year agreement with the Y for its four-diamond complex. The YMCA owns the property; the city leases and pays for field improvements. But the Y threw a curve ball.
The Reader chalks this up to bad faith on the part of the YMCA, but simple incompetence and negligence on the part of city staff and the City Council. We're not so sure about that. City Manager Gus Vina never struck us as a bumbling fool but as a shrewd operator doing things out of the public eye for his own reasons (e.g. hiding the fact that he had hired Rutan & Tucker and covering up the city's Rossini Creek environmental violations). And the fact that the Council still hasn't held Parks and Rec Director Lisa Rudloff accountable for the debacle lends credence to the theory that there is more than simple incompetence behind the giveaway.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Chavez vacates Assembly seat; will Gaspar run?

Assemblyman Rocky Chávez made it official on Thursday: He'll make the uphill run for U.S. Senate.

The Oceanside Republican said he will challenge Democratic frontrunner Attorney General Kamala Harris for the seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer. He is the first Republican to enter the 2016 race.
This opens up Chavez's Assembly seat, in a safe Republican district. Looking around the district from Encinitas to Camp Pendleton, there are a handful of candidates who have the name recognition and political network to mount a serious run. Might Kristin Gaspar give it a try?

Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood would have a good chance of winning. He's nominally a Republican but liberal and well-funded by the labor unions. We know he's ambitious, as he ran for and almost won Bill Horn's Supervisor seat last year. Popular Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall would be another formidable candidate. He has a track record of accomplishing pension reform, and was recently re-elected unopposed after defeating labor candidate Keith Blackburn in 2010.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Odds & Ends

Stuff we've been remiss in not mentioning yet:

- Encinitas terminates Peak Democracy: 4-1 vote.  Shaffer voted to keep Peak Democracy, despite its numerous well-documented and irreparable flawsreportedly because staff likes it, and Shaffer trusts staff.

- Council, Sabine disagree on BIA lawsuit: Blakespear said that the council and city attorney disagreed on the case, which would explain why the council replaced Sabine with outside attorneys.  Presumably, Sabine wanted to surrender to the BIA on some issues that the council wanted to contest.  It looks like a good move by the council as Shaffer's recent newsletter reports, "I was impressed by the outside counsel and think they will be a great asset as we move forward with all of our housing-related work."

- Yesterday's mid-afternoon Pacific View subcommittee meeting: anybody take time out from work to attend?

But give us a break. Our coverage of these issues would still be "excellent" by Encinitas City Council standards, right?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Supreme Court to hear warrantless searches of hotel guest records

Back in 2013, the city council voted unanimously to force Encinitas hotels to turn over guest records to the police without a warrant. The idea was pushed on a number of Southern California cities around the same time by law enforcement agencies.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently ruled against the intrusion on Fourth Amendment grounds, putting the Encinitas snooping program on hold.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today, and presumably rule in June. We'll hazard a guess they'll respect the Fourth Amendment on this one.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

CORRECTION: Thanks to a commenter who reminded us that the after the city council unanimously passed the law on the first reading, they did not pass it on its required second reading.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

This could be the last year for Little League at Ecke ball fields

We wrote last year about the City giving away its option to a clean 10-year extension of the lease for the Ecke YMCA baseball fields, which put Encinitas Little League at grave risk of a loss of playing fields.  The change was negotiated by city staff, and passed unanimously by council without discussion as a consent item. When a member of the public informed the council a year later that they had put the Little League fields at risk, the council seemed surprised.

It now appears that risk has become a reality.  Encinitas Advocate:
Susan Hight, executive director of the YMCA, said in an email that the organization is developing a site master plan to serve members better, including expanding its footprint and renovating existing buildings. The plan could affect one or more of the fields.

"The YMCA anticipates finalizing their master plan site prior to July 2015, in advance of next year's scheduling session (for leagues)," Hight said. She also said the YMCA would provide open communications with families who are part of the sports leagues.
So the YMCA clearly wanted to terminate the lease early. Just over a year after being given the right to terminate, they already have development plans. But why would the city give away eight or more years of use of the fields with no good alternative for the Little League?

Parks and Rec Director Lisa Rudloff is sticking to the highly dubious city line:
Rudloff said the 30-day clause provides flexibility if either party wants to end the lease. As an example, Rudloff said: "If the city, through the parks master planning process, identified space to develop, the city would have flexibility to get out of the lease."
The city needing flexibility to get out of the lease stretches credulity.  The rent is $25 for the entire term, and maintenance and utility costs are only $129,000 per year, a tiny fraction of the Parks and Rec budget and a bargain for four lighted fields for which the city has no alternative for the Little Leagues.

So what the heck happened?  We can see three possibilities:

1) Rudloff's story is true.  Vina and Rudloff wanted the option to save a small amount of money, and either didn't know or didn't care that they were taking much-needed playing fields away from Little Leaguers.

2) Rudloff and Vina gave away the fields to benefit the YMCA or related development interests, for some unknown reason.  The fact that they negotiated this change and slipped it through the Council without public discussion lends credence to this possibility.

3) Some or all of the council members supported the YMCA development plans for some unknown reason, and Vina and Rudloff were just carrying out the council's wishes.  Unlikely as this may seem, it is bolstered by the fact that the council has neither fired Rudloff nor opened a public inquiry into this debacle that hurt thousands of Encinitas children's sports opportunities and made the council look foolish.  By not holding anyone accountable for the contract change, the council is admitting tacit approval.

What's your theory?

All four sitting council members who gave away the Little League fields have their terms ending in 2016, and at least three are expected to run for re-election.  Joe Mosca and Al Lerchbacker may want to call the Little League folks.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2/25/15 City Council meeting open thread

The current city council has continued prior councils' practice of not providing written summary minutes of council discussion, but only "action minutes" which state the outcomes. Encinitas Undercover will provide a forum for observers to record what occurs at each council meeting.

Please use the comments to record your observations.

Items of interest:

- mid-year budget review - the re-launch of Joe Mosca's political career. - cancellation of Peak Democracy web poll software contract - SANDAG update on Coastal Rail Trail (complete through Solana Beach, non-existent in Encinitas)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Barber angry over mural depicting immigrants arriving by boat

10 News:
A business owner in Encinitas is up in arms over a mural painted on a neighboring 7-11 convenience store.

The mural depicts a group of people -- who appear to be immigrants -- arriving on shore in a boat, one of them with a backpack in hand.

The business owner believes the image is offensive and should be taken down.

10News Reporter Vanessa Van Hyfte is talking to folks in Encinitas and will have reaction at 5 p.m.