Get Riehl: R.I.P. NCT, Hello Big Brother

by Richard J. Riehl on October 17, 2012

Ut NcYesterday afternoon I went to the North County Times online to ask for a vacation hold for a couple of days while we’re out of town. The website no longer recognized me as a subscriber, so I had to resubmit my street and email addresses.

This morning I got an email in reply, thanking me for “subscribing to U-T San Diego’s digital only edition. We know you have several options in how you receive your news and are glad you chose us.” It was signed “Papa Doug Manchester.”

That reply and the death of the only other choice of a daily newspaper in North County sealed my decision to extend that vacation hold request to forever.

The first three days of the North County Times under Manchester’s ownership reveals its new brand: just an added section to U-T San Diego, gratuitously carrying the familiar blue NCT masthead (adding “U-T” to it) dishonestly designed to reassure North Countians they haven’t lost their daily newspaper. [click to continue…]

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Get Riehl: Showdown at Sage Creek

by Richard J. Riehl on October 10, 2012

Sage Creek-1According to a local newspaper columnist, allowing Carlsbad’s new high school to sit empty for at least a year is the answer to the district’s financial woes. But T.K. Arnold’s argument for delaying the opening of Sage Creek High is about as watery as the school’s fictional namesake. A closer look reveals how his politics trumps his punditry.

Calling Prop 30 “Gov. Jerry Brown’s blackmail ballot” tells you all you need to know about Arnold’s political bias. But what’s equally troubling is his reasoning. In a facts-free claim, he says the district could “save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year” in operating costs that could be used to close a gaping budget hole as high as $11 million” if Proposition 30 fails. The mixed metaphor (I’m trying to picture a “high” hole) could make you chuckle if the subject weren’t so serious.

Arnold doesn’t bother to estimate the cost of letting a $104 million high school campus remain vacant for at least a year, as well as the loss of learning opportunities to students denied access to new facilities. [click to continue…]


Get Riehl: Prop A is Council’s Sweet Deal

by Richard J. Riehl on October 8, 2012

Getting fan mail from elected officials is one of my pet peeves. They want “my opinion on the issues,” they say. But what they really want is the answer to a question not included in their questionnaires: “Do you still love me?”

To add insult to injury, I’m paying the postage for their reelection campaign.

If politicians made decisions based on their deeper understanding of the issues, rather than their popularity, their newsletters would be more informative and voters could make better choices at the polls.

It’s doubtful the Civil Rights Act would have won the popular vote in the general election of 1964, the year Congress passed it into law. Our elected representatives had the courage to do what was right, at the risk of popular opinion. The Democrats lost the Solid South because of it.

Fast forward to this year’s Election Day in Carlsbad. By putting Proposition A on the ballot, the City Council found an easy way to shirk their responsibility for making tough decisions. What could be better for elected representatives than being allowed to decrease city employee benefits, but requiring a vote of the people to increase them?

It’s a politician’s dream. [click to continue…]


Get Riehl: Election Day Threats to Local Schools

by Richard J. Riehl on October 1, 2012

Images-10Carlsbad school officials worry that if voters don’t agree to a tax increase on November 6, a midyear budget reduction could lead to cutting the school year by up to three weeks. But a greater threat to local schools in the long run hangs on the outcome of the Presidential election.

Mitt Romney has announced a plan to “restore the promise of American education” by promoting choice and innovation. Titled, “A Chance for Every Child,” it signals a retreat from the goal of No Child Left Behind. A chance is not a promise. Romney’s vow to use federal funds to support school choice, rather than school improvement, will produce winners and losers. That’s a far cry from the role of public education as a springboard of equal opportunity for upward mobility.

Romney also believes school reform can be done on the cheap, evidenced by his claim class size doesn’t matter. He’s fond of quoting a 2007 McKinsey report, “How the World’s best performing school systems come out on top.” The consultants claim studies show good teachers are more important than smaller classes. To that earth-shattering discovery my response can only be, “well…duh!” [click to continue…]

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Get Riehl: Censorship Comes to Town

by Richard J. Riehl on September 20, 2012

Screen Shot 2012-09-20 At 3.56.35 PmBeginning in October Carlsbadians will get only Papa Doug Manchester’s (right) slant on the daily news.

Who’s Papa Doug (his preferred first name) and why should we care? The hotelier-turned-media mogul bought the North County Times [for $11.95 million]. Added to his acquisition and name change to the San Diego Union Tribune two years ago, he’s hellbent on creating a Hearst-like media empire in San Diego County.

And why should we care? He’s declared an editorial war on government employees, unions, President Obama, writers who don’t help promote the community, and anyone who walks, talks or acts like a Democrat. My last North County Times column critical of the empty boosterism of Carlsbad’s latest State of the City video would not see the light of day in a Manchester newspaper. [click to continue…]


The Riehl World: City Video More Fat Less Filling

by Richard J. Riehl on September 6, 2012

Carlsbadians who couldn’t afford the $85-a-plate Chamber of Commerce State of the City report luncheon at the Sheraton last month were invited to a free showing of a ten-minute video at the Dove Library a few days later. Former Mayor Bud Lewis didn’t like to give or listen to long speeches, so he turned to videos to serve as the annual report to city residents. Mayor Matt Hall continued the tradition, sacrificing information for feel-good entertainment.

