Post Title: Duped! The signature campaign for a Strawberry Fields Mall
Post Date: Tuesday, June 30, 2015
My afternoon nap was disturbed last Thursday by the sound of a man’s cheery voice from behind the screen at my open front door.
Awakening from a sound sleep, I shuffled to the door to find a man standing there, holding a clipboard. He didn’t introduce himself, just explained, “We’re gathering signatures to save the strawberry fields.” I didn’t recognize him, but his easygoing manner led me to believe he was a fellow resident of our 40-unit condo community.
Despite full knowledge of our HOA ban on door-to-door solicitation and my own vow never to sign a petition without knowing the details of what it meant and who was pushing it, I allowed the phrase “save our strawberry fields” to cloud my better judgment. When Karen called from another room to ask who was at the door I told her it was someone who wanted to save the strawberry fields. She gladly added her name to mine for the apparent do-gooder at the door.
The following day, as I awaited my prescription in the pharmacy, I picked up the June 12 edition of The Coast News. The headline, “Nordstrom Signs On to Strawberry Fields Shopping Center,” told me we had happily signed up to clear the way for a two-story shopping mall next to I-5.
Reading further, I discovered the developer, Caruso Affiliated, has launched a “citizen-led” initiative campaign to bypass the usual approval process. The city council will be able to approve the project outright or put it on the ballot. If 15% of registered voters’ signatures are gathered (8900 signatures of 59,000 voters) and the council chooses a ballot measure, a special election will be held.
I soon discovered another news article about the project, this one in the San Diego Reader, More Shopping, Less Strawberry Picking in Carlsbad’s Strawberry Fields? In it, writer Ken Harrison opined, “Some say the initiative tactic used by big developers is a ploy to sway a generally uninformed electorate, or, in some cases, hoodwink them with slick or misleading campaigns.”
I also learned Caruso Affiliated’s citizen-led initiative campaign is headed up by a former planning commissioner, a member of the Lagoon foundation, and a former Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce CEO, hardly a cross-section of community interests.
A few days later, Karen and I came upon another signature-gatherer lurking outside the door of our local grocery store. His appearance was a far cry from the well-dressed, neatly coiffed gentlemen at our front door. I asked him who he worked for. Visibly taken aback, he asked why I wanted to know. I told him we want to know who paid him to gather signatures. He finally told us he had a card. I discovered he worked for Voter Contact Services, Inc., in Oceanside, offering services for petition drives, door-to-door, and GOTV, for issues and candidates. On the reverse side of the card were instructions for turning in signatures for payment.
Here was the classic example of how citizen-led petition drives have been perverted by big money. I remember the days when signature-gatherers had a personal interest in the issue, and not in the $1–$3 to get my autograph.
Although I blame myself for giving away my name so readily, I also blame the lack of a local daily newspaper. If a developer calling himself “Papa” had not purchased the North County Times to kill it, Carlsbad residents would have been able to gain a far better understanding of the issues and would have been less vulnerable to developer spin. Full disclosure: for nine years, as a freelancer, I wrote op-ed community opinion columns for the newspaper.
Is it any wonder the Caruso Affiliated campaign for the strawberry fields shopping mall chose the title “Preserving Carlsbad Open Space,” in bold type, followed by “The Right Way” in smaller, gray type? That means one more shopping center rather than a new venue for the arts and entertainment, a place that would attract visitors for what makes Carlsbad unique, rather than just another parking place to shop, dine, and catch a movie. Like L.A.
Title: The Riehl World | Address: theriehlworld2.blogspot.com
Author: Richard Riehl | From: Carlsbad | Blogging since: 2011