The Riehl World: The New vs. The Good Old Boys

by Richard J. Riehl on August 13, 2010

Farrah WantzWhy does mayoral candidate Matt Hall continue to mislead Carlsbad voters about a measure on the November ballot?

His website was revised a day after my July 30 Carlsbadistan column criticized him for wrongly claiming the city charter amendment up for a vote would create a two-tiered pension plan for city employees. He now says he “successfully persuaded” his fellow council members to adopt the plan last spring, continuing to imply it covered all new city employees. He failed to point out that only police and firefighter benefits were affected.

The charter amendment would require a vote of the people for future pension benefit increases for safety employees. The council would retain the right to reduce them. Hall says he supports “fair” and “balanced” public employee pensions. He doesn’t explain why he should only be trusted to cut them.
Retiring Carlsbad mayor Bud Lewis and council member Mark Packard are proud members of the Matt Hall for mayor fan club. If you like the troika of good old boys, Lewis, Packard and Hall, you’ll probably vote to keep two of them on the council.

But incumbents who boast of records of fiscal responsibility might be asked how that led to continued investment in a $60 million golf course that can’t attract enough golfers to stave off a million dollar taxpayer bailout each year, while putting the construction of a fully-funded community swimming pool on hold.

Two newcomers, Farrah Douglas and Jon Wantz, are running to replace Packard and fill the council occasioned by the Hall mayoral bid.

After opposing construction of the Alga Norte swim complex last year, Packard now says it’s his “ambition to see Alga Norte Park open for the citizens in 2013.” Voters must decide if a politician’s “ambition” equals a promise.

Last year Packard opposed a federally required safety device for local trains, which would have meant the end of local rail service by 2015. He was the only NCTD board member voting against it, putting political pandering ahead of civic responsibility by casting a vote that wouldn’t keep the board from doing the right thing.

Farrah Douglas, an immigrant with a fascinating life story of fleeing Iran after the fall of the Shah, is a successful businesswoman with an exceptional record of civic involvement. She pledges to spend the money set aside to acquire open space by the 2002 Prop C vote, complaining that after eight years it has remained unspent.

Her appearance as a speaker at Oceanside’s April tea party was puzzling, given the group’s disinterest in local politics. Nothing in her platform reflects the group’s single-minded focus on less government and lower taxes.

Jon Wantz, the most visionary of the candidates, offers a cornucopia of ideas, beginning with his list of initiatives to spur small business growth. He’s a strong proponent of the arts and culture, with an emphasis on youth, including support of the proposed skateboard museum and skate park.

He brings to his candidacy seven years in private business and military service in Iraq. He vows to hold regular office hours at City Hall every week and neighborhood meetings each month.

The median age of the current male-dominated council is 62, while nearly two thirds of Carlsbadians are under 50. More than half are female. The addition of Douglas and 28-year-old Wantz would make the council more representative in culture, age and gender.

With Kulchin’s 30-years of council experience and Douglas’s 20 years of civic involvement, voters could get the best of both worlds by dumping the incumbents.

Richard Riehl writes from Carlsbad. Read more at or contact him at

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