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A group of Encinitas residents is accusing a councilmember of rigging the public process in a proposal to construct biking and walking paths along San Elijo Avenue in Cardiff.

The residents feel the Cardiff portion of the Coastal Rail Trail — a project stretching from San Diego to Oceanside — is a waste of time, money, and city resources. Of the estimated $13 million bike-and-pedestrian trail, $5 million would be funded by the San Diego Association of Governments; it would run north and south one block east of Highway 101, a popular stretch of road already complete with bike lanes and a sidewalk.

The group says that the rail trail would waste city resources and do nothing to ensure quiet zones for residents; nor does it promote conservation to protect the bluffs while preserving beach access and parking on San Elijo Avenue.

Catherine Blakespear

Some residents say Encinitas councilmember and mayoral candidate Catherine Blakespear is trying to silence them in favor of giving a voice to proponents who also happen to be donors and supporters of her political campaigns. Blakespear has done so, according to members of the No Rail Trail group, by removing members of the opposition from the Mobility and Livability Working Group, a volunteer committee appointed by the Encinitas City Council, and placing supporters in their place.

Julie Thunder, a Cardiff resident and member of No Rail Trail, says her group was initially pleased with the make-up of the working group.

"We were happy with the original consultants list which had one representative from No Rail Trail and one from 'Yes on the Rail Trail'. The other 13 spots on the consultants list were a well-balanced selection of non-partisan residents. We thought that was fair. Which is why we were very surprised to learn at the council meeting that councilperson Blakespear created a new list heavily tipped to the Yes on the Rail Trail side [4 members] and people who have contributed to Blakespear's mayoral campaign [7 members]. Also, Blakespear removed the 1 rep from No Rail Trail and replaced him with one of her own choosing, without notice to us."

"Also," says Thunder, "we would like to see the various agencies recognize what we think is obvious, namely that pedestrians, runners, and bikers want to be next to the ocean on Hwy. 101. If the goal is to serve the most number of users currently and into the future, the rail trail needs to be along Hwy. 101 in Cardiff just as it is through Solana Beach."

Councilmember Blakespear rejects the allegations against her. She says the working group will deal with the project as a whole and not just the brief stretch of San Elijo Avenue.

"I’m proud of the working group that council put together," says Blakespear. "The group represents all communities and city stakeholders and will discuss a number of projects in different project areas. That is why the group is called the 'Mobility and Livability Working Group' and not the 'Rail Trail Working Group.' People from each of those project areas deserve to be heard."

Blakespear says Thunder and others have it all wrong. She says she thought she did recommend the leader of the opposition be appointed. It turned out she was misinformed.

"I have 100 percent confidence in the people that have been appointed. All thirteen established advocacy groups in our city get one seat on the committee.

"When forming this group, I suggested to the council the person I thought held himself out as the leader of the 'No Rail Trail' group. In retrospect, I wish I would have reached out and asked the group who they wanted to represent them. I want their voice to be heard, but they don't get more than one seat at the table. That wouldn't be fair to other stakeholders. They have a specific narrow interest in a section in Cardiff and do not see or understand the broader picture of potential improvements throughout the entire rail corridor and for mobility citywide.”

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Comments

In_Cardiff Aug. 15, 2016 @ 5:58 p.m.

Lots of people want a Rail Trail, John. But this isn't about the Rail Trail, which the Encinitas city council voted in March 2016 to put on Hwy 101, with SANDAG authorized to design and construct it.

This is about a public committee that was supposed to be assembled to help facilitate direct feedback from residents to City Hall about a long term vision and strategy for the railroad corridor. It was meant to empower residents who are directly impacted to share their views about development, access across the tracks, parking, noise issues and environmental concerns with city planners as it pertains to this challenging but integral stretch of sensitive property.

It is about councilwoman Blakespear moving the goalposts defining not only the scope and composition of the working group, but unilaterally high jacking the selection process the city council had unanimously established. At the 11th hour at a city council meeting held to facilitate a vote on an already established list assembled by a nonpartisan third party consultant, Blakespear dramatically announced her own list along with the new selection criteria she used in constructing it.

It's about mayoral candidate Blakespear operating secretly with two of her fellow city council ideologues (Shaffer and Kranz) and select special interests to ambush a public process in a way that elevated certain insiders and, especially, those who were her campaign donors. It is public record and available for all to view on the City of Encinitas webpage, the fact that select special interests admitted involvement in assembling or vetting the Blakespear list of working group volunteers while other groups were excluded, uninformed, or both.

