North County Report: Allow Me to Introduce Myself - Voice of San Diego

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North County Report: Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Our new North County reporter reports for duty, Barbara Hamilton’s departure is still causing tension in Carlsbad and more in our biweekly roundup of news from North County.

(From left to right) Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis, Will Hunstberry and Kayla Jimenez talk about reporting on sexual misconduct in schools at a VOSD event. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

To say it was difficult to find a job in journalism after graduating from San Diego State two-and-a-half years ago would only minimize the situation. I applied for an internship at Voice of San Diego last summer at a tipping point in my career, just as I was preparing to give up. When I accepted the position, I regained hope and anticipated the opportunity would provide me with a chance to work alongside the reporters in the office while assisting on a few investigations.

But to my surprise, I was assigned to report on a daunting series of stories involving sexual misconduct in schools. I spent my first months on the job poring over thousands of pages of documents showing substantiated incidents of sexual misconduct by teachers, coaches and other school employees across the region from Chula Vista in the South Bay to Carlsbad in North County. My work as one of the few reporters in the region covering the problem led into a position I could not have foreseen. It is extremely unusual to report on a very narrow investigation as a reporter in today’s media landscape, where reporters are dwindling and resources are limited.

Over the past two years, Voice of San Diego reporter Ashly McGlone and I became outlets for parents and students affected by the harrowing and daunting experience of abuse in schools. It was emotionally draining at times, but what fueled my drive to continue reporting on the shortfalls of schools across the region was a phone call with Loxie Gant. Gant said that though being harassed by her teacher while in high school was traumatic, the real betrayal came from San Diego Unified officials who didn’t believe her, didn’t document her complaints and didn’t discipline the teacher. It was, unfortunately, a common story and we did our best to lay out the patterns of systematic failure in more than 50 stories.

And now, as my reporting shifts to North County communities, I plan to immerse myself into new communities and new issues with a similar gusto and listening ear in an effort to shine a light on the unseen. For that reason, I hope to hear from you about the stories and situations affecting your communities, friends and families that may be concealed from the rest of the San Diego region. I will be spending time in the communities of North County in the upcoming weeks (and months) so please do share recommendations for your favorite local coffee shops. And introduce yourself and say hello if you spot me in one of them!

Also, now is a good time to recommend this newsletter to a friend, family member or coworker to encourage them to keep up with the news in their community. I’ll be on the lookout for all of your story ideas, tips and feedback in the upcoming weeks.

Hamilton’s Departure in Carlsbad Is Still Causing Tension

The Carlsbad City Council has decided to appoint former Councilwoman Barbara Hamilton’s replacement, and Mary Anne Viney, a resident of District 1, where Hamilton served, led an opposition effort this week.

She helped gather signatures for a petition demanding that the open seat go to a vote of the residents in the March 2020 election, Viney said. Viney previously intended to run for a D1 seat herself, but decided against it.

“We just feel that this is really the most non-partisan, political way of doing this is that they are able to choose,” Viney said. “It’s a big sort of fundamental issue in democracy with the right to vote for your new representative and also has to do with ‘districting.’”

Councilwoman Cori Schumacher agrees with Viney.

Schumacher wrote in her newsletter over the weekend that who serves the remainder of Hamilton’s term should be decided by the constituents of D1.

She said the most cost-effective way to allow the people to vote for who fills the vacancy is to align the election with the March 2020 primary.

At the Oct. 22 Council meeting, Council members announced that they would appoint a replacement.

Mayor Matt Hall said the appointment is the fastest, least expensive way to get five people on the dais. Currently, D1 residents can apply for an appointment for the City Council until Nov. 12.

The caveat: If the Council cannot agree on a candidate, the district will hold a special election. But at this rate, it’s likely that the city is going to miss the March primary and would need to hold a special election in either April or November 2020. Carlsbad would pay a hefty price in the process.

If an election aligns with the March primary, the estimated cost is between $7,500 and $19,500. But if a special election is held in April, the cost is between $175,000 and $300,000, according to a memorandum written by Carlsbad City Attorney Celia Brewer.

The deadline to go on the March ballot is Nov. 10 – two days before Council members say they will stop accepting applications for appointment.

So why doesn’t the Council just appoint someone? Because three of its members — two Republicans and one Democrat — need to unanimously agree. Schumacher recused herself from votes at the last two Council meetings on agenda items related to filling the D1 Council seat.

She revealed in her newsletter that she chose to remove herself from deliberations because it would have been antithetical to her values. “When the agenda item on appointments was brought before Council by Ms. Hamilton, I was placed in an impossible situation,” Schumacher wrote. “Given I had endorsed Ms. Hamilton for her run for Council, the perception that I could be colluding to take away a vote from the people of D1 and simply appointing someone I wanted in that seat, loomed.”

She said that if she advocated for a special election, any decision or comment she made during deliberations could be weighed against a possible run in D1. Both situations would have “made it impossible to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest or placing self-interest above the public interest,” she said.

If the District 1 residents gather enough signatures to complete the petition, the Registrar of Voters will need to approve those signatures, Kristina Ray, a spokeswoman for the city said.

Ray said Wednesday morning the City Clerk’s office had not yet received the petition. Viney said residents collected the needed number of signatures and would present the petition to the office Wednesday afternoon.

Ray said if the registrar determines there are enough valid signatures, the City Council will have to schedule a special meeting to adopt a resolution essentially acknowledging the petition and schedule a special election before the Nov. 10 deadline.

Tricks and Treats From Politifest

VOSD’s Politifest, held this weekend at the University of San Diego, was focused on housing, transportation and homelessness – issues that definitely, certainly, never, ever come up in North County, right? We kid!

North County was at the center of many of these great discussions. Some highlights:

  • San Marcos Councilwoman María Nuñez and other North County community activists spoke to city residents concerned about being displaced from their homes. The forum illuminated how gentrification is currently affecting North County Latino communities and families. Residents asked how state and local governments can protect them from being pushed out of their neighborhoods against their will.
  • Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear appeared on a live recording of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis” podcast. Hosts Liam Dillon of the Los Angeles Times and Matt Levin of CALMatters named Encinitas “avocado of the week” for finally getting a housing plan on the books and for its decision to sue residents who crafted and supported Proposition A. A Superior Court judge and state housing officials have identified the local law as an obstacle to new housing because it gives residents the authority to veto major land use changes. “It’s admittedly not ideal,” Blakespear said of the lawsuit. “But there are lots of parts of this. I mean, I’ve been in elected office for five years, and the most difficult thing has been housing and it continues to be.”
  • Former state Sen. Joel Anderson, who’s running for the County Board of Supervisors in District 2, said at a panel that he does not support SOS, a measure that will give residents a say over developments that don’t meet the county’s General Plan guidelines, because it would lead to “mob rule.” Anderson also spoke critically of the Mid-Coast Trolley extension. “La Jolla is going to learn what homelessness really is … because everybody who’s homeless and alcoholics can get on the trolley now, head up there and panhandle for money,” he said.

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