Question: Some issues in the community that come before the Council generate strong opinions on all sides and can sometimes lead to discord within the community. As a Council Member what role would you take to encourage respect and discourage discord? What role should the entire Council take?”
I am proud to have co-sponsored our first-in-the-region Code of Civil Discourse, which promotes inclusion, listening to understand, respect, fairness, and a focus on issues, not personal attack.
I know civility works, having spent decades dealing with contentious issues and bringing divergent viewpoints to a common position. In some controversial matters, we have seen instances in Del Mar mirroring the coarsened discourse that occurs all too often at the federal level -- anonymous personal attacks, misrepresentation of facts. This discourages public participation and impedes good decision-making. On Council my priority is to be respectful to everyone, to listen closely, to reach out for diverse perspectives, to remain calm when I believe I am unfairly attacked, and to encourage civility in our civic discussions.
Data analytics and city-run electronic surveys can fundamentally improve the way we as a community make decisions, and thus decrease frustration. The primary way we make decisions is through many town hall meetings and gatherings in people’s homes. These are essential, but they can be difficult to quantify. Two prominent achievements in Del Mar have benefited from surveys: the new City Hall and Measure Q. They were not without conflict, but the surveys clearly showed the direction the broad community desired, which minimized conflict. By contrast, managed retreat and short-term rentals had no survey, and the process has been frustrating for many. Different survey designs can be used, but surveys with pro and con arguments (to counteract bias) should be used for some issues.
Most city council meetings I have attended are mannerly. The residents listen quietly and provide their remarks in turn, although there are exceptions from time to time. From my experience, discord happens when there are contentious issues being discussed and the public believes that the Council is not listening to the views and testimony of the great majority in attendance. If elected to our city council and if this were to happen, I would politely ask everyone to be respectful of others who may have a different opinion and to please refrain from disrupting the meeting. Even so, no matter how hard we try, we cannot control human emotion in every situation, especially when real property issues are being discussed. We can only try. Sometimes, that emotion is important for opening eyes and fostering unanticipated but productive discussion.
It is this very situation of discord within our community that has led me to run for council. For the last two years I have watched a series of issues come before the Council that divided the community. But the discord has not been between opposing groups of citizens but towards the council majority who are failing to heed residents’ concerns. For example, on the sea level rise planning issue, it has been the STAC committee and residents who have had to relentlessly fight each action taken by the City Council that undermines the future of the North Beach neighborhood.
As a Council Member I would encourage respect and discourage discord by not only listening to residents, but also by acting upon what they say.