The Riehl World: State of the City States Little

by Richard J. Riehl on September 26, 2008

Carlsbad’s mayor, unlike most politicians, doesn’t like to make speeches. Bud Lewis prefers video presentations for his yearly State of the City reports.

They’re undoubtedly more enjoyable than the usual drone of self-congratulations. But I wonder if it’s worth sacrificing substance for entertainment value. Was his latest annual report, delivered last month at the La Costa Resort, just another taste of Bud light?

This year’s 24-minute version, titled “Challenge and Opportunity,” opens with quick-time images of clogged freeways and a bustling downtown. Off-camera voices accompany the frenetic scenes, residents expressing their individual concerns: “We’re runnin’ out of water,” “Don’t allow huge buildings to go in,” “A few of the shops down the street have gone out of business,” “I’m really disappointed at parking fees at Tamarack Beach.”

After dollying back to display our gorgeous coastline, the camera captures the friendly faces of several citizens urging us to “Keep Carlsbad clean. Pick up the trash. Tell the kids, ‘No graffiti.'” Volunteers are shown painting walls, planting trees and attending meetings. A woman on the street gushes, “Carlsbad’s my hometown. I absolutely love it.” A young man observes, “I think there’s a really happy attitude here,” advising his fellow surfers to “give up a wave every once in a while” for a tourist.

Fewer than two minutes of the video are devoted to what the mayor calls the “key element” in city government, the budget. We’re told the spending plan won’t grow next year as much as it has in the past because of the economic downturn. We’re not told the city’s finance director has advised the council that the yearly budget surpluses may disappear in four years because of the construction and maintenance of new city facilities.

As pictures of foreclosed homes appear on the screen, we hear the mayor solemnly declare that the city is facing tough times. But it’s hard to take him seriously when the only hard decision mentioned is “putting on hold” plans for a second public swimming pool.

Lewis claims the city will bring in “about $14 million” in tourist dollars this year, but he doesn’t compare that with previous years. He says tourism income should remain strong because the weak economy will cause people to vacation closer to home. With no evidence given to support his claim, we’re left to wonder whether it’s only wishful thinking.

There’s no mention of the city’s budget-draining new golf course. The council recently transferred $1.3 million from the general fund to bail out its operations through 2009.

To cope with the drought, we’re urged to conserve water and are assured the desalination plant will help. But we’re not alerted to the city’s plan to pass along the cost of higher fees imposed by regional water authorities that could cause residential water bills to jump by 20 percent. Nor are we reminded the desalination project will provide only 9 percent of the county’s total water consumption.

For avoiding inconvenient truths like these, I’m giving two thumbs down to this year’s State of the City video.

Carlsbad resident Richard J. Riehl is a freelance columnist. His e-mail address is

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: