Keith Blackburn and Cori Schumacher were sworn into the Carlsbad City Council Tuesday night, with Schumacher’s remarks from the dais drawing a standing ovation from audience members in Council chambers – and a wave of plaudits as well as criticism on social media.
Blackburn, a former Carlsbad police sergeant, was first elected in November 2008 and easily won his bid for a third term, coming in first among the six contenders vying for two open seats, with a total of 21,671 votes, or 23.79 percent of the total.
Schumacher, an environmentalist and former surfer who was a leader in the fight earlier in the year against a proposal to build a mall on the south shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, finished second, with 18,624 votes, or 20.44 percent of all votes cast.
She defeated freshman Councilmember Lorraine Wood, a former city clerk, who in the final vote tally released this week by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters trailed Schumacher by 700 votes. Wood received 17,924 votes, or 19.68 percent of the total vote count,
At the swearing in ceremony, Schumacher said, “The dais … has been constructed in such a way that the gulf between those who make decisions and the electorate is intentionally exaggerated,… to communicate privilege and authority… The dais should be lowered to drive the point that it’s the people and not its representatives who hold the true power in any republic.”
The comments drew a standing ovation from audience members that night but have been the subject of a fierce debate on social media.
Supporters of Schumacher praised her speech. On her Facebook page, where Schumacher posted a link to a video of the speech, one supporter wrote, What a GORGEOUS speech! Thank you for printing it here.”
Another commented, “Congrats, Cori, powerful speech.”
On the North County Berniecrats page, a Carlsbad resident posted, “Still celebrating last night’s swearing in of our new Carlsbad City Council member, Bernicrat Cori Schumacher! The Lincoln Club and the developer-biased establishment fought her election, and the people won against overwhelming odds, in one of the few bright spots this year. She gave an epic speech which should be a model for all new politicians, letting the establishment know exactly why she was elected: to support, represent and serve the people!”
But on his personal Facebook page, one Wood supporter characterized Schumacher’s comments as “a rebuke more than a ‘thank you, glad to be here, let’s get to work’ speech…. Cori, who dropped out of junior college, came across like an angry college student, lecturing and quoting Madison like she had a Ph.D. in political theory. Reminiscent of an Obama talk-a-thon, Schumacher went on to articulate a political philosophy of populism that was not only inappropriate and condescending, it was way off the mark and filled with unfounded notions and accusations. I’ve lived in Carlsbad 30 years, and I am proud of the accomplishments this community has achieved. To hear a newly-elected council member come out of the gates criticizing, blaming and lecturing her fellow civic leaders and city staff is disappointing if not insulting.”
During the campaign, Wood and Blackburn came under fire, along with the mayor and the rest of the city council, for approving the controversial lagoon mall project in August 2015 without putting the matter up for a public vote.
Carlsbad residents were so angered by the August 2015 Council action that they mounted a successful referendum to force a vote — and in a Feb. 23 special election, what appeared on the ballot as Measure A was defeated, 52 percent to 48 percent.
Three of the five challengers —Schumacher, former school board member Ann Tanner, and consultant Bill Fowler — were vocal critics of the mall proposal. Schumacher, in particular, was one of the leaders in the fight to first get the matter on the ballot, and then to defeat it.