Sinclair Lewis would have smiled at the unbridled boosterism of Carlsbad city officials featured in this year’s State of the City video. He’d be reminded of the self-satisfied city fathers of Zenith, Babbit’s fictional Midwestern hometown. But Carlsbad residents were shortchanged if they expected to get more than a virtual pep rally from their city’s annual report. [click to continue…]

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The Riehl World: Budget Cuts & School Reform

by Richard J. Riehl on August 23, 2012

About 11,000 students are expected to head back to Carlsbad schools Wednesday, the same number as two years ago. But this year they’ll be greeted by nearly 60 fewer teachers and a school year shortened by three days. High schoolers will find their classrooms bulging with an average of 39 classmates (NCT, June 28, School Trustees adopt $77M budget).

The school district was forced to cut spending by $7 million over the last two years. It will only get worse if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative fails to pass. If that happens, school officials say, the school year may shrink by as much as three weeks.

It’s a lose/lose proposition for students: larger classes and less learning time. The ones hurt most will be those who need more individual attention. The test score achievement gap shows they’ll be from low income families, the ones already being left behind. [click to continue…]


The Riehl World: Parks Care Up for Grabs

by Richard J. Riehl on July 26, 2012

Mark Twain once said of life’s injustices, “No good deed goes unpunished.” That came to mind when I learned of Carlsbad’s plan to outsource jobs of city workers who sacrificed pay and benefits over the last several years to help the city survive the Great Recession. Carlsbad not only survived, it prospered on the backs of those worker bees.

The city council voted Tuesday night to seek bids from contractors to outsource all parks maintenance services. A consulting firm was paid $102,000 for a report claiming contractors could save the city $1.7 to $3.68 million each year.

What’s wrong with this picture? Ninety-six percent of city residents rate parks maintenance “good” or “excellent.” But city officials are now ready to risk that level of citizen satisfaction by replacing those responsible for it with lower-paid workers hired to enhance the profitability of a private contractor.

The consultants compared Carlsbad’s yearly parks maintenance cost per-acre, half of which is currently contracted out, with that of three regional cities that outsource all landscaping services. Only one, at $5,464 per acre, was lower than Carlsbad’s $6,572. The other two spent $10,353 and $10,104. [click to continue…]


The Riehl World: Outsourcing Why?

by Richard J. Riehl on July 12, 2012

A year ago we learned Carlsbad is considering outsourcing city services, but to this date we haven’t been told why.

At a July 2011 workshop, city council members heard a presentation by Carrollton, Texas’ Director of Competition, Tom Guilfoy (“City to explore some outsourcing of government work,” NCT, 2011). He told the council his city saved at least $25 million over nine years under its Managed Competition plan.

Liking what they heard, the council directed City Manager Lisa Hildabrand to conduct an internal review to see if outsourcing could make city government more business-like.

City park landscaping work has been suggested for potential outsourcing, which added irony to Councilman Mark Packard’s warning that council members should not “let the grass grow under our feet” waiting for Carlsbad to “handle its operations the way private businesses do.” Packard is apparently not as worried about the weeds growing under his feet while he’s strolling through Aviara Park if a private contractor is maintaining it with lower paid employees.

Carrollton’s Guilfoy proudly pointed out how much money was saved by outsourcing solid waste management collection and laying off 50 city employees. Carlsbad outsourced waste collection long ago. Carrollton’s Parks and Recreation department escaped outsourcing by reducing costs of equipment replacements. [click to continue…]


The Riehl World: Envision An Aging City

by The Editors on June 15, 2012

When they rolled out their 2012-13 preliminary operating budget two weeks ago Carlsbad city officials were singing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” But not everyone joined in the chorus. A parade of disgruntled residents reprimanded the city council at its June 5 meeting for the city’s failure to invest in more open space. And now members of the planning commission join hotel industry experts in suggesting the city might soon be overbuilt with hotel rooms.

One land use issue that didn’t make the headlines can be found in a report on the city’s changing demographics by Community and Economic Development Director Gary Barberio.

Barberio pointed to forecasts showing the addition of 20,000 Carlsbadians by 2040, a 20 percent increase. But the number of 35 to 64 year-olds, who now make up nearly half of city residents, is expected to shrink to little more than a third of the population.

While the share of Carlsbad’s Generation X gets smaller, the number of Millennials between the ages of 20 and 34, is expected to grow by 20 percent. Baby Boomers from 65 to 80 will rise by a whopping 124 percent.

Follow the jump for the rest of the story. [click to continue…]