Once again Encinitas was rocked by controversy regarding its Sister City program. This time, instead of trying to change the name of B Street to score points with representatives of Amakusa, Japan, Mayor Christy Guerin decided to use those very same Amakusa representatives as party favors for her 50th birthday.
Hosting this Encinitas 20th anniversary/Guerin birthday soirée was the recently promoted Fire Chief Mark Muir. Catering the event was recently retired fire chief Don Hieser. Invited to the private home of Muir, and his wife Mo, a candidate for the Encinitas Union School District board of trustees, guests were Guerin's family and friends, city leaders and Encinitas Union School District officials.
The privilege of picking up the tab for the tri-tip steak, and other delicacies served, goes to the Encinitas taxpayers. liquor was provided by the Guerin family. Gifts were given, and according to one attendee, Happy Birthday was sung at least 6 times. Several sources, including the host, report the Japanese delegation had a great time.
Did I mention Mo Muir was a candidate the Encinitas Union School District board?
Did I mention Mark Muir, husband of Mo Muir, is the newly appointed Encinitas fire chief and past campaign manager for Christy Guerin? I should also mention newly appointed fire chief Mark Muir is also a business partner of John Waynio. John Waynio, a political consultant, is currently running the re-election campaign of Encinitas Councilman Danny Dalager, as his campaign manager.
Historically, the Sister City program was intended as a goodwill gesture, to foster international understanding with the residents of Hondo, Japan. The key element of the program was sending student essay winners to serve as cultural ambassadors.
Until 2000 all expenses to maintain the program were covered by community donations, including airfare for the winning students. All other costs were the responsibility of participants. Under these conditions the Encinitas/Hondo sister city relationship thrived. Somewhere between 2000 and 2005, the citizens lost control and a goodwill gesture morphed into a political perk for an opportunistic politician.
Caroline Cope, the driving force behind the Encinitas Sister City program, said the sister city committee was not involved in planning this years events due to the actions of Mayor Guerin and others at City Hall.
Responding to Guerin's "not doing anything different" defense, Gail Hano, a former Encinitas mayor, and a founder of the Sister City Program in 1998, stated emphatically "Guerin is doing things that have never been done before. She should be ashamed." Lou Aspell, another past councilperson confirmed, "Christy has said all the mayors had one of these dinners. That's not true."
In June voters in California's 50th Congressional district elected Brian Bilbray, a professional lobbyist, to serve out the remaining term of the imprisoned Randy Duke Cunningham. On July 1st, Brian Bilbray hired Encinitas Mayor Christy Guerin to serve as his District director for the Republican representative.
Seems Guerin is best at serving herself.
Not only is the political dust-up over Mayor Guerin's high-jacking of a worthwhile endeavor unseemly, it is also a disgrace that disrespects our Japanese "sisters", while undermining the intent behind the student exchange program.
Thankfully, Christy Guerin chose not to run for a third term.
The residents of Encinitas and Amakusa deserve better.