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(O’)Henry’s Not-So-Short Story
December 2008 | Henry Abarbanel, retiring City Council Member


The editors of the Sandpiper asked me to somehow summarize my views of City Council service and challenges for the future for the City of Del Mar---in 400 words. That, of course, was impossible, so I beg them not to cut a single golden phrase.

First of all, whatever comes up for us, be optimistic. My best friends in town often called me the pathological optimist—I couldn’t have been more pleased. Whether it was ending smoking in our restaurants, supporting a new library, helping perfect strangers feel comfortable with their City government’s action on the beach, or just giving some casual advice on how to put together a project that would pass the DRB or Planning Commission, my internal theme was that these things can be done along with maintaining the community we all treasure.

I ask that new Councils, City Managers, and residents and businesses take this to heart about Del Mar. We are an unlikely entity. We all come to understand that Del Mar’s deepest strength is its willingness, collectively, to consider the community in our decisions about living here. We work with each other for safety on our streets. We collaborate on private projects, such as the “gas station” project, to make it valuable to the community as well as the developer. We create and enforce land use laws that serve all of us well.

Anyone who lives here knows all this—or comes to know it soon after arriving. It is not generally the spirit one finds in other San Diego region municipalities. It is, frankly, rather radical that everyone should have a real say in City government and that the community should really listen to and support the views of each of us. We spend a lot of time doing that, and I am optimistic it is time well spent. It may appear that things move slowly in Del Mar—50 meetings to consider traffic safety, even more for public input on a private development! Well, when these are done, we are together and the fabric of the community is whole. I am optimistic that personal involvement of all of us within and influenced by our local government is worth it.

Secondly, we play a remarkable role in our regional affairs. It is plainly NOT democratic for Del Mar and Chula Vista to have one vote each on many regional bodies. It does allow us, with our debate oriented body politic and our community oriented concerns, to make a significant impact on how regional decisions are crafted. This is true in the boring but fundamental roles associated with water and sewer services, with transportation issues, and with environmental concerns. Del Mar is often ahead of many others in the region in bringing a progressive, inclusive look at these matters. An optimist would expect it to continue—I do.

Finally, within a society that seeks to have its services and never pay for them, there is a strong streak of honor within Del Mar. We are willing to tax ourselves for important things—fire protection, law enforcement services, lifeguards at our beaches, and planning services supporting our sense of community input to development—and we do so after careful consideration of what we can and cannot afford. I am optimistic that future Councils as well as residents will continue this sense of community responsibility. “Del Mar,” a former City Manager said, “can do anything it wishes, just not everything it wishes.”

Beth and I have an enormous debt to this community. We raised two spectacular daughters here with your help. We have lived here nearly 26 years enjoying our neighbors, our neighborhood, our beaches and canyons, and all as our friends. Our debt is hardly discharged by what we have tried to give back. Thanks for being part of our lives.



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