This is about some on city council engaged in apparent back room dealing and crony favoritism extended to some. Government watchdogs call that a pay-to-play system, and it is disgraceful and needs to be stopped. Whatever good intentions went into conceptualizing the 'Mobility and Livability Working Group', the execution has shown itself to be flawed at best, corrupted at worst, and city council must address it before it devolves into a potential scandal.

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regulardude Aug. 15, 2016 @ 7:27 p.m.

I want a rail trail too!

And I have to say that I'm a bit sick of these Cardiff NIMBYs standing in its way.

Let's separate the issues and consider what's good for the community what's good for a handful of folks.

We don't really need another bike lane. We need a quality multi-use path that encourages non-motorized north-south traffic through our community. A path that can transform transportation and recreation for all of us; from the San Elijo Lagoon to Batiquitos Lagoon.

Wouldn't you love to make that ride without thousands of cars buzzing your head?

Let's think forward, not stick our heads in the sand.

Yes, we have to consider the impact on the local neighborhood. But please, have some vision!

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rthielicke Aug. 15, 2016 @ 8:10 p.m.

Facts are facts and they are damning. The working group membership list prepared by a neutral third party was hijacked by Councilmember Blakespear. Names, who were not contributors or supporters , came off the list; and names were added to the list who were contributors and supporters.

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Cardiff_Resident Aug. 16, 2016 @ 7:13 a.m.

Dollar Signs Represent Donations to Catherine's Campaign!

Original selection from paid independent consultant Dodge ($100) Stefanico Penton McFadden Gattinella Painter Cozens Benedetti Deshpande ($100) Lindgren Farrow ($250) Parker Stocks Risner (No Rail Trail, President of ASLA San Diego) Rhodes (YES Rail Trail)

Catherine's new list (which cronies knew about beforehand and which is a violation of the Brown Act) Dodge ($100) McFadden Cozens Benedetti Deshpande ($100) Farrow ($250) Rhodes (YES Rail Trail) Hubbard (YES Rail Trail) Berlfein (YES Rail Trail, husband + wife $500) Morrison ($250) Hemphill ($250) Swanner- No Rail Trail, resigned because of all of the above

Note that Catherine took Risner from No Rail Trail off the above list because he is president of the American Society of Landscape Architects in San Diego. He knows too much and is a threat to her.

Here are the credentials and groups of the people Catherine Blakespear removed:

  1. Robert Stefanico Encinitas Historical Society
  2. Mary Anne Penton Leucadia Town Council
  3. Bob Gattinella Encinitas Chamber of Commerce
  4. David Painter Cardiff Elementary Safe Routes to Schools
  5. Barry Lindgren San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
  6. Julie Parker Cardiff School District
  7. Jerome Stocks Regional/Rail Planning - former Encinitas City Council
  8. Richard Risner Landscape Architect / No Rail Trail

I'll let the facts speak for themselves. Readers can make their own assumptions about Mayoral Candidate Blakespear.

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DonBarth Aug. 16, 2016 @ 10:55 a.m.

As a longtime Cardiff resident, I am tired of hearing a group of privileged Cardiff residents spewing misinformation and defaming Council members in an attempt to promote their own self-interest at the expense of the community.

The “no rail trail” group state that the Council “hired a consultant to review applications and select a group of qualified residents.” Wrong. The Council hired a consultant to do the Rail Corridor Vision study, and at Deputy Mayor Shaffer’s suggestion, asked that consultant to provide recommendations on a citizen group that would address the entire rail corridor. The City staff proposed to the Council that the same group provide input on two other studies related to parking and rail crossings. That’s how the CMLWG was formed.

The CMLWG is not about which side of the tracks the Coastal Rail Trail should be on in Cardiff. That decision was already made. Get over yourselves. It’s not all about you.

The “no rail trail” group alleges that people were removed or added to “the list” through secret meetings. In reality, all Council members received a copy of all the applications for the working group, and a staff report with the consultant’s recommendations. As with any Council matter, all members are free to consult with any individuals or groups they find helpful, on any Council matter, whenever they want, as long as they don’t talk to two or more other Council members outside of the public meeting. As is appropriate, the Council deliberated in public after hearing from the public, and made a decision, in public, by majority vote.

In fact, the “no rail trial” group brags that they are being mentored by the Gaspars and some have donated to Kristin's campaign for Supervisor.

The list approved by the Council was not the same list proposed by Blakespear, as alleged. It reflects input from the council members who chose to engage in order to achieve better balance and make sure only Encinitas residents were included. Mayor Gaspar proposed that the Council accept the consultant’s recommendations, which included her mentor, former mayor Jerome Stocks, someone not known to have “collaborative capacity.” Her motion failed to achieve majority approval. The successful alternative motion was proposed by Deputy Mayor Shaffer.

So there is a seat at the table for the “no rail trail” group if they want it. If they prefer to threaten lawsuits because things didn’t go exactly the way they wanted, that’s their choice. The City and its plans will proceed without them.

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In_Cardiff Aug. 16, 2016 @ 9:33 p.m.

Don Barth, husband of Teresa Barth (former abysmal failure of a mayor of Encinitas), you certainly know how to write. Based on your post, it seems reading comprehension is your shortcoming.

Given your politically connected background, you should know better than to call other Encinitas residents "privileged." You'd also more reasonably apply slanted terms such "misinformation" to actual cases of misinformation ... your post, for instance. I mean, if you actually read and evaluated ANY of the points written here objecting to what Blakespear and her ideologues did with the CMLWGroup -- all of which are verifiable by obtaining public campaign information or looking up easily accessible information given on the City website -- you'd notice that the allegations of Blakespear's switching the people on the citizen's group to stack it with campaign donors and agenda-driven candidates are valid and factually supported. While there are some well-meaning and qualified Encinitas residents on that working group, I pity them for what the City Council has done to undermine their credibility. You, however, have only offered baseless accusations and assigned guilt by innuendo at those who want to correct this sad situation. Shame on you.

You state that, "the CMLWG is not about which side of the tracks the Coastal Rail Trail should be on in Cardiff. That decision was already made." Bravo. How can most of the posters here not know that? The No Rail Trail grassroots movement was the reason the "decision" (i.e. City Council revote earlier this year) was made to put the Rail Trail on Highway 101, a decision that still stands. We certainly don't need the guidance or admonition of someone with your undesirable credentials to state the obvious. This article and the outrage associated with its story has everything to do with the CMLWG, a point well understood, so spare us the sanctimonious corrections. Get over ourselves, you say? Sure. Now you try it.

What a sad state of affairs Catherine Blakespear has generated with her recent actions. All citizens, yourself included, should recoil at the appearance of pay-to-play politics. The CMLWG is supposed to be an egalitarian, resident-based group assembled to take on a very serious and important function involving establishing a vision for the railroad corridor, not an assortment of connected special interests assembled to do the bidding of power brokers lurking behind the curtains. But you're not sickened, and that's because your wife Teresa, her friends Lisa Shaffer (and husband), Tony Kranz, and their neophyte patsy, Blakespear are neck deep in this mess, your objective view is obscured by those same curtains. And here you are trying to sling mud at concerned citizens calling you out. While disgraceful, it's certainly not working.

P.S. Good luck with your own mayoral campaign, Don. You pulled the papers ... you have until tomorrow to complete the task of announcing and making an utter fool of yourself.

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DonBarth Aug. 19, 2016 @ 11:13 a.m.

In_Cardiff I stand by my comments. I presume you are one of the 'no rail trail black shirts' that threatens anyone that disagrees with your opinion. I do know you are a coward hiding behind a 'pen name' rather than owning your comments. Let me repeat...Get over yourself.

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cardiffian Aug. 20, 2016 @ 9:14 a.m.

Our city has long needed to bring all government agencies, their staff, our staff and citizens together to address the major issues involved with the rail corridor that divides the entire length of our city. Solana Beach has solved most of the issues. Carlsbad is actively working to have at grade crossings. San Juan Capistrano and other cities have and are working to lessen the negative impact of the inevitable rail issues. Having the legal crossing at Santa Fe, completing the legal crossing at Montgomery, the Union Street underpass and improvement planned ay Chesterfield are all positive actions. More still needs to planned and funded. Thanks, City. Keep it up. Having safe and legal, (and why not quiet?), crossings across the rail should be the main adjective along with safe passage adjacent to the rail corridor.

There were a lot of citizens that offered their time and knowledge. An outside consultant would not be expected to know our city's history or stakeholders. There seems to have been some logical, rational roster changes that make sense. It is preposterous that any council members hand picked members of this task force because the potential member greve the council member money. The no rail trail attacks of council members are inappropriate and unjustified. Also not true is "...it would run north and south one block east of Highway 101, a popular stretch of road already complete with bike lanes and a sidewalk." There is no sidewalk and the bike lane is a white line that designates about 6 inches and has a drop off into dirt in many areas. Having city leaders support illegal crossings verses finding ways to create legal crossing seems inappropriate. Hopefully the committee, that seems to include a reasonable representation of qualified citizens, the govt. agencies, their staff, city staff and public can exercise good will and respect for each other to make conditions better. Looking forward to that.

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