I read with interest the article in The Coast News, “Preserving open spaces in Encinitas at forefront of local debate,” regarding the city’s renewed attention to the issue of open space acquisition.
As a long-time Encinitas resident, a former firefighter and fire chief, and a former member of the Encinitas City Council, I have long advocated for open space preservation.
Open space gives residents more control of land use and helps enhance the beauty and environmental quality of our city and neighborhoods.
Comments made at a recent council meeting by District 3 candidate Julie Thunder have sparked others to rally to this cause.
I’m encouraged that, as reported by this newspaper, all of the declared candidates for the City Council have expressed support for open space.
But the old saying certainly applies in this case: Talk is cheap.
In 2016, I was the sponsor of a council resolution to develop an open space funding strategy, ultimately establishing an Open Space Acquisition Fund.
The City Council voted for a $500,000 cash infusion supplemented over time by fees assessed on new development.
That was action, not talk.
By 2019, the fund had grown to nearly $1.2 million with the addition of accrued fees.
Today, if the fund had been allowed to grow, we would have much more available in the savings account.
But a million dollars was too tempting for a council with big-spending habits, and by 2020, all of the money earmarked for open space was gone, and nobody seemed to know what it was spent on.
As a former resident of District 3, I’ve followed the district’s council representatives.
When Mayor Catherine Blakespear appointed Councilwoman Joy Lyndes, a member of the city’s Environmental Commission, I had high hopes that our open space bank account would be reestablished.
Recently, Lyndes and her fellow council member, Kellie Hinze (another Blakespear appointee) sponsored a resolution to express support for open space.
Who could disagree with that?
Their resolution was approved 5-0. But the council took no action and committed no money. Nothing will happen as a result of that resolution. We should note that Hinze previously voted to strip away the open space money.
In government, even at the local level, the action occurs when resources are put to work concretely. That usually means money gets spent.
Without that sort of commitment, goals like open space preservation don’t get accomplished. In the real world, open space acquisition often (usually) involves hard work contributed by both landowners and government representatives, coupled with the expenditure of money.
In Encinitas, that would likely mean big money. The sums involved typically include funding from the city, the state government, and non-profits.
Sometimes, federal funding comes into play. But unless the city has skin in the game, the other funding sources are unlikely to come together.
That’s why an Open Space Acquisition Fund is so critical, and the disappearance of those funds is so regrettable.
In any election, voters need to understand the distinction between talk and action. Candidates dish out a lot of talk; whether they follow through makes all the difference.
In regards to a real commitment to increasing our open space inventory, Joy Lyndes is certainly not leading. An election year resolution is not an acceptable substitute for action.
Thunder, Lyndes’ challenger, seems to get it. She knows that talk is cheap, and commitment is costly.
Without funding, there will be no action on open space.
Thunder raised this issue when she ran for Mayor in 2020. Two years later, the city still has taken no action, so she’s raising it again.
For voters who care about open space, as most do, it’s probably time to consider making changes to the City Council.
Lyndes had her chance, but it’s time to try someone else.
Mark Muir is a former Encinitas fire chief and councilman.