Solana Beach City Council race one of the most heated in years

By Joe Tash

In 2008 and again in 2010, election time in the city of Solana Beach was a sleepy affair.  When no one challenged incumbent City Council members seeking new terms, elections were cancelled.

This year, things are much livelier: six people, including one incumbent, are running for three seats on the five-member council.  The five challengers are all making their first run for elected office, although they have all been involved in civic, volunteer and business activities.

No matter what happens on Nov. 6, the composition of the council will change, as two council veterans, Mayor Joe Kellejian and Councilman Dave Roberts, step down (Roberts is running for county supervisor).

The six candidates include incumbent Councilwoman Lesa Heebner, who is seeking her third term, along with David Zito, Peter Zahn, Vickie Driver, Paul Frankel and Daniel Powell.  The six candidates are aligned in two groups; Driver, Frankel and Powell question the city’s direction and charge that it is facing financial difficulties, while Heebner, Zahn and Zito contend Solana Beach is on a solid financial footing, and they generally support the current council’s agenda.

Earlier this month, Driver, Frankel and Powell declined to attend a candidate forum co-sponsored by the Solana Beach Clean & Green Committee and the Solana Homeowners Group.  In a joint statement, the three said, “We have decided not to participate in the Oct. 8 candidate forum because the format of the event is not conducive to an informative and broad discussion of the issues most important to Solana Beach residents.”

Driver, Frankel and Powell have also issued at least one joint mailer and a blast email critical of the city’s finances, which Heebner, in an email to supporters, slammed as “blatantly false.” (See story below.)

While the members of the two groups support each others’ candidacies, both sides deny they are running as a slate.  Rather, they point out similarities in viewpoint and experience between themselves and the candidates they support.

As of Sept. 30, the end of the latest reporting period, none of the candidates had a compelling lead in fund-raising.  According to campaign finance statements released by the city clerk’s office, Driver raised $3,825 and loaned her campaign $1,000; Frankel raised $1,320 and loaned his campaign $5,000; Heebner raised $3,410 and loaned her campaign $1,000; Powell raised $2,320; Zahn raised $2,361 and loaned his campaign $2,000; and Zito raised $3,325 and loaned his campaign $2,000.

The Solana Beach Sun conducted telephone interviews with the six candidates.  Following in random order are brief profiles of the six people running for seats on the Solana Beach City Council:

Peter Zahn

Zahn is a business attorney who has served on the board of the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce, and also as an organizer for Fiesta del Sol, the city’s annual music festival at Fletcher Cove.

He also founded the nonprofit U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit business association, and serves as the group’s board chairman. Although the state had suspended the Green Chamber’s corporate status in June for failure to file a 2009 tax return, Zahn said the paperwork has since been filed and the suspension should soon be lifted.

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