The Riehl World: I Chose Rodgers and Douglas

by Richard J. Riehl on October 31, 2008

Farrah EvanLast week I voted for Evan Delaney Rodgers and Farrah Douglas to fill the two open slots on the Carlsbad City Council. My wife and I have a long tradition of voting early by absentee ballot. It’s more convenient and it gives us the small satisfaction of dodging the usual last gasp campaign smears.

When I first heard Rodgers was running because she’s a competitive swimmer and wanted the city to build a second community pool, I figured she was an immature, single-issue candidate, not to be taken too seriously. But the more I learned about her, the more I became convinced the nineteen-year-old college student is precisely what the city needs on its governing council: a fresh voice that speaks for a neglected constituency.

To see what I mean, take a look at a group picture of the current council. It would be hard to put together a more demographically alike collection of individuals. Maybe that’s why Carlsbad’s city council is the least contentious in North County. All are of a certain age; all profess to be fiscal conservatives. That’s served the city well for decades, but now that the city is reaching build-out, harder decisions remain and more compromises will be required. A more diverse group is now needed if the city is to continue to prosper in a way that reflects the needs of its diverse population.

Rodgers would bring more than a youthful energy to the council. Her website is remarkable for its helpfulness to voters. It includes links to news articles about the candidate forums, as well as links to the websites of her opponents. She asks her supporters to write letters, not checks, to spread the word about her campaign. She doesn’t use campaign signs because they’re wasteful and clutter up the city. She’s clearly not just dabbling in politics to get herself a public swimming pool.

Ironically enough, the youngest candidate is also the one with the broadest vision for the city’s future. Her platform calls for a clean Carlsbad: clean ocean, beaches, air, parks, streets and government. Other candidates tout their experience, skills and positions on specific issues facing the city. Issues come and go. Leaders without a vision risk losing sight of long-term priorities.

I voted for Farrah Douglas partly through the process of elimination. Thomas K. Arnold is quick to criticize what he calls blunders made by the current council on a long list of issues. I think he’d bring more heat than light to council deliberations. Glenn R. Bernard, the self-described “Un-candidate” got my “un-vote” for declaring one of his top priorities to be requiring all government employees to own at least one U.S.-made auto.

The Ann Kulchin/Keith Blackburn team didn’t get my vote because that looks like more of the same back-scratching politics of the past. Hard to understand why Kulchin joined up with Blackburn, since she’s been so successful getting elected on her own over the last twenty years. One can only assume she feels Blackburn is a kindred spirit and could be depended upon to vote with her on all the issues. That sounds more like Oceanside politics that Carlsbad’s.

I ruled out Blackburn when his campaign manager, posing as a disinterested audience member, asked the candidates to reveal how long they’ve lived in Carlsbad. Blackburn’s lived here 24 years. Farrah Douglas is a three-year resident. But when I learned Blackburn’s business interests are firmly planted in Los Angeles and Riverside real estate management, while Douglas has owned a small business in Carlsbad for the last twenty years, Blackburn’s claim suggesting Douglas had shallower roots in the community struck me as both hollow and deceptive.

What does Douglas have to offer? She’s like that fairy tale porridge—not too hot and not too cold, just right. She would bring fresh ideas to the council, balanced with experience on the Planning Commission and the Chamber of Commerce. As a native of Iran who escaped the aftermath of the overthrow of the Shah, she also brings cultural diversity to an otherwise culturally homogenous council. And that’s a very good thing.

Freelance columnist Richard J. Riehl is a Carlsbad resident. His email address is

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