Catherine Blakespear is proud of her two years of work on the City Council, and says her record shows that she will continue to do what’s best for Encinitas — her family’s home for nearly a century — if elected Mayor on Nov. 8.
A local attorney specializing in estate planning, who grew up splitting time between Del Mar and Encinitas and moved back to town with her husband and two children in 2009, Blakespear is running against Paul Gaspar, the owner of a local physical therapy business and the husband of current Mayor Kristin Gaspar. If elected, Blakespear will move over a few spots on the City Council dais to preside over the Council meetings, be recognized as the head of the city government for ceremonial purposes and act as the official representative for the city in agreements with other governmental entities, while having an equal vote to any City Council member.
“I will be a Mayor who is truly of and from the people. I believe residents want a Mayor who reflects their values and sensibilities,” Blakespear said in an email to the Encinitas Advocate. “I see the role of Mayor as someone who is in the center of intersecting circles, not someone at the top of a pyramid. I’m a proven and trusted leader, as demonstrated by the large number of sound, considered and thoughtful decisions that I’ve made on the Encinitas City Council over the last two years.
“I’ve spearheaded initiatives related to protecting farmers and promoting urban agriculture, improving our city processes through creating a mediation program, fighting for road improvements around schools and grappling with the financial realities of unknown potential pension obligations. I am a balanced, thoughtful leader who listens. I am both environmentally oriented and fiscally responsible.”
While Blakespear has always had Encinitas in her heart, her life’s journey has taken her around the country to gain experience she says will be a benefit to the city if she is elected.
Following graduation from Torrey Pines High (where she was the MVP and team captain of the basketball team), Blakespear went on to Northwestern, where she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in journalism in 1998 and 1999, respectively. During that time, she studied abroad at Oxford, interned at Ms. magazine in New York City, at a newspaper in Florida and a wire service in Chicago. After working as a transportation reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Blakespear moved to Salt Lake City to cover the 2002 Winter Olympics for the Associated Press.
It was in Utah that Blakespear met her husband Jeremy, graduated from the S.J. Quinney College of Law and began practicing law after clerking at the Utah State Attorney General’s office and the Utah Court of Appeals. She and Jeremy have two children who are second- and third-graders at Cardiff School, the same school their grandmother (Catherine’s mom) attended in the 1950s.
Since moving back to Encinitas, Blakespear helped create Scrumptious Schoolyards, a nonprofit that supports the garden program at Cardiff School, and has been the president of a 40-person business networking group. She served as the Cardiff-by-the-Sea representative on the city’s Traffic and Public Safety Commission for four years before being elected to the City Council in 2014.
Blakespear has been serving the city she loves ever since she returned, and says her top priority as Mayor is to “preserve our paradise.”
“The biggest challenge facing Encinitas is how to preserve our laid-back, beach charm while continuing to adapt and innovate as a city,” Blakespear explained. “I will fight to … consciously control growth, protect us from over-development and lead us toward a more environmentally-oriented future. Encinitas should be a place where it’s safer and more pleasant to walk or bike to the beach, favorite restaurant or a friend’s house. We need to invest in the infrastructure that will make that possible.
“Projects need champions. I support bike lanes that make sense, better sidewalk connectivity, more railroad crossings and better trails. I also support cleaner beaches, using less water as a city, investing in green energy and doing more to protect our tree canopy and the farmers that remain in Encinitas.
“As part of my commitment to protect the city’s community character, I traveled to Sacramento to testify against state housing laws that don’t serve Encinitas residents. The main point of my testimony was to communicate that not every city needs to be urban. We are a low-density community with a laid-back beach vibe. We should have local control over our land use to enable us to determine our city’s destiny and not be forced into a one-size-fits-all approach to development.”
Fiscal responsibility, public safety, supporting small businesses and transparency are among the other issues Blakespear says she will work hard on if elected.
“I’m proud of my track record on the City Council that clearly demonstrates decisions and initiatives that responsibly manage taxpayer money,” Blakespear said. “The budget is the backbone of any organization. I understand the city’s budget, and am always weighing the relative importance of one expenditure over another. We are managing the taxpayers’ money and we must do that using the ethic of conservation and frugality.
“I fought for the city to keep the old Cardiff Fire Station instead of selling that property west of I-5, with no plan for the proceeds of the sale. It’s difficult and divisive to acquire land, so keeping the land we already own is smart. Owning land is a forced savings program.
“I forcefully and without equivocation rejected a proposed contract from SANDAG that would have put the city on the hook for $1 million related to future changes in the rail corridor. The allegation that I’ve cost the city money because of decisions in the rail corridor is completely baseless. SANDAG assumed the cost to develop two alternate plans, and the city chose between the two plans. There was no cost to the city for us deciding to put the coastal rail trail on Highway 101 through Cardiff.
“I am also very cautious and judicious when it comes to lawsuits. We do not want leaders who are cavalier or emotionally driven wading into fighting unwinnable lawsuits. The legal fees, sanctions and judgments from losing lawsuits can sink a city financially.”
Transparency in particular, is a quality Blakespear says she will bring to the Mayor’s seat.
“I am a leader who embodies transparency,” she said. “After every City Council meeting I send a newsletter highlighting the decisions we made and the reasons for my votes. This is done on personal time, without additional compensation. I do it as part of my understanding of what civic responsibility means.
“Residents deserve to know the inner workings of their local government. My only motivation is what is best for Encinitas residents as a whole. It’s doubtful that my opponent for Mayor will embody this same level of transparency in his decision-making.
“I have political courage, and am willing to stand up for Encinitas residents against other bureaucratic interests. As a City Council member and the former Deputy Mayor, I have frequently said that we need to do better, and have asked for a different approach or a re-evaluation from professional staff or other agencies. My clear-eyed advocacy for residents’ interests is exactly what we need in our next Mayor.”