Encinitas and the Arab Spring
Cyrus KIn case you were on another planet last Wednesday, a major affront to democracy and open government took place in our beautiful little beach community. As a group of citizens protesting the council majority's appointment of Mark Muir to fill Maggie Houlihan's vacated seat attempted to enter the council meeting room, they were shunted away by police to a separate room, while supporters of Mark Muir, wearing "Thank you Mark" stickers were allowed in. Within the council meeting room, a surreal portrait was presented, as though you were in the streets of Tripoli, or Cairo, or Dara'a, when the rulers filled the squares with pro-government ringers to create the illusion of popular support. In the absence of popular legitimacy, power always strives to create its impression, so that the malfeasance, incompetence and arrogant disregard of the public can continue unnoticed.
The question here as in the countries of the Arab spring is - who's government is it anyway? By selectively filling the meeting room with supporters, the current council majority has made the statement that our city government is strictly for them, and those who support them. Unlike the middle east, their tools of tyranny are not guns and tanks, but rather the tyranny of the majority. The essential strategy is the same though - use power to gain power, and hope that the public either doesn't notice or is powerless to do anything about it.
Rather than mortars and rifles, in a peaceful democracy, our recourse is to conscientiously object to actions taken without conscience, at the ballot box, in print and in person. There is much to object to beyond just the Muir appointment. An unfunded pension liability of $39 million dollars; a deferred road maintenance bill of $17 million dollars; a long-term debt including lease-revenue bonds of $172 million dollars; $1.5 million dollars interest per year on the $31.5 million dollars owed for the Hall property ( while it just sits there ), and a projected development cost of $13 million. All this with $9 million in the bank ( figures drawn from the city's 2009 Annual Financial Report and the Calpers Actuarial Pension Study for Encinitas ). In addition, we should be vigilant regarding attempts by the sitting council super majority to alter zoning regulations in favor of the developers who fund their campaigns. As Maggie said, democracy is not a spectator sport.
To see if the city has a response, email the city manager at: firstname.lastname@example.org.