Commentary: Collegiality Crisis

I was elected to serve on the Del Mar City Council for two terms, from 2008 until 2016. During my tenure, I was able to work with my fellow council members on many issues and respect their views even when they differed from mine. I did my best to listen to all viewpoints before reaching a decision on items before the council, and I tried, and usually succeeded, in not advocating for my preferred outcome before hearing the item discussed on the council agenda. That means that I voluntarily limited my First Amendment rights to speak freely in order to represent the community sentiment better, and that in the event that I reached a different conclusion than my colleagues, I registered my dissenting vote with a full explanation.


During my first term in office, Del Mar was investigating the potential purchase of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. There was a lot of media coverage of this effort, and at times, council member views expressed to the media went beyond council consensus. The result was an agreement that only the sitting Mayor would speak to the media, and only on issues supported by council consensus. I did advocate for the closing of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station when I was Mayor in 2011, and I continued this advocacy with the full support of the council in subsequent years (the plant closed in 2012, but decommissioning raised new issues). As I look back on my two terms in office, I take pride in working cooperatively with my fellow council members to get a lot of important work accomplished with a minimum of disagreement.


I recall this history because it stands it such marked contrast to the recent statements by Council Member Dan Quirk. Quirk was not appointed as Mayor at the December 18th Council meeting, although his rotation into the position may have been in jeopardy after the 4-1 vote to censure him at the December 4th meeting. His statement regarding his withdrawal from consideration was that “my concern as an appointed Mayor is that I might find myself in a public position where I might have to support the guiding principles (see below) or make some other public statement that I don’t personally agree with or advocate for, so rather than be caught in a position where I have to state something I personally don’t believe in, I am choosing to decline that Mayor position.”


In short, Quirk has put his personal opinion before that of the Council consensus, and he has refused to honor the council guiding principles adopted in September, specifically item 4 of the policy stating that the Mayor’s duties include: “Representing only the City of Del Mar’s official Council-approved position at any public forum, meeting with elected officials, or when being interviewed by the press on behalf of the City, regardless of the Mayor’s personal views.” Quirk abstained from voting for the preferred candidates, David Druker for Mayor and Terry Gaasterland for Deputy Mayor. So much for collegiality.


The irony of Quirk’s position is that the defining issue for him is ending train service through (or under) Del Mar, a decision that would have to be made at the federal level and thus is far beyond the purview of the Del Mar City Council.